Sea turtles are remarkable creatures, found in tropical to subtropical waters. They can live for over 100 years, mate for longer than 48 hours, and have existed for over 100 million years. With fascinating features and a friendly demeanour, it’s easy to see why diving with turtles is a popular dive and photography choice and can be enjoyed at some world-class dive destinations. Find out from our friends at LiveAboard.com and their 5 best places to dive with turtles.
Sea turtles are incredible and mysterious animals. They can outlive humans, don’t reach sexual maturity until they are 35 years of age and can mate for longer than 48 hours. Plus, no one knows where they disappear to for an entire chunk of their life, which is known as the ‘lost years’.
There are seven different species of sea turtles (you can tell each species apart from their jaw structure and shell shape). Most sea turtles can be found in tropical and subtropical waters, and sea turtles are known to migrate thousands of kilometres across the ocean to breed and feed.
Swim with some of the oldest creatures on the planet
Swimming with these ancient reptiles is one of the most sought-after and treasured dive experiences, and it’s easy to see why. Their friendly demeanour, and adorable facial expressions paired with their pure grace in the water are hard to tire of. Luckily, there are plenty of wonderful places to encounter sea turtles worldwide.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
6 of the 7 species of sea turtle can be spotted in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Thousands of kilometres long, the Reef provides sanctuary for sea turtles come to forage, breed and nest along it.
In the outer parts of the Great Barrier Reef, such as the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reefs, sea turtles are plentiful. The species you’ll be most likely to spot in the Great Barrier Reef are the green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtle. Olive Ridleys and leatherbacks have been recorded in the Great Barrier Reef, but sighting isn’t as common.
Liveaboards that cruise the Great Barrier Reef visit dive sites along the Ribbon Reefs and Osprey Reef, so your chances of bumping into plenty of sea turtles underwater are pretty high.
Sipadan Island in Borneo, Malaysia is a nesting site for sea turtles and a high aggregation of green sea turtles can be found year round. Along with spotting more sea turtles than you can count, you’ll be diving on some of the most superb coral reef systems in the world.
When sea turtles reach sexual maturity at around 30 years of age, they begin to migrate towards mating grounds to breed and lay their eggs. These grounds usually lie just off the nesting beach or are along the way. The mind-blowing thing about sea turtles is that females return to the exact same beach year after year to lay their eggs, and this beach is, in turn, the one they originally began their own life on. Sea turtles often navigate hundreds of kilometres to return to this particular beach, and scientists believe they do this through numerous methods including magnetic navigation and memory of landmarks. Mating season in Sipadan runs from July to November, and the best time to dive with huge amounts of green turtles is around August.
What can’t you see in the Maldives? Mantas, whale sharks, schools of hammerheads and of course plenty of sea turtles make the Maldives one of the most magical dive destinations.
South Male Atoll and North Male Atoll are great spots to dive with sea turtles, but you’re likely to see sea turtles on most dives you go on in the Maldives.
Cocos and Galapagos Islands
Both Cocos Islands in Costa Rica and Galapagos Islands in Ecuador are dive meccas of marine megafauna, and are similar in the fact the diving conditions can be a little harsher but the marine life is absolutely magnificent.
The conditions in these areas can be a little tougher than in warmer parts of the world, so most liveaboards require divers to have completed a minimum number of logged dives prior to booking. However, the cooler temperatures and tougher conditions are worth it as you will have some of the most incredible dive experiences possible in the Cocos or Galapagos.
Green sea turtles are the only species of sea turtle to nest in the Galapagos Islands, and the Galapagos green turtle has a slightly darker and more domed shell than the green sea turtle. Hawksbill and green turtles can often be spotted when diving in the waters of Cocos Islands.
The Great Barrier Reef is a well-known turtle hotspot, with six of the seven sea turtle species present at this reef. Sipadan in Malaysia has high numbers of green sea turtles and the Maldives are ideal for combining diving with whale sharks, mantas and turtles all in one beautiful destination. Those looking for Hawksbill turtles, with the added bonus of hammerhead shark diving, should consider a visit to Cocos Island in Costa Rica.
This article was written by Kathryn Curzon, a diver and writer for Liveaboard.com.
“ You can swim with a turtle for hours, or chase it for a second”
Diving with sea turtles: A view from a Paralenz®
A turtle is a naturally inquisitive animal, mostly solitary but not shy to get very close to divers whenever they meet them, so close you can touch them. Even so, the way to get the best experience when diving with turtles is to remain calm, swim slow, and not to reach out or touch the turtle in any way. In this way, the turtle gets a chance to get to know you and is more likely to stick around. An equally perfect way of eternalising those memories is with a Paralenz® Dive Camera – it automatically color corrects your footage and lets you focus on the experience.
Even though turtles are abundant, they are still endangered by the amounts of plastic in the ocean and we as divers need to make our surroundings aware of the situation and inspire to minimising the use of single-use plastics. There are a still growing number of ocean conservation organisations out there helping to make a difference, they all cover many areas of the same problem and two of our partners that focus on plastic pollution are DriftersProject.net and 4Ocean. Check them out to see what you can do and what is being done.