Turtles are amazing creatures, found around the world in tropical and subtropical waters. They play a vital role in marine ecosystem health and have been in the ocean for more than 100 million years.

They are an understandably popular dive and photography choice and you can dive with them at a variety of top liveaboard diving destinations.

1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Six of the seven species of sea turtle can be seen at the Great Barrier Reef, where they feed and nest. The best way to go turtle spotting is during a liveaboard cruise to the outer reef, where you’ll typically dive Ribbon and Osprey reefs. Both of these stunning reefs are great places to see green, hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtles. Keep your eyes open for the less commonly seen Olive Ridley and leatherback sea turtles as well.

Loggerhead Turtle, Caretta caretta
Loggerhead Turtle, Caretta caretta. Image: Matt Kieffer, CC by-SA 2.0

The MV Spoilsport Australia offers special Turtle Spectacular safaris in November each year to explore the far northern reefs. These safaris include a visit to Raine Island, which has been a green turtle nesting site for over 1,000 years. Thousands of turtles return to Raine Island to lay their eggs in the warm sands each year.

2. Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos green turtle only nests in the Galapagos Islands. From December to May females migrate from other South and Central American countries, like Costa Rica, Colombia and Chile. These turtles have a slightly darker and more domed shell than green sea turtles elsewhere.

Galapagos Green Turtle. Paul Kennedy/DepositPhotos

Cabo Marshall and Cabo Douglas are both good dive sites for sea turtle sightings and there are of course plenty of other marine life highlights to enjoy at this world-class dive destination. Read more about diving the Galapagos.

3. Thailand

The Similan Islands are home to some of the best dive sites in Thailand and include thriving reefs, submerged boulders and stunning rock formations. This is a great destination to encounter green sea turtles whilst also enjoying marine life such as whale sharks, manta rays and more. The Surin Islands are less accessible and, as such, are a sought after liveaboard diving destination. The healthy reefs at these islands have huge numbers of green and hawksbill turtles.

Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, by Tim Nicholson

The Whale liveaboard caters for just 12 guests and offers safaris to the Similan Islands, as well as other North and South Andaman dive destinations.

4. Sipadan, Malaysia

Sipadan Island, Malaysia is known for a high aggregation of green turtles year round and there is a high concentration of mating green turtles there during each August. Diving with these reptiles while they mate is a unique experience for any turtle fan.

green turtleImage: DepositPhotos
Green Turtle, Chelonia mydas. DepositPhotos

Sipadan is a tropical destination, with fairly easy dive conditions making it suitable for divers of all levels. The marine life is abundant, and there are colourful and vibrant reefs with hundreds of species of fish.

5. The Cayman Islands

Grand Cayman benefits from the Turtle Centre. Here they breed turtles in captivity, transporting their eggs to beaches and burying them to replicate what happens in nature. The baby turtles make their way down to the sea, increasing the population which later return to island’s water.

6. The Red Sea

The Red Sea is a perfect place to see hawksbill and green turtles. It is also home to the loggerhead turtle, the olive ridley turtle and the leatherback turtle, but dives rarely see these.

Green turtles appear to be the longest-lived of any sea turtle; they are also one of the largest. Young green turtles eat a variety of things but as they age they become herbivores. You will find them, then, in seagrass meadows or around seaweed.

Green Turtle
Green Turtle at Abu Dabab, Marsa Alam. David Collins

Hawksbill are the most common turtle in the Red Sea. Researchers think there are between 450 and 650 female hawksbill turtles nesting every year along the coast.

7. Bunaken Marine National Park, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Bunaken Marine Park is a world-renowned diving destination, and one of the main reasons for its popularity is its abundance of turtles. Green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas) are the most common species in the park, but divers also see hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and olive ridley turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea). The park also has a number of turtle nesting sites, where turtles come to lay their eggs. Dive early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the turtles are most active.

Wherever you choose, a turtle is always a delight to see on a dive.

This article was written by divers and writers at LiveAboard.com. Additional material Jill Studholme.

Photo Credits: Tim Nicholson, David Collins, Matt Kieffer, Shane Myers, Paul Kennedy

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  1. I’ve been diving in 3 of the spots you’ve listed: Cayma Islands, Red Sea, and Galapagos. While all are terrific and we saw plenty of turtles (especially Galapagos of those 3), the absolute best dive site for seeing a large number of turtles up close is Depan Kampung in Bunaken Marine Sanctuary in Siladen, Indonesia. The wall on the site is full of little caves and alcoves for the turtles to rest and sleep. On one dive we counted 26 turtles of various sizes. Mostly Green and a couple of Hawksbill.


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