If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing cute baby sea turtles hatch, you can make those dreams come true in the Caribbean!
Of course, that’s not something that happens everyday. Nevertheless, you can plan your trip around turtle hatching season. Or, you can book an ecotourism tour to learn more about these majestic sea creatures from the experts.
Types of sea turtles in the Caribbean
There are seven known species of sea turtles in world. Six of these inhabit the greater Caribbean region. Here are the six sea turtles that you can see in the Caribbean:
- Green Sea Turtle. These normally hatch from April to September. They can grow up to three feet long and weigh up to 350 pounds. Despite their name, their carapaces can be several different colors, including brown, black, green, and yellow. They are the only herbivorous species of sea turtle.
- Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. This is the rarest species of sea turtle. It is critically endangered! In fact, there may be only around 10,000 of these turtles left today. They live mainly in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Hawksbill Turtle. These turtles have pointy heads that resemble a hawk’s bill– hence the name. They tend to have beautiful patterns on their carapaces. Hatching season is May to October.
- Leatherback Turtle. These turtles can grow to be huge! They can measure over six feet in length and weigh up to a ton. However, large adults like these are rare. They nest from March to August.
- Loggerhead Turtle. These turtles are named for their large heads. They have powerful jaws and a thick carapace to protect them from predators. Typically, they weigh about 250 pounds as adults.
- Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. This is the most abundant species of sea turtle in the world. However, it has a “vulnerable” conservation status, because its population has been decreasing. Its carapace is usually olive green.
When to see sea turtles in the Caribbean
The best time to catch a glimpse of sea turtles hatching in the Caribbean is during summer and fall. This is the turtle nesting season in the Caribbean.
However, if you would like to swim with young and adult sea turtles, you can do that year round! All you need to do is pick a spot where the turtles are known to live (often near reefs) or take a sea turtle tour. Take note that sea turtles, like other marine animals, are more active when the water is warm.
Did you know that once they reach maturity (10-50 years depending on the species) sea turtles normally return to the beach on which they were born to breed?
Where to see hatching sea turtles in the Caribbean
If you would like to see baby sea turtles hatch, the best way to do so is to book an ecotourism tour. In addition, certain resorts and turtle sanctuaries arrange for visitors to see adult turtles laying eggs, or witness baby turtles hatching and making their way to the sea.
Here is a short list of some of the most well known places in the Caribbean to see sea turtles hatch. Some even have programs that allow you to volunteer and assist in releasing baby turtles onto the surf.
- Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa, Puerto Rico
- Surfing Turtle Lodge & Leon, Nicaragua
- Four Seasons Resort, Nevis
- Rosalie Bay, Dominica
- Ambergris Caye, Belize
- Cobbler’s Beach, Barbados (between mid-May and late October)
- Hilton Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico
- Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica (from July to October and March to May.)
- Coconut Bay, St. Lucia
- Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, Costa Rica
- Harbour Village, Bonaire
- Cozumel, Mexico
An “arribada” is a mass nesting, in which thousands of female turtles come to a beach together to lay their eggs.
Where to swim with sea turtles in the Caribbean
Some travelers love to swim with adult turtles in their natural habitats. Sea turtles normally swim in and around seagrass beds and coral reefs. Here are some great places to swim with sea turtles in the Caribbean:
- Colombier beach in St. Barthelemy
- The island of Providenciales in Turks & Caicos
- Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas- snorkel alongside sea turtles with the Earthwatch Institute
- Trunk Bay, St. John (leatherback turtles)
- Cayo Diablo National Park, Puerto Rico (hawksbill and green turtles)
- Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
- Anse Dufour, Martinique
- Water Island, St. Thomas
- Freights Bay, Carlisle Bay, Paynes Bay and Pebbles Beach in Barbados
Endangered sea turtles in the Caribbean
Unfortunately, all species of sea turtles in the Caribbean are currently endangered, especially the Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle. This is due largely to illegal egg consumption and poaching over the years. In addition, many dangers await baby turtles as the make their way out to sea. Only 1 turtle in every 1,000 eggs laid will make it to adulthood. Even then, young turtles face predators such as birds and sharks. Even large sea turtles are susceptible to entanglement in fishing nets. In addition, many turtles sustain terrible injuries because they swallow plastic trash floating in the ocean.
Currently, many organizations have been established for the sole purpose of saving Caribbean sea turtles. They are working hard to help stabilize the turtle population. Check out these websites to see how you can get involved:
- Sea Turtle Conservancy
- Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network
- Save Our Sea Turtles
- The Barbados Sea Turtle Project
- See Turtles
Remember, it can be great fun to swim with sea turtles in the Caribbean, and even watch them lay their eggs. However, it’s never a good idea to disturb them. The best way to appreciate these majestic sea creatures is to visit their habitats with a knowledgeable guide. That way, you can learn all about them, without harming them or endangering them in any way.
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Main image source: Akumal Dive Shop on flickr.com