Marine turtles are some of the most majestic and fascinating creatures on earth. An ancient and mysterious ocean going reptilian, the turtle has an enduring appeal. There are 7 kinds of sea turtle, and many species are highly endangered due to pollution and commercial fishing. Turtle tourism is extremely popular. Every year, thousands of hopeful reptile enthusiasts line picturesque beaches around the world hoping to catch a glimpse of these hard shelled creatures. You can’t just turn up to any old beach hoping to see a sea turtle. Here is a quick guide to some of the best places in the world to set your eyes on these rare and beautiful beasts.
- The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most precious natural environments on earth. It is estimated that there are around 3000 species of marine animal that call this vast coral oasis home. That population includes a great many turtles. The Queensland Turtle Conservation Project has been one of the great sources of knowledge about the lives of turtles over the last 30 years. The great barrier reef is a great place to go for seeing turtles, but it is an extremely fragile ecosystem. Visitors should only take to the seas around the reef with an official guide.
- Oahu, Hawaii
From January onwards, Waikiki beach hotels are filled with tourists and naturalists hoping to see the turtles that beach themselves in Oahu. 5 of the 7 species of sea turtle call Hawaii home.
By far the most commonly seen is the green turtle, although several other kinds commonly appear. Leatherback turtles – the largest in the world – are periodically spotted. Leatherbacks live for up to 45 years and can grow over 60 inches long.
- Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
11 beaches in Mexico’s beautiful Yucatan peninsula are used by turtles for laying eggs. Egg laying is the only time a turtle will ever return to land – the rest of their lives being spent in the open sea. Turtle eggs are easy prey for land dwelling snakes and mammals, which means that many are eaten before the baby turtles can hatch.
- Turtle Islands, Philippines
The Philippine Turtle Islands, known to locals as Taganak, are remote tropical islands favored by many kinds of turtle for nesting. Because the islands are hard to reach, the turtles are considered relatively safe from poachers in the area. The islands are an amazing place to see young turtles hatching, but great care must be taken to avoid disturbing nesting sites.
- Tortuguero, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline is famous for its population of sea turtles. The area also contains other rare kinds of animal. Jaguars and tapirs roam the woodlands.
If you are lucky enough to see a turtle, it is important that you do not approach it or tamper with its habitat. Human interference can damage turtle populations, and large fines are often handed out to people seen approaching them. Watch from a distance!