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Who doesn’t want to snorkel with sea turtles? These endangered species are beautiful and peaceful creatures, and there are only a few places in the world where you can snorkel with large populations of them.
Usually if you’re snorkeling with a sea turtle it’ll be a green turtle or hawksbill sea turtle, but sometimes other rarer species can be spotted. If you want to have the chance to see these species up close, here are the best places in the world to snorkel with sea turtles, as well as the best times to find them.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Aruba
This island is a nesting ground for various turtle species, including leatherback, hawksbill, green, and loggerhead turtles. You can snorkel with turtles in beaches all over Aruba, and you’ll find huge populations swimming just off shore. Boca Catalina is the best beach to snorkel with turtles in Aruba, but you’ll also find them swimming in the seagrass at Arashi Beach and in the waters around Mangel Halto.
When to see turtles in Boca Catalina:Nesting season – March to September, Hatching season – May to November.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Australia
Cook Island Marine Reserve
Just off the coast of Queensland you’ll find this marine sanctuary where you can snorkel with green sea turtles all year (as well as leopard sharks and wobbegongs). It’s one of the few places in Australia where you can snorkel with turtles not far from the coast, and you’ll find lots of snorkel excursions and tours to take you to the island from either Gold Coast or Tweed Heads.
When to see turtles in Cook Island: All year!
Great Barrier Reef
The largest coral reef system in the world is home to 18 different green sea turtle nesting sites, with over 30,000 nesting females you can snorkel with.
The best place to snorkel with sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef would be around Raine Island and Moulter Cay, where five of the nesting sites can be found. The other 13 nesting sites are located around the Capricorn Bunker group of islands, and there you can snorkel and see 8,000 female turtles laying their eggs.
When to see turtles in the Great Barrier Reef: May – October, between nesting and hatching season.
Julian Rocks Marine Reserve
This snorkel site in Byron Bay is one of the few places where you can snorkel with some of the Great Barrier Reef’s tropical water species, including sea turtles! The shallow waters here are home to three different species of sea turtles, rays, wobbegong sharks, as well as over 400 fish varieties. You can find snorkel and dive tours to take you to the best spots to snorkel with turtles.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Bali
These islands are just as famous for their large turtle populations as well as their beautiful reef and crystal clear waters. Snorkeling with sea turtles here is almost a guarantee, and the best place to do it would be Gili Meno. This small island can be reached by boat from Lombok and Bali, and you can snorkel with hawksbill and green sea turtles amongst the seagrass and along the sand just off the beach. Gili Trawangan is another beautiful island to explore swimming with sea turtles, though less popular than Gili Meno.
When to see turtles in the Gili Islands: Nesting season – March to September, Hatching season – April to October.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Central America
Tortuguero National Park
Here you can snorkel with green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, leatherback turtles, and witness one of the most beautiful events of all time when thousands of green and leatherback turtles come to lay their eggs along the beaches here. To spot them you’ll need a guide to take you there at night.
When to see turtles in Costa Rica: Green turtle nestingseason – July to October, Leatherback turtle nesting season – March to July.
You can snorkel with turtles amongst these islands all year long, and it’s the only place in the world you can swim with the unique subspecies Galapagos green sea turtle. The best place to snorkel with turtles in the Galapagos is Quinta Playa on Isabela Island, where they come to nest.
When to see turtles in Galapagos Islands: Nesting season – December to March, Hatching season – February to March.
La Flor Wildlife Refuge
Here you can have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see over 100,000 olive ridley sea turtles nesting once a year. They’ll be there along with hawksbills, leatherbacks, and green sea turtles, giving you prime opportunity to snorkel with turtles and witness an amazing natural phenomenon.
When to see turtles in La Flor Wildlife Refuge: Nesting season – July to December, Hatching season – September to February.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Hawaii
Kahalu’u Beach Park
This is the best spot for beginner snorkelers and kids to enjoy swimming with green sea turtles in Hawaii. A shallow lagoon with one of the Big Island’s most reliable turtle populations, there are lots and lots of sea turtles swimming in the waters of this bay. You can find them everywhere along this beach, but most turtles will be gathered around the rocks in the south side.
Another hotspot on Kailua-Kona, this beach is the perfect place to enjoy a snorkel with sea turtles without the crowds. On a calm day you can jump in the waters of this lagoon and join a huge number of sea turtles, in one of the best kept secrets of Hawaii. This area is barely visited by tourists, meaning you can get up close and personal have an intimate swim with these creatures without having to share them with other snorkelers.
This is known as Oahu’s ‘Turtle Beach’, so you can guarantee some great turtle snorkeling opportunity here. The turtles can be found hanging out in the waters right off the beach here, and there are even volunteers from a NGO there to answer questions and share info about sea turtles.
You can snorkel with turtles all along the shallow waters of Oahu’s beaches, but for the most beautiful snorkel experiences head out to Maunalua Bay. This spot is home to Turtle Canyons reef, home to huge populations of large turtles as well as an abundance of other marine life. You’ll find lots of tour operators to take you out to the right spots where you can snorkel with green sea turtles.
Part of the region known as ‘Turtle Town’, you can bet that means a prime opportunity to snorkel with sea turtles! Maluaka Beach is the hub of Turtle Town, where you’ll find the highest concentration of green sea turtles. The water here is calm and quiet, perfect for kids who want to swim with turtles.
All in all, Maui is home to a huge population of sea turtles and you can snorkel with them just about anywhere. The waters are usually between 3 – 6 metres deep and you can find turtles hiding out amongst seagrass or floating in the water all year long. The best places in north Maui to snorkel with sea turtles are Kapalua Beach, around Kahana, and north of Black Rock in Kaanapali.
The green sea turtles on the south side of Maui island tend to congregate around rocky areas, and the best places to snorkel with turtles on this side of the island would be Wailea Beach, Kamaole, Makena Landing, and Poolenalena Beach. Occasionally you might even be lucky enough to spot hawksbills, leatherbacks, loggerhead, and even olive ridley turtles if you’re lucky.
When to see turtles in Maui: April – October, with hawksbill turtle hatching season from June to December.
This archipelago is home to a huge population of sea turtles, and you’ll find them swimming everywhere in the shallow waters of its islands. You have the chance to snorkel with five of the seven different turtle species in the world here, though the most popular are green turtles and hawksbill turtles. You’ll find the hawksbill turtles eating sea sponges along the reef, and other species swimming amongst the seagrass in the shallow lagoons.
When to see turtles in the Maldives: January – April
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Mexico
The word Akumal means ‘Place of the Turtle’ in the Mayan language, so you can guess this would be the best place to snorkel with sea turtles in Mexico. A shallow secluded beach that’s home to a large population of different species of sea turtles, here you can also snorkel with hawksbill turtles, green turtles, olive ridleys, Kemps’s ridleys, leatherbacks, and loggerhead turtles.
When to see turtles in Akumal: May – August, with green turtle hatching season from July to December.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in the Red Sea
There are turtles swimming all over the Red Sea, but one of the best places to snorkel with them is Marsa Alam. Here you can snorkel with both green sea turtles, hawksbill turtles, and dugongs, where you’ll find them feeding on seagrass close to the shore. For the best snorkeling head to Abu Dabbab Bay, home to a large population of turtles and other marine life.
When to see turtles in Marsa Alam: June to September, for green and hawksbill turtles nesting and hatching seasons.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Seychelles
This beautiful secluded island is hugely popular with hawksbill sea turtles, and you can snorkel with them amongst large schools of fish and vibrant coral life. The turtles are here all year round, giving prime opportunity to enjoy a dip with them, but the best time to observe them is on a calm day when they’ll be floating along the water. You have to book a half-day excursion with a boat operator to reach this destination.
Mayotte’s most beautiful beach is home to a population of about 200 green sea turtles that can be found swimming just metres from shore. Also home to the occasional hawksbill, here you can snorkel with sea turtles in shallow calm waters. You’ll find them feeding on the seagrass and laying their eggs on the sand (watch out for the turtle nests!) During low tide the turtles will be closer to the reef drop-off, a bit further from shore.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Thailand
Nicknamed ‘Turtle Island’, you can guess that there are plenty of opportunities to swim with sea turtles in this island. Koh Tao is a breeding ground for green turtles and hawksbill turtles, home to a large population of them all over the island. The best places to snorkel with turtles in Koh Tao are Sai Nuan Beach, Sharks Bay, Sai daeng Beach, and Jansom beach.
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