5 Best Turtle Destinations

5 Best Turtle Destinations

Turtles date back more than 220 million years. It is thought they can live up to 200 years old, however they are classed as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered on the IUCN Red List. Many don’t make it to a ripe old age because of human intervention like poaching, destruction of habitat and the fishing industry.

Telling the difference between turtle species is easy as they have different amounts and configurations of scutes which cover their shell. As an example, the Hawksbill turtle has around 12 scales that overlap which are comprised of gold, red, brown and orange streaks. The Green turtle carapace has 5 central brown/marbled scutes with 4 pairs of lateral scutes either side. Each species also has distinctive sets of prefrontal scales on their head.

They tend to be more active in warmer water but a resting sea turtle can stay underwater for 4-7 hours. They can drown as they don’t have gills so you should never hold onto a turtle underwater as it needs to go to the surface to breathe.

Here is our list of 5 of the best places to see turtles around the world but it is by no means  exhaustive. We hope you have had some memorable turtle encounters as a diver or snorkeller and would love to hear about them in the comments below!

  1. Bunaken, Indonesia

The Bunaken National Marine Park in North Sulawesi is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The dive sites here include stunning wall dives which are teeming with sponges, sea fans and colourful soft corals. The sea depth between the islands of the park can reach 1,840 metres and in addition to the coral reefs there are mangrove ecosystems and seagrass beds. The healthy population of turtles are mainly made up of Greens and Hawksbills with some of the most pristine shells you will ever see.  Loggerhead and Olive Ridley can be spotted here too and Leatherbacks in deeper water. Siladen Resort has a sandy nesting beach with annual reports of hatchlings.

  1. Belize

Endangered Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles inhabit the waters around St. George’s Caye close to the Belize Barrier Reef. They have been protected here since 1993. EcoMar’s Turtle Network conducts surveys to assess sea turtle abundance with help from the local fishermen who catch them for tagging. This helps to better understand population dynamics. The Hol Chan Marine Reserve, located off the southern tip of Ambergris Caye is also home to these 3 species of sea turtle thanks to healthy coral reef, seagrass beds and mangroves.

  1. Tobago

The tropical Caribbean island of Tobago sees Hawksbill, Leatherback and Green turtles nest yearly along its western shores between January-September. The aptly named Turtle Beach is just one such site where hundreds of them haul up the sandy beach to dig their nests and lay up to 100 eggs. Save Our Sea Turtles (SOS) monitors and collects data on the main leatherback population at nesting beaches and at key sites around the island and offshore. Home to soft corals and colourful sponges, Tobago’s reefs have plenty of food sources for our reptilian friends. The Sisters and Kariwak Reef off Pigeon Point are favourite sites for spotting them underwater.

  1. Egypt

The warm, clear waters of the Red Sea are home to some of the world’s most colourful and diverse marine life. 4 of the 7 turtle species can be found in the Egyptian Red Sea. Hawksbill turtles love to munch on sponges and corals which keeps the reef in balance. Green turtles behave like a lawnmower, keeping sea grass beds tidy and healthy for fish and invertebrates. The beach at Ras Ghozlani in South Sinai’s Ras Mohamed National Park is a precious turtle nesting site while Abu Dabbab bay is home to lush sea grass vegetation that stops the rumbling of turtle tummies!

  1. Cayman Islands

Diving in Cayman can be done all year round but between May and October both Green and Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs. Christopher Columbus named the area Las Tortugas and the turtle is the symbol of the country. The Cayman Islands once had among the world’s largest sea turtle nesting populations, with turtles numbering in the millions. By the early 1800s however, the populations had collapsed mainly due to locals and visiting sailors hunting them for their meat. They are now thriving thanks to an effort to rebuild the population and tens of thousands of hatchlings have been released from Grand Cayman’s turtle farm.