A fantastical aquatic visitor to the Cayman Turtle Farm last week had heads turning and youngsters agape.
Mermaid Melissa’s lighthearted visit on June 28 had a serious message about protecting endangered species. Her experience as a surfer, animal trainer and free diver has culminated in a career as a professional “mermaid” and business owner, and she continues to gain fame through her YouTube channel and publicity work advocating marine conservation.
Mermaid Melissa (her legal name) took the opportunity to swim with the turtles at the farm, attracting considerable attention. At one point, she was joined by a young girl in her very own mermaid costume.
The environmental advocate travels the globe to marine conservation sites to spread her message about taking care of endangered species.
“I have a saying: Let’s help save the oceans before all creatures become mythical,” she explained.
“Because mermaids are mythical and children end up only hearing about them in books, we don’t want other sea creatures like these turtles to end up like that. That is why I’m here.”
She added that she calls the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida, home.
“But it’s not the first time I’ve been here to the Cayman Islands and I’ve heard really great things about the Turtle Farm, so I was definitely glad of the invitation to come and visit,” she said.
“Cayman’s one of my favorite places because I’ve also swum with the stingrays and there are lots of other local ‘hot spots.’ But I’ve also been as far as Australia and swum with the manta rays. In Japan, they have an aquarium there where I swam with the sharks and all kinds of different types of fish.”
Mermaid Melissa has been working with animals since the age of 16, and over the last 10 years has devoted her life to an aquatic career. As a professional mermaid, she has also developed impressive free diving and breath holding skills, with a personal record of five minutes.
“A lot of people want to know what a day in the life of a mermaid is like,” said the mermaid performer. “Well, it’s a very fishy lifestyle.
“My tail weighs over 50 pounds so when I go to different places, I have to have help getting around. But I get to go to great places and it always seems to inspire children. That’s how I got successful on YouTube – I’ve been able to share my message with them.”
She noted that while it’s fun for children to meet mermaids, it might also give them a chance to consider a potential career stream.
“It inspires children to maybe grow up and study marine biology and maybe even become a vet,” she said.