Nine Best Places for Diving with Turtles
Whether just starting your diving journey or already having thousands of dives logged, it is always a delight to spend time on a dive with turtles. These gentle reptiles are entrancing underwater; relaxed, inquisitive and constantly munching on sponges and picking their way over reefs. I know I for one have nearly used up my air in the past just to spend time admiring these creatures. There are seven species of marine turtles, six of which are threatened with extinction and with only an estimated one in 1,000 marine turtle hatchlings making it to adulthood, the odds are not in their favour.
Here we’ve rounded up the nine best destinations to snorkel and dive with turtles all over the world.
Divers visiting Bunaken National Park will be rewarded with some of the best imaginable turtle encounters where the rich reefs and gentle conditions are a haven for green and hawksbill turtles. Large green turtles can be seen resting in crevices on wall dives or perched on the reeftops. Both green and hawksbills nest on the islands of Bunaken, Siladen and Manado Tua, returning every year to lay their eggs.
Laamu Atoll, Maldives
Sea grass is a key feeding habitat for sea turtles, and this exists in abundance in the Maldives. Many resorts in the Maldives clear their sea grass beds in favour of more aesthetically pleasing turquoise lagoons and this destruction have a devastating effect on turtle numbers. Six Senses Laamu, with the assistance of the Olive Ridley Project who are based at the resort, has worked to protect and preserve their sea grass beds and the resulting numbers of turtle sightings is amazing. Green, and hawskbill turtles frequent the waters and beaches in the Laamu atoll where they are safe to graze on sea grass beds and lay their eggs on the beaches. This makes the resort a fantastic spot not only to dive with turtles but also for lucky guests to see them lay their eggs or their hatchlings entering the sea for the first time in a responsible manner.
Anda, Bohol, Philippines
For sheer volume of turtles, it is hard to beat the dive site Turtle Point in Anda, Bohol, where tens of hawksbill and green turtles can be seen on any one dive (my record count was 32 on one dive!). These turtles also happen to be some of the largest we have seen anywhere, with shells measuring over a metre in length! Conditions here are gentle and the reeftops shallow out close to the surface, making this an ideal spot for divers and snorkellers alike.
Alphonse Island, Seychelles
Located 400km from Mahe, Alphonse Island is home to some very exciting diving indeed, and seems to be a hotspot for turtle sightings. Due to its remote nature, and the ongoing conservation efforts here, the visiting green and hawksbill turtles live a relatively undisturbed life and their numbers reflect this, with tens of them being spotted on every dive. They nest on the beaches of Alphonse Island so lucky guests can join the marine conservation team in watching nesting and hatching events (September to March for hawksbills and January to September for greens). The island is also home to giant tortoises!
In the Caribbean, turtle numbers have seen an appalling decrease of over 97% in the last few hundred years, with hunting, mass construction and intense pressures on the turtles’ nesting grounds playing a large role in this decline, but Grenada happens to be a great diving spot to encounter small hawksbills during dives. Extra specially, the largest marine species, leatherback turtles, can also be seen at Levera Beach in the north of the island, where these giant prehistoric reptiles make their way up the beach every year between March and July to lay their eggs.
Green turtles can be seen in abundance in the Galapagos Islands for snorkellers and divers alike. Black marine iguanas are another marine reptile highlight along with the rest of the region’s weird and wonderful flora and fauna and some of the most exciting diving in the world.
Green turtles are part of the magic of diving at Cocos Island in Costa Rica, and a key part in proving the importance of the migratory corridor between Cocos, Galapagos and Malpelo areas which have recently been pledged for protection against fishing as one giant marine-protected area. Green turtles find protection in these waters and divers can get up close to them along with a plethora of sharks, rays and schooling fish on liveaboard trips in this region which offers thrilling diving.
Whilst on a diving holiday in Muscat, encounters with turtles are common, and snorkellers will delight in a trip to Turtle Bay which has perfect conditions; a healthy hard coral bed, shallow waters and good visibility to enjoy a gentle afternoon bobbing above turtles watching them in a relaxed environment.
Mafia Island, Tanzania
On the east coast of Tanzania, little Mafia Island packs a big punch when it comes to diving, and turtles are commonly seen on the vibrant reefs outside Chole Bay. Successful turtle hatching projects have taken place, protecting the tiny reptiles as they make their way to water for the first time. Mafia Island Diving’s expert team of dive guides will take divers to the best spots to dive with hawksbill turtles.