Sea turtles are some of the most remarkable animals you can encounter in our oceans. They have existed for over 100 million years, can live for over a century, and some swim more than 10,000 miles between nesting and foraging grounds each year. There are seven different species of sea turtle, and you can find them at locations around the world. Here is our roundup of the best places to snorkel with these charming animals.
Whether you choose to explore Australia’s eastern or western coast, there are numerous places to go snorkeling with sea turtles. The Great Barrier Reef has world-class snorkeling and hosts six of the seven species of sea turtle. A visit to this special area also offers the chance to explore the oldest rainforest in the world, the Daintree Rainforest. Western Australia also has great snorkeling and numerous sea turtles, especially at Shark Bay, Ningaloo Reef and the Muiron Islands.
Mabul, Sipadan and Kapalai offer some of the best and most diverse snorkeling opportunities in the world, especially for sea turtle fans. Sipadan’s bright blue waters are teeming with big fish and huge green sea turtles, whilst Mabul is the place to go for spotting sea turtles cruising along coral reefs. Make sure you visit in August if you want to see nesting sea turtles at Sipadan.
3) The Maldives
Maldives scuba diving is high on many divers’ wish lists, but you don’t need to be a diver to make the most of this stunning destination. There are excellent snorkeling opportunities and numerous sea turtles throughout the atolls, including leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill, green and olive ridley sea turtles. To surround yourself with green sea turtles, visit Lhaviyani Atoll and especially the seagrass meadows of Kuredu Island. This idyllic atoll hosts almost half of the Maldives’ green sea turtles.
4) Wakatobi, Indonesia
Wakatobi is renowned for having some of the world’s most biodiverse reefs and has easy snorkeling conditions. Sitting in the Coral Triangle, this special destination has everything from prized critters through to schooling reef fish and plenty of sea turtles. Snorkel over the colorful outer reefs to find adult Hawksbill turtles munching on huge sponges or simply walk off the beach to look for juvenile and adult green sea turtles at the seagrass meadows.
5) Akumal, Mexico
Mexico is another top destination for snorkeling with sea turtles, especially at Akumal in the Yucatan Peninsula. Akumal means ‘the place of the turtle’, so it’s no surprise to find out this is a great place to swim with sea turtles. With numerous green sea turtles and loggerheads there, which are used to the presence of humans, it’s an experience not to miss.
If you’re visiting Hawaii, you have a good chance of encountering sea turtles whichever island you choose, but Oahu is one of the best. You can either join snorkeling tours to meet the turtles or explore without a guide. Laniakea Beach (also known as Turtle Beach) is one of the most popular places to swim with turtles but there are plenty of quieter turtle hotspots around the island.
People go scuba diving in Egypt every year and with good reason. It is one of the most accessible and affordable places to experience vibrant reefs, warm water snorkeling and year-round sunshine. It truly has something for everyone, including snorkelers. You can spot sea turtles on any of Egypt’s reefs but visit Abu Dabbab Beach at Marsa Alam for almost guaranteed green sea turtle encounters. You will also be able to swim with dugongs whilst you’re there.
Zakynthos (also known as Zante) is the top place in Europe to swim with sea turtles. In the summer months, thousands of loggerhead turtles head inshore to lay their eggs on the beaches. You can snorkel with them at Zakynthos and at nearby Cameo Island, or go island hopping and watch them come ashore at Kefalonia’s beaches.
9) The Galapagos Islands
Wild and remote, the Galapagos Islands are an iconic haven for wildlife above and below the waterline, and sea turtles are no exception. There are numerous snorkeling spots where you’ll find sea turtles and Galapagos green sea turtles nest on some of the islands’ beaches. Wherever you snorkel, the waters are teeming with life. There is nowhere else in the world where you can swim with sea turtles, marine iguanas, sea lions, penguins, schools of fish and more. Don’t miss it.
10) French Polynesia
French Polynesia, with its lush volcanic islands, luxurious resorts and soft white sands, is the perfect destination to get away from it all. As if that’s not enough, French Polynesia is also stunning underwater, with calm lagoons ideal for snorkeling, healthy coral reefs and abundant marine life. You can go snorkeling with sea turtles at Tahiti and Moorea, where the shallow waters make it ideal for new snorkelers.
Barbados is an idyllic Caribbean destination, with azure waters and numerous sea turtles, including green, hawksbill and leatherback turtles. There are a handful of snorkeling tour operators and plenty of infrastructure, meaning you can get out and swim with the turtles easily. If you don’t want to join a tour, grab your snorkeling gear and go in search of sea turtles off the west coast beaches. Make sure you follow local snorkeling safety guidelines and enjoy.
Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.
Creature Feature: Porbeagle
In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.
This time we’re showcasing the robust Porbeagle, one of the only known sharks that may love to play..
Shaped like a rugby ball, this muscular stocky shark is incredibly hydrodynamic and built for endurance. Dark grey-blue in colour with a white belly, they have a pointed snout and large black eyes.
Porbeagle’s belong to an elite group of sharks known as the mackerel sharks. These include some of the most powerful and agile sharks in the world, such as the White Shark and Shortfin Mako. This group are endothermic, so can keep themselves nice and warm, due to a remarkable adaptation known as a rete mirabile. This makes them more efficient hunters and able to tolerate colder waters.
Porbeagle’s look a lot like White Sharks, so are often mistaken for them. As they’re found in UK waters, this has led to many false reports of White Sharks in the UK. But Porbeagle’s are around half the size. Although still a large shark, the biggest Porbeagle on record is 3.6m. While the largest White Shark is 6m.
Found worldwide in cold-temperate waters, Porbeagle’s are strong swimmers. Travelling thousands of miles in search of food and to give birth. One individual, tagged in Irish waters, journeyed over 2,000 miles to Newfoundland in Canada. A known mating ground for Porbeagle’s.
Porbeagle’s may live on their own, or in small groups made up of similar sized or same sex individuals. With males and females coming together usually in September-November to mate. Yet in some places this can take place in January.
These sharks reproduce slowly, so are extremely vulnerable to destructive fishing. Females take 12-16 years to reach sexual maturity, males 6-10 years. After 8-9 months, females will give birth to litters of just 1-5 pups, which are relatively large at 60-80cm long.
Two distinct populations exist – the north Atlantic and south Pacific. Individuals from these areas don’t seem to mix, resulting in key differences. North Atlantic Porbeagle’s get a lot bigger, and don’t tend to live as long as those in the south Pacific.
During the day Porbeagles tend to spend their time in deeper waters, rising to the surface at night. They’re opportunistic feeders, mostly eating small fish – such as mackerel, whiting and herring – as well as octopus, squid and cuttlefish.
Highly inquisitive, Porbeagles have been seen chasing each other, rolling at the surface, and even pushing around floating objects and kelp. Could they be playing? Currently there are no scientific studies to back this up. But what an interesting study that would be…!
- SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lamna nasus
- FAMILY: Mackerel Sharks (Lamnidae)
- MAXIMUM SIZE: 3.6m
- DIET: Small fish & squid
- DISTRIBUTION: Wide-ranging in temperate waters (except North Pacific).
- HABITAT: Coastal and oceanic waters from 0-1,800m deep. Prefers temperatures below 18°C but can tolerate -1–23°C.
- CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable
For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.
Header Image: Doug Perrine / Alamy
Top Destinations to dive with Manta Rays
In their mission to create a billion Torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean, PADI is encouraging divers to seek adventure and experience first-hand the vital eco-systems below the surface of the ocean.
To further raise awareness of this mission on International Manta Ray Day (17 September 2021), PADI has rounded up the top destinations in the world that are currently open to divers.
Machadilla National Park, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador
Diving in Ecuador offers a special paradise for scuba divers, in which the chance of encountering marine species nowhere else on earth is extremely high due to the heavy currents and nutrient rich waters. And for those keen to dive with manta rays, head out with PADI 5 Star Dive Center Exploramar Diving, or PADI 5 Star Dive Center Mares Ecuador here they take divers out to Machadilla National Park in Isla de la Plata for a chance to greet these graceful creatures every July to September.
Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Ecuador
Kona, Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaii’s volcanic origins and isolated geographical location makes for a whirlwind of scuba diving encounters underwater, with manta ray encounters being likely all year long. For those looking for an extra special experience, PADI 5 Star Dive Center Jack’s Diving Locker offers a manta ray night dive and a PADI Distinctive Specialty Course called Manta Ray Diver, which covers everything from the manta ray anatomy to cleaning habits, reproduction and how to identify individual rays in the local population.
Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Hawaii
Bryon Bay, Australia
For those who are currently in Australia, they can have their backyard manta ray encounter with PADI 5 Star Dive Center Sundive Byron Bay. The summer months of December to May bring manta rays to the nearby Julia Rocks Marine Reserve, which National Geographic once acknowledged as one of the top 20 dives in the world.
Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Australia
Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Bali
The name speaks for itself. Manta Point in Bali is a haven for manta rays all year long, with the best time to see them being from April to May. PADI 5 Star Dive Center and Resort Scuba Junkie Penida offers the ultimate manta ray diving experience in the area, adding coral dives and drift dives to the day’s adventure.
Find out more with PADI’ Dive Guide for Bali
Komodo National Park, Labuan Bajo, Indonesia
One of Indonesia’s most famous diving destinations is also one of the best places to dive with manta rays! PADI 5 Star Dive Resort Blue Marlin Komodo is the perfect place for a manta ray holiday, where divers can stay at the dive resort while getting their PADI Open Water Diver certification and then hop aboard their dive vessel for a day of diving out at sea with manta rays!
Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Indonesia
Six Senses Manta Point, Laamu Atoll, Maldives
Crystal clear warm waters, white sandy beaches and manta rays—PADI 5 Star Dive Resort Six Senses Laamu offers the ultimate luxurious manta ray holiday. As the only dive resort in the Laamu Atoll, divers of all levels will have extremely personable encounters with manta rays every month of the year in this world-class diving area. There are also more than 180 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts in the Maldives that can take divers out to have a manta ray encounter.
Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for the Maldives
The islands that make up the Azores off the coast of Portugal are one of the most diverse for marine life. One specific type of manta rays known as the Mobula birostris is known tohang out in large groups around the island of St. Maria between June and October, with PADI 5 Star Haliotis Dive Center offering guided boat trips to the island.
Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Portugal
Diving with whale sharks and manta rays can make a difference in protecting these incredible species for future generations – dive tourism encourages protection from local communities and governments. But its important to always adhere to local guidelines and best practices to ensure these creatures’ well-being is always at the forefront. PADI dive operators understand the importance of using the proper equipment, the time of day to dive with sharks, and the maximum number of operators that should be on the water at any given time. To learn more about responsible shark and ray tourism and other ways you can support the protection of these incredible animals, visit padi.com/aware/sharks.
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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 14 – 21 October 2021 | Emperor Echo
Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.
Price NOW from just £1175 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:
- Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
- 7 nights in shared cabin
- 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
- 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
- Free Nitrox
Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.
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