12 Best Places in the World to Swim and Snorkel with Sea Turtles

Save the turtles! This slogan has been around for a while now, and for good reason. With the climate rapidly changing, it is our responsibility to indeed save the turtles. While you are at it, you can also enjoy swimming with the sea turtles.

These delicate marine creatures are reptiles of the order Testudines. There are seven existing species of sea turtles scattered all over the world – the green sea turtle, the loggerhead sea turtle, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the olive ridley sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle, the flatback sea turtle, and the leatherback sea turtle. A female sea turtle can lay 100 eggs at a time, and the temperature in the area can dictate the sex of the baby turtle. Warm nests lead to more females, while colder ones lead to more males. This is one of the reasons the sea turtles are one of the top creatures greatly affected by climate change.

Sea turtles are practically harmless. In general, the best time to have an encounter with them is early morning when the water and wind are calm. Keep in mind, though, that touching and disturbing the sea turtles is a big no-no when swimming or snorkeling with them. Keep a distance of at least 20 feet to avoid scaring them away. If swimming with these cute creatures of the sea is on your bucket list, here are the 12 best places in the world to swim and snorkel with sea turtles.

1. La Paz, Mexico

The Gulf of Mexico is known for being a breeding place of sea turtles. If you are looking for a deeper interaction with the turtles and to experience an eco-adventure of a lifetime, you can visit and volunteer in Tortugueros Las Playitas A.C. in La Paz, Mexico. Volunteers will be trained in collecting data on nesting sea turtles, nest relocation, incubation greenhouse operation, nest excavation, and hatching releases. Anyone can volunteer.

La Paz, Mexico, Swim and Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Credits; Wikimedia Commons

The best time to do so would be from October 15-December 31 if you want to see turtles nesting. This is the busiest nesting time. December 1 to February is their busiest time for hatching, while March to April are the busiest months for releases. If you want to help release turtles back into the ocean, these would be the best months to volunteer. Olive ridley, black, and leatherback are the kinds of sea turtles being housed in Tortugueros Las Playitas.

If you want your sea turtle encounter to be even more worthwhile, this is the perfect opportunity for you. Another place in Mexico where you can swim with sea turtles is Akumal. Akumal means “place of the turtle” in local dialect. This is located between Playa del Carmen and Tulum. The best time to see sea turtles in Akumal is from May to August, although these are the peak months, so expect a huge crowd of people wanting to swim with sea turtles during your visit.

2. Marsa Alam, Egypt

Marsa Alam is a popular dive destination in the Red Sea. Thousands of visitors flock to this resort town every year with their diving gear. One of the top reasons it draws the crowds in is being home to the cutest sea turtles in the world. Swimming with sea turtles in Marsa Alam, Egypt, is best during the months of June to September. Green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles are abundant in the area. The green sea turtles tend to swim in the shallow parts near the shore, while the hawksbill sea turtles are likely to be found in the deeper areas of coral reef. Before diving in the waters, you need to attend a quick orientation to ensure that no sea turtles are harmed while you are swimming with them.

3. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Australia is known for its endemic land and water animals. From kangaroos to flatback sea turtles, Australia has a lot to offer, including the largest coral reef system in the world. The Great Barrier Reef, spanning 1,200 miles in length, is so vast that it can even be seen from space.

Great Barrier Reef, Australia, Swim and Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

There are over 1,500 species of fish, several species of whales and dolphins, and six species of sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef. Green sea turtles and flatback sea turtles are the top thriving species here. If you want to go swimming with sea turtles, you can find thousands of them in the Great Barrier Reef. The best time to go swimming with sea turtles in Australia is from May to October. Nesting season is around late October to February, while hatching season is from late December to April.

4. Carlisle Bay, Barbados

Caribbean countries are, more often than not, labeled as paradise on Earth, and for good reason. The Caribbean offers everything one would want for a perfect vacation – white sandy shores, crystal blue waters, and sea turtles! One of the best places to swim with sea turtles in the Caribbean is in Carlisle Bay, Barbados. Tourists who visit the area always have swimming with sea turtles in Barbados at the top if their to-do list. No matter what month you visit, it is a guarantee that you will see sea turtles swim in Carlisle Bay.

The white sandy shore and the crystal blue waters in this tropical paradise will make you want to stay for a while. You can lounge on the beach and work on your tan or swim to your heart’s content with the sea turtles around you. If you book a boat tour, snorkeling gear will be provided so you can experience snorkeling with sea turtles in Barbados.

The turtle sanctuary in the area will give you a wider knowledge and deeper appreciation of the Caribbean sea turtles. Slightly further out into the ocean near Carlisle Bay and Pebbles Beach, there are a few shipwrecks. The shipwrecks are a popular breeding ground for the local sea turtles. Aside from the sea turtles, you can also see plenty of fish and marine life forms that have built a life around the shipwrecks. The boat guides are more than happy to share the story of the shipwrecks in the area.

5. Maui Island, Hawaii

The best place to swim with sea turtles in Hawaii is Maui Island. You can easily spot the Hawaiian green sea turtles in Maui all year long. The hawksbill sea turtle is also a familiar sight. You can take a stroll along the shore and see one or a dozen of these cute sea turtles. Be cautious in approaching them on shore. Touching them is unethical, and harassing sea turtles is an illegal offense in Hawaii.

Maui Island, Hawaii, Swim and Snorkel with Sea Turtles

One of the best ways to see the bigger ones up close is to go on an island-hopping tour. The boats usually stop in the middle of the ocean where sea turtles are plenty. The best time of the day to see turtles in Maui is during the early mornings of April to October. Take your snorkeling gear with you and spend the day snorkeling with sea turtles. That’s a good way to spend a vacation, isn’t it? Plus, Maui has a lot of other points of interest such as Hana Highway and Haleakala National Park.

6. Apo Island, Philippines

The Philippines is a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia. It is known for its beautiful beaches, affordable prices, and friendly, English-speaking locals. On top of this, it is also home to one of the best places to swim with sea turtles – Apo Island! Apo Island is a protected island in the Visayas Region in the Philippines. The island has rich marine life and has been protected since 1985.

If you want to see turtles diving with you, plan a trip to Apo Island. This is also part of the 100 best diving spots in the world. A guide is required for every four persons who would like to snorkel here. The waves can be brutal in the late afternoon, so the best time to dive and swim with sea turtles is morning. The best time to visit would be between the months of December to May. Typhoons occur often in the Philippines between the months of June and November. Giant sea turtles are numerous in Apo Island. Be careful not to touch them since doing so would not only harm the sea turtles, it would also cost you $100 fine.

7. Zamami Island, Japan

Hitting the beach may not be the first on your list when planning a vacation to Japan. Tokyo itself will provide you with hundreds of things to do, from hunting for the best ramen to going to Disney Sea, but if you want to see beautiful sea turtles, then Zamami Island in Japan is the place for you.

Zamami Island, Japan, Swim and Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Zamami Island is in the Okinawa area. Sea turtles swim in the shallow parts of the waters in Okinawa, especially during the migration season from May to August. During this season, you might catch up to five species of sea turtles. This island is part of the protected Kerama Islands Marine Park. Sea turtle species such as the loggerhead, the hawksbill, and the green sea turtle are the most common here.

8. Marathon, Florida

If you are from the US and do not want to go to another country, you can still have the swimming with sea turtle experience in Florida. There are various beaches where you can experience this activity, but one of the best places to swim with sea turtles is in Marathon. Set on 13 islands in the Florida Keys, Marathon is popular in terms of water activities, such as boating and fishing. Other activities, such as jet-ski tours, kayaking, paddle boarding, and see or swimming with sea turtles, are also popular.

The best time of the day to see turtles in Florida is any time before 9 in the morning. You can visit The Turtle Hospital, a small, non-profit organization in Marathon dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. You can even interact with the cute sea turtles. You can also learn more about their history as well as the things you can do to help keep them alive and thriving in the years to come. If you want to swim with sea turtles in Florida, other than Marathon, you can also visit Vero Beach and Dania Beach.

9. Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

Another Southeast Asian country where you can find sea turtles is Indonesia. You can hop on a boat in Gili Trawangan and see green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. The green sea turtles tend to swim in the shallow parts. If you are a non-swimmer or visiting with small children, you need not worry about missing out on swimming with the sea turtles. The clear, blue Indonesian waters make it easy to spot these cute green sea turtles as they swim around and feed on algae. The hawksbills are often found in the deeper part of the reefs, but sometimes they also venture into the shallows. You can identify them by the puzzle-like markings on their outer shells. The green turtles, on the other hand, are brown and have a rounder head.

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, Swim and Snorkel with Sea Turtles
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

While swimming with these gentle creatures, always remember that keeping a comfortable distance from them is important. Other boat operators are opposed to letting the tourists feed the sea turtles since this will disrupt their natural instinct to actively hunt for food. Just make the most of the experience and snorkel with the sea turtles. Make sure to pack your underwater cameras to capture the experience. The best months to visit Gili Trawangan, Indonesia, to swim with the sea turtles are December to April. While you are here, you might also want to visit Bali. Bali offers grand waves for surfing and rice paddies for an authentic Balinese tour. Adding these activities to your swimming with the sea turtles experience is an adventure one would not easily forget.

10. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

If you have been asking the question, “Where can I swim with sea turtles?” we’ve got you covered. One of the best paces to swim with sea turtles is in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands has a reputation of being one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. It is home to hawksbill, green, leatherback, and olive ridley sea turtles. If you come during the nesting season between December to March, you will see plenty of green sea turtles. The Galapagos has always been popular with tourists after it became Charles Darwin’s motivation to write The Origin of Species. There are thousands of species in the waters alone in Galapagos Islands. You can also see here the giant Hood Island Tortoise.

11. Sipadan, Malaysia

Located in the Celebes Sea, Sipadan is a very small island in Malaysia. You can find over three thousand species of fish here as well as over hundreds of corals. Sipadan has long been named as one of the best diving sites in the world because of its abundant marine life. If you have been searching for places to see sea turtles, you can find tons of them swimming freely here. Put on your gear and snorkel with green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. Both of these species inhabit the island all year long.

Turtle, scuba diving, Sipadan
Credits: William Warby, Flickr CC BY 2.0

Due to its geographical location, the waters around Sipadan are always warm, with temperatures around 26-30 degrees Celsius. The best time to swim with sea turtles in Sipadan, Malaysia, is between the months of April to November. During these months, you will be surrounded by at least twenty sea turtles per dive. Due to its popularity among tourists, the sea turtles here are used to the crowds. Still, try to keep a safe distance in order not to accidently harm the sea turtles. The nesting season is from April to June, while hatching season is from June to November for both the green sea turtles and the hawksbill sea turtles.

12. Hurawalhi Island, Maldives

Baby sea turtles swimming is quite a common site in Hurawalhi Island, Malaysia. Five out of seven species of sea turtles can be found in Hurawalhi. This fact alone is enough reason for many tourists to visit throughout the year to experience swimming with sea turtles. In fact, Maldives is not only a great place for lounging on the beach with cocktails; it is also one of the best places in the world to go snorkeling and swimming with sea turtles. The clear blue waters of Maldives is teeming with green sea turtles, loggerhead, olive ridley, leatherback, and hawksbill sea turtles. The area is also popular for the largest undersea restaurant. You can wine and dine and be surrounded by sea turtles throughout the course of your dinner. If you have small children who are not yet ready to submerge in the water, you can take them to the restaurant and still have the experience of seeing sea turtles in their nature element.

FAQs about sea turtles

How many species of sea turtle are there?

There are seven existing species of sea turtles scattered all over the world – green sea turtle, loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, olive ridley, hawksbill, flatback, and leatherback sea turtle.

Do turtles need water?

Yes. Turtles need an ample amount of water to survive. Sea turtles drink only seawater. They have special glands that make it possible for them to drink seawater, filter the salt out, and retain the fresh water in their bodies.

What do sea turtles eat?

Almost all sea turtles eat seaweed, sponges, mollusks, worms, fish, and other sea life. Sea turtles in general are considered the lawn mowers of the ocean. They feed on the seagrass, thus helping it stay short and keeping the other marine creatures from getting hurt. The green sea turtles usually become herbivores upon reaching adulthood. Leatherback sea turtles’ diet is mostly composed of purely jellyfish, as well as that of hawksbill. This is also one of the major reasons they are the biggest of all sea turtles.

What eats sea turtles?

Sea turtles often fall prey to both water and land animals. Sharks (tiger sharks) often eat sea turtles. Sea turtle eggs and baby sea turtles often fall prey to dogs, crabs, racoons, and fish. In some cultures, humans also harvest sea turtle eggs for food.

What is the biggest sea turtle?

The leatherback sea turtle is the biggest sea turtle in the world.

leatherback sea turtle
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

It is also the fourth heaviest modern reptile. The leatherback sea turtle can grow up to four to eight feet and can weigh up to 500-2000 pounds.

What is the smallest sea turtle?

The smallest sea turtle species is the Kemp’s ridley. This type of sea turtle usually just measures 30 inches long and weighs less than 100 pounds.

Do all turtles swim?

No, not all turtles swim. Some species of box turtles need access to water for hydration purposes, but they spend most of their lifetime on dry land. All species of sea turtles can swim though.

How long do sea turtles live?

Sea turtles live for about 100 years. They can outlive the general human population. Sea turtles have been around for a very long time as well. Studies show that the sea turtles have been on Earth for about 110 million years now. There was a time when dinosaurs and sea turtles both existed.

How long can sea turtles hold their breath?

Sea turtles can hold their breath for up to two to five hours underwater. In one day, they usually swim to the surface about five times minimum for air. Sea turtles can slow down their heart rate to up to nine minutes in between heart beats. By doing this, they can conserve oxygen, thus making it possible for them to hold their breath for longer durations.

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