Sea turtles species identification guide

Sea turtles, one of the most fascinating and cute sea creatures

Turtles are among the most emblematic sea creatures. There are 7 species of sea turtles in the world, three of which can be easily observed by snorkelers: the green sea turtle, the hawksbill sea turtle, and to a lesser extent the loggerhead sea turtle.

These three species are living in the warm and temperate seas of the planet. Sea turtles are mainly found on seagrass beds or on coral reefs, including at shallow depths.

A snorkeler watching a sea turtle at the surface of the sea
Shallow seagrass meadows are the best locations to spot green sea turtles. Here, a close encounter with a green sea turtle at Ilot Amédée, New Caledonia.

Where to snorkel with sea turtles?

The green sea turtle is the most common turtle species. It mainly feeds on shallow seagrass beds, which makes it easy to spot when snorkeling. At some specific spots in the Caribbean (for example in Mexico, Saint Vincent, Martinique, Bonaire…), Indonesia, Australia, or New Caledonia, green sea turtle sightings are almost guaranteed.

Large green sea turtle subpopulations are also found in Hawaii (where their local name is “honu”) and the Galápagos Islands, where they are easy to spot.

A snorkeler is watching a hawksbill sea turtle in Indonesia
Hawksbill sea turtles are commonly seen on coral reefs, where they feed on sponges and other invertebrates. Here, a hawksbill sea turtle spotted in Gili Meno, Indonesia.

Seychelles is one of the best places in the world to swim with hawksbill sea turtles, which can be identified by their beak-shaped mouths. They are also common at reefs in the Maldives and in Indonesia, and are back in Reunion Island‘s shallow lagoons for a few years.

The rarer loggerhead sea turtle is the most commonly spotted species in the Mediterranean (especially in Greece and Cyprus) and is occasionally seen in some Caribbean locations.

Sea turtles species

Do you like sea turtles?

Check out our top12 snorkeling spots to swim with sea turtles!

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