There’s something otherworldly about swimming with sea turtles in the wild. Luckily, you can swim with sea turtles all over the globe as they’re some of the most widespread marine life. Sea turtles are also one of the most ancient species – they’ve existed for over 150 million years.
There are seven species of sea turtles around the world — sadly, all are vulnerable or endangered. They are the green sea turtle, loggerhead turtle, hawksbill turtle, olive ridley turtle, leatherback turtle, flatback turtle and kemp’s ridley turtle.
Ad Daymaniyat – Oman
Ad Daymaniyat is an archipelago of nine low-lying islands off the Batinah coast. The rocky islands have been protected since 1996 and were the first marine reserve in Oman. The Ad Daymaniyat islands are the best place to swim with wild sea turtles in the Middle East.
The uninhabited islands thrive as one of the world’s densest nesting ground for endangered hawksbill sea turtles. Green sea turtles, loggerheads, olive ridleys and leatherbacks also live in Omani waters.
Hurawalhi Island – Maldives
The Maldives has some of the best locales for spotting wild sea turtles year round. Five out of the seven species of marine turtles live in the translucent waters — green sea turtle, loggerhead, olive ridley, leatherback and hawksbill.
More than half of the Maldives’ green sea turtle population lives in the waters surrounding Hurawalhi Island. These green sea turtles are listed as a threatened species. At least seven critically endangered hawksbills also live around Hurawalhi. It’s a real gift to be able to see these sea turtles in the wild. You’ll be able to identify hawksbills from green sea turtles due to their sharp beak.
La Paz – Mexico
There are many places to swim with wild sea turtles in Mexico. The popularity of places such as Akumal has brought in massive crowds that have left the area desolate and downright dangerous for sea turtles. The beach in Akumal where sea turtles used to thrive has been closed for conservation due to over-tourism.
Instead, head to La Paz for ethical sea turtle encounters by visiting theTodos Tortugueros conservation project. Here you can do your part in protecting endangered olive ridley turtles by assisting professionals as they relocate eggs from vulnerable nests.
Tortuguero National Park – Costa Rica
There are many hot spots for sea turtles around the coastline of Costa Rica but the best chance you have at seeing spectacular sea turtles is at Tortuguero National Park on the northern Caribbean coast. Tortuguero literally translates to Land of Turtles.
Costa Rica is home to a very rare sea turtle that’s a member of the sea green turtle family and locally known as tora carey. Hawksbill, loggerhead and olive ridley sea turtles all lay their eggs on the beaches of Tortuguero National Park during the nesting season from March to August. Over 2,000 tora carey green sea turtles lay their eggs at the park each year.
Redang Island – Malaysia
The most incredible place to swim with sea turtles on Earth is Redang Island, Malaysia. Each time you enter the sea you may swim with as many as five sea turtles right off the shore in seafoam waters. Redang Island is home to olive ridley, hawksbill and green sea turtles.
Avoid Turtle Bay, where aggressive sea turtles have become accustomed to humans feeding them and swim right up to snorkelers looking for food. The sea turtles here are three times larger than those around other parts of the island. The contrast in behavior and size is stark between sea turtles that are left to their own natural antics and those that have tampered instincts due to constant human interference.
Maui – Hawaii
No list of the best places to swim with wild sea turtles would be complete without Hawaii. Five of the seven species of sea turtles live in Hawaii’s warm waters. Most sightings occur around the southern side of Maui in Wailea, known as Turtle Town.
Honu, Hawaiian for green sea turtle, are deeply respected by Hawaiians and hold great cultural significance as they’re manifestations of ?aumakua which are ancestral guardian spirits.
The best time to see turtles is in the early morning when winds and waters are calm. Honu and hawksbill sea turtles, ‘ea in Hawaiian, are seen swimming in the shallow waters of Maluaka Beach all year long.
Placencia – Belize
Placencia, Belize is located within the largest living reef in the Western hemisphere — making it one of the most important marine ecosystems in the world. Over 500 species of fish live here as well as three wild sea turtle species — green, hawksbill and loggerhead.
The gigantic Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System (BBRRS) is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Marine Site. Conservation efforts have made BBRRS the healthiest reef on the planet. Charles Darwin once declared that it was “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.”.
Apo Island – The Philippines
There’s a place in the Philippines called “Turtle Island.” The volcanic Apo Island is at the southeastern tip of Negros Oriental and holds the honor of top 100 Best Diving spots in the world.
The amazing biodiversity that can be seen at Apo Island is a direct result of the community-based initiative that launched in 1985 to preserve the island as a sustainable sanctuary. The lush reef has flourished for over 30 years and has been a feeding ground for namesake green and hawksbill sea turtles. If you touch a sea turtle here you’ll receive a $100 fine.
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