Sea turtles are admired around the world. Known for their slow movements and curious attitudes, sea turtles offer the ultimate adventure with endless possibilities of memorable moments. There are seven species of sea turtles, each with their own unique and beautiful characteristics.
7 TYPES OF SEA TURTLES
- Named for the green color of its fat, the Green Sea Turtle is the largest of all hard-shelled sea turtles. As the third most seen sea turtle on dives, these herbivores can weigh up to 700 pounds and inhabit warm waters around the world.
- The beautiful colored Loggerhead Sea Turtle got their name from their large, blunt heads that resemble a big log. Loggerhead Sea Turtles live in oceans all over the world except for the coldest waters. In addition to their enormous size, loggerheads are omnivorous, dining on anything they can find. The opportunity to meet a Loggerhead Sea Turtle is typically not a matter of if, but when, as they are the first that divers usually encounter when on a dive.
- At up to 2,000 pounds, the Leatherback Sea Turtle is the largest of all sea turtles. The black shell of these endangered species is leathery and speckled with white and yellow spots. The evolutionary development of these sea turtles dates back 75 to 100 million years ago.
- Known for its unique beak-like head and distinguishable, ornate colored shell, the Hawksbill Sea Turtle is one of the smaller known sea turtles. These critically endangered turtles are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world and are usually the second most seen sea turtle when diving. Hawkbills have a particular taste for sponges and sea jellies including the venomous Portuguese man o’ war.
- The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle is the smallest sea turtle weighing up to 100 pounds. Named after their olive green colored shell, the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle can only be found in the warmer waters of the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.
- Named after Richard Kemp who discovered this rare sea turtle, Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle is the world’s most endangered sea turtle. With a greenish-gray upper shell and an off white to yellowish belly, the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle can mostly be found in the Gulf of Mexico. Count yourself lucky should you see Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle with a reported 1,000 in existence.
- In the waters surrounding Australia, the Flatback Sea Turtle is named for its very flat shell. Once believed to be a type of green sea turtle, the Flatback Sea Turtle became its own species in 1988.
FINDING A SEA TURTLE
An encounter with Sea Turtles while scuba diving or snorkeling is the highlight of any dive. Finding a sea turtle under the water can be a rewarding and memorable experience, but it requires patience and effort. When trying to encounter a sea turtle it’s all about:
- LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! While sea turtles can be found in a variety of environments, sea turtles love coral reefs, sea grass beds and rocky coastlines.
- TIME of DAY! Sea turtles are most active during the day and more visible during the early morning and late afternoon.
- FOOD SUPPLY! Turtles love to eat and can be found where there is an abundance of sea grass and jellyfish.
- PATIENCE! Sea turtles can be elusive and may not be seen on every dive. Be patient and enjoy the other ocean marine life. Practicing a little patience will always get you better results.
- SLOW and STEADY APPROACH! Sea turtles can be shy, reclusive, and easily intimidated. Approach sea turtles slowly and deliberately. Oftentimes, sea turtles will be inquisitive and will move closer to you. Above all: Do Not chase or touch sea turtles!
- Use a guide or experienced diver to help you view these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. When hiring a guide, choose one that has a strong commitment to preserving the marine environment and protecting sea turtles.
TOP DESTINATIONS TO DIVE WITH SEA TURTLES
Diving with sea turtles has become a popular tourist excursion in many areas. The following are some of my favorite sea turtle dive locations:
There’s plenty of places to see sea turtles in their natural habitat all over Puerto Rico. The three main species of sea turtles, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles can be found swimming around the shores of Puerto Rico. For the best chance of finding a sea turtle on your dive, head to one of the following turtle beaches.
- Culebra Island is the best place in Puerto Rico to dive with sea turtles. Culebra Island is a small island just off the east coast of Puerto Rico mainland. Tamarindo Beach is located on the west side of the island. This turtle beach is known for its crystal-clear water and coral reef filled with an abundance of marine life. Other turtle beaches on this island include Zoni Beach, Playa Resaca, Flamenco Beach, Playa Carlos Rosario, and Playa Brava.
- Escambron Beach in Guaynabo, San Juan is the best beach to swim with the sea turtles. The stunning crescent shaped beach is home to coral reefs which are home to many marine lives including sea turtles.
- Condado Lagoon located in San Juan is a wonderful place for discovering sea turtles. You can often watch sea turtles swimming around the lagoon. This is a beautiful place to interact with sea turtles.
- La Coridillera Nature Reserve consists of a chain of islands with mangroves, lagoons, sandy beaches and coral reefs that are home to sea turtles.
- Vieques Island is a small island just off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. The island has an abundance of coral reefs. The best sightings of sea turtles are at Esperanza Beach, Mosquito Pier, Playa Pata Prieta.
- Steps Beach is located on the west side of the island in Rincon, this turtle beach is home to the endangered Hawksbill turtle. The coral reefs run directly along the length of the beach which makes a magnificent home and feeding area for sea turtles.
- La Parguera is a village that features Bioluminescent Bay, mangrove forests and nature reserves. With an extensive coral reef, La Parguera is one of the best sites for swimming and interacting with sea turtles.
- Mona Island is a small island on the west side of Puerto Rico and supports the largest Hawksbills nesting ground in the Caribbean. This secluded island paradise is immensely popular with divers who come from far to explore the untouched beaches, caves, and coral reefs. Playa Sardineras, Playa Pajaros, Punta Arenas, and Playa Mujeres are the most popular scuba diving beaches on the island. Mona Island is uninhabited and protected by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources.
Five of the seven sea turtles make their home in the islands of Hawaii, including the Green Turtle, Hawksbill, Loggerhead and Olive Ridley. Recommended spots to swim with sea turtles are Laniakea Beach (aka Turtle Beach), Electric Beach, Cockroach Cove, Hanauma Nature Preserve, and Waikiki Beach.
Barbados is home to 2 of the 7 species of sea turtles and the second largest nesting population of Hawksbill. The Hawksbill and Loggerhead make their home in Barbados. The west and south coast of Barbados are the best areas to interact with sea turtles.
Home to the largest coral reef, The Great Barrier Reef is a breeding ground for six of the seven species of sea turtles. From November to January each year, thousands of female turtles come to the Great Barrier Reef to lay their eggs on the area beaches.
Ranked as one of the top diving locations in the world. Sipadan is a protected nesting spot for sea turtles and is the perfect sight to swim with them. Divers can expect to see 20-30 turtles during one dive.
This beautiful gem and tiny beach town is a heaven for sea turtles. The name Akumal translates to the “place of turtles” and is home to Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles.
The ocean is an immense and picturesque place with an incredible array of marine life to encounter. Sea turtles are amongst the most treasured. Divers and snorkelers revel in seeing stunning sea turtles glide by effortlessly. Today, there are seven species of sea turtles, and most appear on the endangered list. These ancient reptiles have been around since the age of dinosaurs, but could disappear if humans do not work to conserve them. It is the responsibility of humans to appreciate and protect the sea turtle. Sea turtle divers are important to the conservation efforts and contribute to the ever-evolving knowledge gained about these amazing creatures. If you have the opportunity, find time to enjoy and interact with sea turtles. It will be an experience that you will not forget!