11 months, 7 days ago
Sea turtles are found on every continent except Antarctica and they’ve been around for over 100 million years. So obviously, humans managed to endanger these amazing creatures to the point of extinction in the space of a few centuries.
It’s World Turtle Day and the good news is; the world turtle population is on the up and most species are doing better than they’ve done for decades. So conservationists, ordinary locals protecting nesting beaches, satellite turtle tagging, increased awareness and education are what we’re celebrating today. Here are a few places where you can come carefully face to face with incredible turtles and help support the efforts that might just keep them safe for another 100 million years.
Not only are turtles spectacular, they’re pretty clear about what they like and that tends to be the Caribbean, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and balmier bits of the US. But there are one or two European spots where a close encounter isn’t out of the question. The largest of the Ionian Islands, Kefalonia, is famous for white sands, clear waters and secret beaches. The one you want is Mounda to the south of the island. It’s beautifully peaceful and Loggerheads are regular companions for courteous swimmers and snorkelers.
Turtle Town isn’t really a town, it’s a long stretch of coast to the south west of gorgeous Maui. But it really does have turtles. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles to be precise and the finest place to find them is Maluaka Beach. Sheltered from the island’s legendary winds, the sea here is calm for swimming and even in the shallows you’ll come unexpectedly close to graceful turtles foraging about. It’s also a great area for snorkelling.
On the north west coast of Grand Cayman, at a safe distance from the glamorous resorts and shiny beaches, the Turtle Farm has released over 30,000 hatched turtles back into the wild since 1982. It’s also dedicated to conservation and protection of a whole raft of other marine life. You can snorkel with juvenile turtles in the lagoon here and they’re just as curious about you as you are about them. This one’s perfect for kids.
Between bycatching and relentless overfishing, Barbados almost destroyed the indigenous turtle population in the 20th century. But it’s all change on the Caribbean island these days with protected nesting sites, turtle monitoring, safe fishing practices and strict legislation on turtle tourism. Swimming and scuba diving with Hawksbill and Leatherbacks here is unforgettable, well organised and safe (particularly for the turtles).
The Golden Buddha Island of Koh Phra Thong is just over 100km from Phuket on Thailand’s west coast. If you’re a diver, you’ll already know this tiny, unspoiled patch of loveliness because it’s about as near as you can get to Richelieu Rock, the country’s top dive site. And if it’s turtles you’re after, Koh Phra Thong’s huge, white beaches are protected nesting grounds and the population is fairly enormous. Thailand in general is good for swimming, snorkelling and diving with turtles, but few places score as high on eco-credentials as Koh Phra Thong.
Gili Meno is the middle of the three tiny Gili Islands off the north west coast of Lombok. If you can’t quite place Lombok, think: directly opposite Bali and probably about as close to heaven as you’re likely to get without making the ultimate sacrifice. Lombok has all its bigger neighbour’s mysterious loveliness, mighty volcanoes, sculpted fields, incredible forests and endless beaches, just without the crowds. But if you want turtles, head for the islands. Gili Meno has been committed to hatching, nurturing and protecting Green and Loggerhead turtles for years and snorkelling and swimming with them can be done all over the island. Visit the turtle sanctuary and you can often see them releasing juveniles into the wild.
It’s almost a given that Australia is high on the list for encounters with prehistoric creatures. If someone told you they’d seen a pterodactyl in the outback here, you wouldn’t be that surprised, would you? Best bet for tropical beauty and turtles is Hamilton Island, one of the Whitsundays at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. This is one of the most popular of the Reef islands with good reason, it’s stunning. And you want Catseye Beach: trimmed with fantastic coral reefs and starting point for Deep Water Turtle Discovery expeditions – another fantastic adventure for kids.
While you’re deciding where to get better acquainted with some of the world’s oldest creatures, you could always bake a cake, wear a t-shirt or make a donation. Happy World Turtle Day.