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  • Snorkeling with Sea Turtles 2023: A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Last Updated: January 14, 2023

Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Imagine gliding through crystal clear waters, surrounded by vibrant coral reefs and colorful schools of fish. And then, out of the blue, a majestic sea turtle gracefully swims by, its ancient eyes seeming to meet yours in a moment of shared wonder.

Snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles in their natural habitat is a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience that offers the chance to get up close and personal with these ancient creatures. So come join us as we dive into the world of sea turtle snorkeling and discover the best places to go and the top tips for making the most of this unforgettable adventure.

What gear to you need?

Before you head out, it’s important to make sure you have the right gear. A good quality snorkel mask is essential, as it will provide a clear and unobstructed view of the underwater world.

A dry-top snorkel is also a good choice, as it will prevent water from entering the tube and greatly improves your snorkeling experience.

A wetsuit or rash guard and other protective gear will help to protect your skin from over-exposure to the sun.

How to stop your mask from fogging up.

As beautiful as coral reefs are, wearing gloves will provide protection for your hands from potential abrasions from sharp coral or rocks. The one time I went diving without gloves, I quickly discovered how easy it is to slice palms and fingers on barnacles and rocks. Wearing gloves and other protective gear will help you stay comfortable and focused on the experience.

We have a complete article to help you prepare for your snorkeling trip, including packing essentials and making travel arrangements. Click here to read this article.

Sea Turtle hiding in coral

Get to Know your Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are a diverse and fascinating group of animals that are found in all of the world's oceans. There are seven different species of sea turtles, each with its own unique characteristics and behaviors.

These are:

  • Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta)
  • Olive Ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea)
  • Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)
  • Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
  • Flatback sea turtle (Natator depressus)
  • Kemp's Ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys kempii)
  • Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas)

Dive into a sea of knowledge! 

Green Sea Turtle

Click on the turtle to uncover more detailed information on each type of sea turtle.

Where are the best places to snorkel to see Sea Turtles?

Once you’re fully equipped with the right gear, it’s time to choose the best holiday spot to spot sea turtles (as well as other sea life). Some of the most enjoyable places to swim is in tropical waters.

Places such as the Caribbean, Hawaii, The Philippines, and Australia offer warm, crystal-clear waters. These also provide the best opportunities to swim with sea turtles, tropical fish, breathtaking live coral, and other marine life.

Sea Turtle

The Caribbean

There are many excellent spots for snorkeling with sea turtles in the Caribbean, but some of the best places include:

  • Bonaire: This small island off the coast of Venezuela.
  • Tortuguero, Costa Rica
  • Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
  • Utila, Honduras

Overall, with clear, warm water and an abundance of marine life, the Caribbean is a great place to go snorkeling to see Leatherback Turtles, Green Sea Turtles, Loggerhead Sea Turtles, and Hawksbill Sea Turtles.

Utila, Honduras

Utila, Honduras

The Pacific Ocean

If you're considering to go snorkeling with sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean, the waters around Hawaii and the Philippines are particularly warm and welcoming. Both of these locations are known for their abundant marine life and clear, warm waters, making them ideal for snorkeling.

Hawaii

Honu is the Hawaiian word for turtle, and is used to refer to green sea turtles in particular. Green sea turtles are an important part of the state's marine ecosystem.

Some of the best places to swim with green sea turtles in Hawaii include:

  • Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on the island of Oahu
  • Molokini Crater off the coast of Maui
  • Honokohau Harbor on the island of Hawaii
  • Poipu Beach on the island of Kauai

There are many organized tours to choose from that will take you to the best spots in Hawaii to see these creatures.

Sea Turtle on Poipu Beach on the island of Kauai - Hawaii

Sea Turtle on Poipu Beach on the island of Kauai - Hawaii

The Philippines

The Philippines is another remarkable and memorable place to visit. The waters around the Philippines are home to a number of different species of sea turtles, including the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Green Sea Turtles, and the Olive Ridley sea turtle.

Some of the best places to swim, snorkel and dive with sea turtles in the Philippines include:

  • Apo Island in Negros Oriental
  • Moalboal in Cebu
  • Donsol in Sorsogon
  • Panglao Island in Bohol
Panglao Island in Bohol

Panglao Island in Bohol, The Philippines

Overall, the Pacific Ocean is a great place to go, and the warm waters around Hawaii and the Philippines are particularly welcoming. Both of these locations have sea turtle conservation programs in place.

Australia

The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

The Great Barrier Reef is a vast coral reef system stretching over 2,000 kilometers off the east coast of Queensland, Australia. It is the largest coral reef system in the world and is home to a diverse range of marine life, including fish, hard coral, and dozens of species of dolphins, whales, and sea turtles.

Some of the best places to swim, snorkel and dive with sea turtles in Australia include:

  • Lady Elliot Island Marine Reserve
  • Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia Coast
  • The Whitsundays, on the Great Barrier Reef
  • The Solitary Islands Marine Park, New South Wales
Lady Elliot Island

Lady Elliot Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia

Other Noteworthy Locations

In addition to the Caribbean and the Pacific, there are plenty of other locations around the world where you can go swimming with sea turtles. Seychelles in the Indian Ocean and the Galapagos Islands in South America are also known for their diverse marine life, which includes sea turtles.

Helpful Tips - What you need to know

So, now that you know where to go, what should you expect? One of the best things about snorkeling with sea turtles is that they are generally quite calm and docile. This makes it easy to get close and observe them without causing any undue stress. You’ll likely see them grazing on seaweed and other underwater plants, or simply swimming leisurely through the water.

Even though sea turtles are generally docile, first and foremost, it's important to remember that they are wild animals. You need to respect their space and natural behavior. This means keeping a safe distance and don't try to touch or chase them. Always give them plenty of space to swim and go about their business. 

Be sure to take your time and savor the experience, as these moments are truly special and will likely stay with you for a lifetime.

Egg Laying and Hatching

Experience the magic of sea turtle hatching on your next vacation. These incredible creatures lay their eggs on sandy beaches, hidden among vegetation or rocks, and then leave their hatchlings to fend for themselves when they emerge from the sand. Imagine witnessing this miraculous moment in person as part of a guided tour.

Different species of sea turtles have their own preferences when it comes to nesting sites - Loggerhead Sea Turtles favor wide, open beaches with minimal vegetation, while Green sea turtles and Hawksbill sea turtles prefer a bit more cover. Olive Ridley Sea Turtles, on the other hand, are adaptable and will nest on almost any type of beach.

Don't miss the opportunity to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event on your next vacation.

sea turtle laying eggs

How many eggs do Sea Turtles Lay at a time?

During nesting season, the number of sea turtle eggs laid not only varies greatly among the different species but also by individual females within each species. Generally speaking, sea turtles will lay between 50 and 200 eggs per clutch. That said, some species may lay as few as 10 eggs per clutch or as many as 400 eggs.

The number of eggs laid each time also tends to increase with the size of the female turtle. For example, a green sea turtle may lay around 100 eggs per clutch, while a larger leatherback sea turtle may lay up to 1,000 eggs per clutch.

Sea turtles also tend to lay multiple clutches of eggs during a single nesting season. The length of the sea turtle nesting season can vary from several weeks to several months. 

Video - Olive Ridley Sea Turtles Laying Eggs

Click to play

Did you know that the temperature of the sand in which sea turtle eggs are laid determines the gender of the hatchlings? Warmer temperatures lead to more females, while cooler temperatures result in more males.

After the eggs are laid, they incubate for several weeks before hatching. However, the vast majority of sea turtle eggs do not survive due to various factors, including human interference.

If you want to witness the magic of sea turtle hatching or egg-laying, consider booking a nighttime tour during your vacation. These tours offer the opportunity to see these events up close and support responsible wildlife tourism practices.

Other Marine Animals

Learn About Manta Rays

In addition to turtles, you’ll also have the opportunity to view other marine life.

 Chances are that you'll also see schools of colorful fish, beautiful coral reef formations, and other majestic marine creatures such as manta rays, and dolphins.

As exciting as exploring the underwater world is, it is also important to be aware of your surroundings and to watch out for any potential hazards, such as sharp coral or other obstacles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is snorkeling with sea turtles suitable for beginners?

This activity is suited for beginners as long as they are comfortable in the water and are able to swim.

Always follow proper snorkeling etiquette and listen to the instructions of tour guides or instructors, as this will ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience.

How do I behave when snorkeling with sea turtles?

It's important to remember that sea turtles are wild animals, and it's important to respect their space and natural behavior.

This means keeping a safe distance and not trying to touch or chase them.

Where are the best places to go snorkeling with sea turtles?

Some of the best places to go snorkeling with sea turtles include the Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean, and the Great Barrier Reef.

Click here to see more information on the recommended vacation snorkeling sites.

What equipment do I need to go snorkeling with Sea Turtles??

At the very minimum, you'll need a mask, fins, and a snorkel. 

It's also a good idea to invest in a wetsuit or other protective gear. It may be worthwhile to also invest in a snorkeling vest. You can read more about snorkeling vests and how they work here.

Can I see sea turtles laying eggs?

It is possible to see sea turtles laying eggs on the beach, but it's not a common occurrence.

All but one species of Sea Turtle lay its eggs at night, so you may have a better chance of seeing this if you go on a guided tour.

Swimming with Sea Turtles - Etiquette

Swimming with sea turtles can be a memorable and thrilling experience, but it's important to do so in an eco-friendly way to minimize the impact on these animals and their habitats.

One way to do this is to choose a tour operator that follows best practices for responsible wildlife tourism, such as avoiding disturbing the turtles or separating them from their natural habitat.

Sea Turtles can often be spotted swimming close to shore

It's also a good idea to avoid touching or feeding the turtles, as this can alter their behavior and increase the risk of disease transmission. Instead, try to observe the turtles from a distance and respect their space.

Always be mindful of your own impact on the environment by disposing of trash properly and avoiding littering in the water. By taking a few simple steps, you can enjoy swimming with sea turtles in a way that is both enriching and sustainable.

By following these guidelines, you can have a fulfilling and sustainable experience swimming with sea turtles, while also acknowledging the many threats they face, including habitat loss, pollution, and the illegal trade of their shells. It's worth noting that all sea turtle species are classified as either 'endangered' or 'critically endangered'. You can read more on the threats facing sea turtles and conservation efforts here.

Ocean Reef Group - Aria Antracite (Black) with turtle

A snorkeler swimming with sea turtles using a full face snorkel mask. 

Want to Learn More About Conservation Efforts?

Sea turtles are such a vital part of the world's marine ecosystems, and they deserve our protection and conservation. All species of sea turtles are either endangered or threatened due to factors such as habitat loss, pollution, and being accidentally caught in fishing nets.

Unfortunately, many of the world's sea turtle populations are at risk due to a variety of threats, including habitat loss, pollution, and overfishing. It really is up to us to do what we can to learn more about these animals and work towards conserving their habitats.

By learning more about these amazing animals, we can all play a role in helping to ensure their future. You can learn more about conservation efforts and the risks that these creatures are facing here. 

Sea Turtle

In Conclusion

Having the opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles is a 'tick it off the bucket list' kind of experience that should not be missed. With the right gear and some careful planning, you can have the opportunity to swim alongside these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

The Caribbean, Hawaii, the Philippines, and Australia are all great places to go snorkeling and encounter sea turtles, as well as other marine life. Whether you're a seasoned snorkeler or a beginner, there is something for everyone when it comes to snorkeling with sea turtles.

Green Sea Turtle on Sea Grass
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About the Author

Sharon McKenzie

Sharon loves to be near the water and has been spending time at the beach as a child. She spends most of her spare time doing water sports, such as snorkeling, paddle boarding, and Scuba Diving. Her next goal is to travel around Australia visiting the best swimming spots.

Author Web Link

Sharon McKenzie - Stand Up Paddle Boarding, Snorkeling

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