Travel and Leisure — March 11, 2015 at 5:00 am

10 Best Places to Swim With Sea Turtles

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©istockphotos/photographywest

©istockphotos/photographywest

Sea turtles as a tourist attraction are a growing phenomenon across the world. People are traveling from country to country to interact with these adorable sea beasts and are helping to conserve not only the species, but also the ocean doing so. There’s an entire eco-tourism business built around them! If you fancy a swim with some of these big guys there are plenty of places to go.

Topsail Island, North Carolina
North Carolina is a popular breeding ground for loggerhead sea turtles. You’ll find over a thousand hatchlings scurrying towards the ocean along the shores of Topsail Island, Atlantic Beach and Bald Head Island each year. This is probably the quickest and most affordable trip that many people can make.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Grand Cayman is home to a large turtle farm that has released over 31,000 sea turtles since 1981. You’ll find they don’t go very far after hatching, either. Slip on some scuba gear and dive under water to have some close encounters with the area’s hawksbill turtles. The lack of predators in the area has reportedly made them extremely friendly.

The Hawaiian Islands
The Hawaiian Islands contain more sea turtles than you’ll ever be able to see in one trip. They’ve got cleaning stations all around the islands where you can dive under and get up close and personal with the big fellas. The turtles, or “honus” as they’re known as here, are highly protected by the state so make sure you look, but don’t touch.

Sipadan, Malaysia
Sipadan is home to a protected turtle-nesting site, meaning you’ll come across 20 to 40 of these guys each time you dive. Sipadan is also often ranked as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world so you’ll have some pretty spectacular views if you manage to get tired of taking on the turtles.

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world and the Great Barrier Reef is home to six of them. You’ll find them laying eggs all throughout the year so your kids will enjoy playing around the little turtle hatchlings. The Great Barrier Reef is also the most diverse areas on the planet, so you’ll also be surrounded by over 1,500 species of fish and 400 different types of coral.

Akumal, Mexico
Akumal literally translates to “the place of the turtles” and gets its name from, you guessed it, the sea turtles that inhabit this beach town. Locals go to great lengths to protect the loggerhead and green turtles native to the area so there are plenty of conservation opportunities to take part in.

Puerto Rico
Turtles engage in nesting and hatching from February to November each year all throughout Puerto Rico. The island is home to loggerhead, green and the rare leatherback turtles and you can participate in a variety of conservation efforts. Some of the resorts on the island even offer the opportunity to stand watch as the turtle’s guardians while they lay their eggs.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
The resorts in Puerto Vallarta will often let you take part in combing the beaches for turtle eggs that may not have hatched at the same time as the rest of them. You can then help care for the egg and even name the baby turtle when it hatches. They release over 40,000 turtles back into the ocean each year.

Mnemba, Tanzania
You and your family can eek out a little peace and quiet on this island off the coast of Zanzibar. There are only ten huts available for rent throughout the year so you’ll be able to peacefully watch the turtles nesting and the hatchlings make their way to the shore. The prime hatching season here occurs between February and March.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos green turtles are almost a species unto themselves and 3,000 of them return to the islands every year from December to February to mate and hatch their eggs. The island becomes so thick with that you can’t get in the waters without standing side-by-side with these friendly guys. They’ll spend most of their time munching on the islands’ thick algae patches and cleaning themselves, pretty much ignoring your existence.

 

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