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10 Best Places to Swim With Sea Turtles – A Complete Guide

Would you love to swim with sea turtles? We collected the 10 Best Places to Dive or Swim with Sea Turtles.

Wold with turtles spots, Chris, Animals Around The Globe
Wold with turtles spots, Chris, Animals Around The Globe

These endearing and cute creatures have and continue to win legions of fans from around the world. Imagine diving into the clear blue ocean with your snorkel, swimming side by side with these gracious, calm sea dwellers.

Here are the Best Places to Swim With Sea Turtles

  • Sea turtles have been around for over 150 million years and spend most of their lives in the water.
  • Factors endangering sea turtles include entanglement in fishing gear, consumption of eggs and meat, coastal development, and global warming.
  • There are seven species of sea turtles, each with specific habitats and distributions.
  • Sea turtles have varied diets, with some species being omnivores and others being herbivores.
  • This post will provide a list of the 10 best places to swim and dive with sea turtles. These places are the Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii, Malaysia, the Red Sea in Egypt, the Maldives, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. Many of them were self-tested by the author!

Sea turtles have been around for more than 150 million years and spend approximately 95% of their lives in the water! Such an experience remains unique and allows you to get up close and personal with this magnificent animal.

We are going to tell you the top 10 places where you can swim with sea turtles, from here, you can easily jump to see the list of the best places with recommendations on where to swim and snorkel with sea turtles. Alternatively, just pick your favorite chapter or read this article from beginning to end. Enjoy!

Table of Contents

Get to Know Sea Turtles 

There are seven species of sea turtles -six of which are found swimming in every ocean except for the Arctic and Antarctica. The seventh species of sea turtle, the flatback, lives only in the waters around Australia.

Sea turtles grow 2 – 7 feet long in length and weigh 70 – 1500 pounds. Given that there are seven species of sea turtles, the leatherback is the largest sea turtle and can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. In addition, sea turtles are omnivores. 

It should be known that sea turtles make long migrations between feeding and breeding zones.

For instance: the leatherback turtle travels around 3,500 miles each way between feeding and breeding. Regarding gestation, sea turtles will mate at sea, and then on the beaches, they lay their eggs. After digging a hole in the sand to deposit their eggs, they cover the hole back up and return to the waters. Learn more about baby turtles here.

Around 60 days later, the eggs hatch, and tiny turtles make their way to the water – often at night time in order to avoid any potential threats to the young turtles. 

Did you know that the leatherback sea turtle is the heaviest reptile in the world?

Photo by Brocken Inaglory.

An Overview of Where to Swim With Sea Turtles

We gathered data for a comprehensive comparison of the most common turtles.

7 different kinds of turtles
7 different kinds of turtles © Chris, Animals Around The Globe ®
Sea Turtle SpeciesAverage SizeDietHabitatLifespanConservation StatusNesting SitesDistinctive Feature
Kemp’s Ridley TurtleUp to 2 feetCarnivorous (crabs, fish, mollusks)Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coast of the US20 to 30 yearsCritically Endangered (IUCN)Beaches along the Gulf of MexicoSmallest sea turtle species
Olive Ridley TurtleUp to 2.6 feetOmnivorous (crabs, shrimp, jellyfish)Warm and tropical waters worldwide50 years or moreVulnerable (IUCN)Coastal regions of the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic OceansKnown for synchronized nesting called arribadas
Leatherback TurtleUp to 6.6 feetJellyfish and other soft-bodied organismsPelagic zones and open oceanApproximately 30 yearsVulnerable (IUCN)Tropical and subtropical beaches worldwideLargest of all living turtles
Hawksbill TurtleUp to 3 feetOmnivorous (sponges, jellyfish, algae)Coral reefs, rocky areas, and lagoons30 to 50 yearsCritically Endangered (IUCN)Beaches in tropical oceans worldwidePointed beak-like mouth
Loggerhead TurtleUp to 3.5 feetOmnivorous (crustaceans, mollusks, fish)Temperate and tropical waters worldwide50 to 67 yearsEndangered (IUCN)Coastal beaches worldwideLarge head with powerful

Endangerment of Sea Turtles

There are a number of factors that are leading to the endangerment of this gracious animal. It is important for us to highlight these reasons as we become more aware of the dangers and ways that we can help them. 

Entanglement in Fishing Gear 

Capture through fishing nets is one of the greatest threats to sea turtles as around 40% of all animals caught in fishing nets are discarded as waste.

Marine mammals, including sea turtles as well as seabirds and other species, are caught and then discarded, usually already dead. Sometimes, sea turtles are released from the fishing net out into the waters, but often with severe injuries. 
Sea turtles are often attracted to the bait and then get caught and trapped in the hooks or become entangled in the fishing nets. 

Consumption of Turtle eggs and meat 

Despite there being legislation protecting sea turtles and their eggs in the majority of countries, there is an ongoing illegal trade of eggs, meat and shells of turtles. In some countries, sea turtles are considered as a delicacy, meaning that locals who poach and sell them are able to earn an income.

Therefore, it is imperative that local communities are able to find other means of earning money that do not threaten this beautiful species.  

Coastal Development: Swim with sea turtles? 


Coastal Development comprises a number of human activities that threaten the existence of this species. For instance: the development and construction of homes, hotels and roads. In addition, oil platform construction, as well as seawall construction, can all threaten the habitat for sea turtles and their hatchlings.

The increased level of human activity over the last years has meant increased levels of pollution, objects on the beach as well as unnatural erosion of beaches. 

Green Sea Turtle grazing seagrass. Photo by P. Lindgren.

A more specific example of how coastal development is threatening sea turtles’ chances of survival is that sea turtle hatchlings are guided to the ocean at night. But beachfront lighting will cause hatchlings to become confused when they emerge from their eggs, leading them towards the road where they may not survive.

Global Warming 

This danger may be the biggest threat to sea turtles as well as other marine life. For instance: sea level rises are already causing the loss of beach and nesting habitat as well as extreme weather conditions which mean there are more severe storms that impact the nesting beaches and cause beach erosion.

Also, warming ocean temperatures influence the way that sea turtles swim from feeding to breeding zones. This means that we can find more southerly species being found in more northerly regions.

It is vital that we understand some of the dangers facing sea turtles today so that we have the education available in order to try to contribute to more positive developments for sea turtles as well as other marine life. If you would like to learn more about endangered animals, you can read further in this blog post.

Read this post if you want to learn more about the turtle’s biggest enemy.

Where Do Sea Turtles Live

There are seven species of sea turtles. Each of these species is distributed and found in specific waters around the world. 

SpeciesHabitatDistributionMovement SpeedLongest Travel Distance Traveled
Leather-back Sea TurtleHighly oceanicFrom North Atlantic to the South Atlantic. Also found off the coast of New ZealandUp to 22 mph (35 km/h)Up to 12,000 miles (19,312 km) round trip
Flatback Sea TurtleCompletely coastalFound in the waters of AustraliaNot well documentedUp to 250 miles (400 km)
Hawksbill Sea TurtleThroughout central Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regionsThroughout central Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regionsUp to 15 mph (24 km/h)Up to 1,615 miles (2,600 km)
Olive Ridley Sea TurtleMostly coastalTropical areas of the Atlantic, Indian and PacificUp to 20 mph (32 km/h)Up to 6,835 miles (11,000 km)
Kemp’s Ridley Sea TurtleShallow areas with sandy or muddy bottomsGulf of Mexico and can reach the NorthWestern Atlantic OceanUp to 17 mph (27 km/h)Up to 1,800 miles (2,900 km)
Loggerhead Sea TurtleTropical and subtropical temperaturesWorldwideUp to 15 mph (24 km/h)Up to 7,500 miles (12,070 km)
Green Sea TurtleBay’sWest Coasts of North and South America (Baja to Peru)Up to 20 mph (32 km/h)Up to 1,740 miles (2,800 km)

What Do Sea Turtles Eat?

Sea turtles, in general, are omnivores. However, their specific diet depends on which subspecies they are. For instance: Leatherback turtles feed on jellyfish, while Loggerheads feed mainly on lobsters and fish. Green turtles are vegetarian, so they eat seagrasses. Olive Ridley sea turtles mostly eat jellyfish, snails, and shrimp – though they may feed on seaweed as well. 

Find out why the Giant Turtle is the longest-living turtle here.

How Long Can Sea Turtles Hold Their Breath

Sea turtles are remarkable for their ability to hold their breath underwater. The duration varies by species and activity:

  1. For Active Swimming: When they are actively swimming, sea turtles typically come up for air every few minutes. For instance, they might surface every 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. While Resting: When resting or sleeping underwater, sea turtles can hold their breath for much longer periods. They can stay submerged for about 4 to 7 hours without needing to come up for air. This is because their heart rate slows down significantly, reducing their need for oxygen.
  3. Record Holders: The longest recorded time a sea turtle has held its breath is about 10 hours. This usually happens in cooler waters and during non-active periods.

Best Places to Swim and Dive with Sea Turtles 

Swimming side by side with these beautiful, gracious sea turtles is a fascinating and unique experience. Their grace as they glide through the waters is something that makes them very special. We will provide you with all the information you need. 

How Did We Choose the Best Places to Swim with Sea Turtles?

We looked at the most beautiful areas of the world where you can find an abundance of sea turtles to go on your adventure with. It was hard to choose which places to show you first, but the following list will give you an idea as to where you could go.
Enjoy scrolling through the list! If you visit one of these places, make sure to send us a picture of your Sea Turtle encounter to [email protected]

1. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia 

Aerial View of Great Barrier Reef. Photo by Ank Kumar.

In one of the largest marine ecological systems in the world, you can find the Great Barrier Reef. Known to be the largest coral reef in the world, it is visible from space. There are an abundance of plants and animals that you could find swimming around in this area.

Specifically, though, you can find six species of sea turtles within this marine formation. Also important to know is that there are 18 nesting sites of green turtles at the Northern and Southern ends of the reef, meaning that you can find turtles to swim with here. 

Best travel time: May – October (Green Sea Turtle, Loggerhead, Hawksbill, Flatback, Olive Ridley, Leatherback)

Best Operators near the Great Barrier Reef for swimming with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor for sea turtles swimming/diving):

  1. ABC Scuba Diving 
  2. Blue Dive Port Douglas
  3. Mike Ball Dive Expeditions 
  4. Scuba IQ 

2. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador 

Galápagos Islands, Ecuador, by David Berkowitz.

People come from all over the world to these islands because they are known for their large number of endemic species. One of the main reasons why the Galapagos Islands feature so high on our list is because the Galapagos green sea turtle is a subspecies of green turtle that can only be found in the waters of the archipelagos of these islands.

Therefore, this provides a unique experience for any turtle lover. These turtles can be found swimming through the tropical waters of the Pacific Island. 

Best travel time: December – March (Galapagos Green Turtle)

Best Operators near the Galapagos Islands for swimming with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Guiding Galapagos Expeditions 
  2. Scuba Iguana 
  3. Perfect Destiny 
  4. Eagleray Tours
  5. Galapagos Underwater 

3. Maui Island, Hawaii 

YouTube video

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is a volcanic archipelago with stunning scenery and volcanic surroundings. It is an area of rich marine formation; in particular, it is home to 6 of the species of sea turtles.

This, combined with the warm waters of the ocean, make it an ideal destination to swim with sea turtles. The most commonly seen sea turtle here is the green sea turtle as well as the hawksbill.

Here is a video about diving with a green sea turtle near Maui, Hawaii.

The green sea turtles can be seen while snorkeling or diving in the West or South Coast of Maui. If you are really lucky, you may even see the sea turtle bathing on the beach. But remember that, in Hawaii, it is illegal to touch a turtle, so you are able to view and admire these creatures. If you violate the law may receive a fine.

Best travel time: April – October (Green sea turtle)

Best Operators near Maui Island, Hawaii for snorkeling with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (According Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Maui Snorkel Tours
  2. Molokini Snorkelling Tours 
  3. PacWhale Eco-Adventures
  4. Maui Snorkel Charters 
  5. Quicksilver Maui 

4. Sipadan, Malaysia 

Malaysia islands bird's eye view, Chris - Animals Around The Globe
Malaysia islands bird’s eye view, Chris – Animals Around The Globe

Situated as a small island in Malaysia in the Celebes Sea, Sipadan is a top destination for divers coming from all over the world. There are more than 3,000 different species of fish and many different types of corals which are unique to the area. Great location from the list of The 10 Best Places to See Sea Turtles.

This rich ecological area, mixed with the warm tropical temperatures of the water, makes it another great place for sea turtle enthusiasts! There are other species of animals, including sharks, manta rays as well as barracuda. 

Best travel time: April – November (Green sea turtle, Hawksbill turtle)

 Best Operators near Maui Sipadan, Malaysia for diving with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Scuba Junkie 
  2. Pulau Mabul 
  3. Sipadan Water Village 
  4. Borneo Divers Mabul Resort 
  5. Pom Pom Island Resort 

5. Ari Atoll, Maldives

Eastern reef of Maldivian Ari Atoll from seaplane, showing islands of Ellaidhoo and Bathaala. Photo by Bruno de Giusti.

The Maldives is a beautiful location composed of more than 1,000 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. Ari Atoll specifically is one of the natural atolls of the Maldives. It is one of the biggest atolls and is located in the west of the archipelago.

Not only are the white sandy beaches so beautiful for anyone to visit, but also the incredible marine formation here makes it another stunning destination for animal lovers. If you do decide to make the journey here, you will find sea turtles, as well as different species of fish, dolphins, and starfish in the clear blue waters. Find Green sea turtle, Olive Ridley sea turtle, and Hawksbill sea turtle here.

Best travel time: January – April  

Best Operators near Ari Atoll, Maldives for diving with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Lets go Excursions Maldives 
  2. Miyaru Folhudhoo Divers Maldives
  3. Rasdhoo Scuba Divers 
  4. Dive Worldwide
  5. Dive Blue Maldives 
Playa Del Carmen Turtles Swimming - Chris, Animals Around the Globe
Playa Del Carmen Turtles Swimming – Chris, Animals Around the Globe

6. Akumal, Playa del Carmen, México 

Locals call Akumal the Place of the Turtles. This in itself should be reason enough to consider this beautiful location as a perfect destination for looking for and swimming with these graceful creatures.

This combined with the rich historical aspect of Akumal (it is one of the Yucatan’s oldest coastal resort areas) as well as the sublime beaches makes it a great place to consider. Not only is it possible to swim with sea turtles, but also there is a turtle night watch where at 21:15 pm, the guide will be able to guide you through their knowledge and expertise in the field of sea turtles. This is part of a conservation project which you can read more about here.  

Best travel time: May – August (Green sea turtle, Loggerhead sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle )

Best Operators near Playa del Carmen, Mexico for snorkeling with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Dressel Divers 
  2. Go Natural Explorers 
  3. All Tour Native 
  4. Cancun Adventure 
  5. Total Snorkel Cancun 

7. Cook Island Marine Reserve, Australia 

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo by James St. John.

This reserve is a marine protected area located in the South Pacific Ocean, around 600m from the Fingal Head mainland of New South Wales. Consisting of waters around the island within a radius of 500 metres, it is possible to spot turtles all year around as the place is actually a sanctuary for marine life.

It is important to remember that you should avoid touching or disturbing sea turtles, but it is possible to interact with them from a 15 feet distance. Furthermore, in yet another beautiful spot on this planet, you will be able to spot other varieties of species, including shrimps, parrotfish and molluscs. 

Best travel time: May – October  (Discover Green sea turtle, Loggerhead sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle here)

Best Operators near the Cook Island Marine Reserve for swimming with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Watersports Guru 
  2. Gold Coast Dive Adventures 
  3. Kirra Dive 
  4. Cooly Dive 
  5. Experience Oz 

8. Marsa Alam, Egypt 

Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) near Marsa Alam, Egypt. Photo by Alexander Vasenin.

The clear visibility in the Egyptian Red Sea, with its colorful corals and the many species of fish, is actually almost enough to make any underwater enthusiast happy.

But it gets even better, as the area is home to many species of sea turtles, and you can encounter them. In particular, Abu Dabbab Bay is known as a beautiful sandy beach where you are able to swim with different sea turtles. A particularly amazing aspect of visiting Marsa Alam is that you can snorkel not too far from the beach and are able to view some sea turtles. Of course, you can go and snorkel or dive further away from the shore as well! Another great spot from The 10 Best Places to See Sea Turtles.

Best travel time: June – September (Green sea turtle, Hawksbill sea turtle)

Best Operators near Marsa Alam for snorkeling with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Coraya Divers 
  2. Marsa Alam Tours 
  3. Diving Marsa Alam 
  4. Emperor Divers 
  5. Liveaboard 

9. Gili Islands, Indonesia 

Gili Islands & Gunung Rinjiani, Lombok, Indonesia. Photo by Kok Leng Yeo.

The Gili Islands are an archipelago of three small islands in South East Asia. Due to the abundance of marine life and attractive coral formations, divers and snorkeling enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the Gili Islands to spot life.

There are crystal clear waters meaning that turtle watching is a real attraction here. You are able to spot the turtles, and they are easily approached and observed because it is quite a popular location! Loo out for Hawksbill sea turtle and Green sea turtles here.

Best travel time: April – November 

Best Operators near Gili Islands for diving with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Blue Marlin Dive 
  2. Conservation Diver 
  3. DPM Diving Gili Air
  4. Gili Air Divers 
  5. Gili Island Divers 

10. Tobago Cays, Caribbean 

The Tobago Cays are to the east of Mayreau Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Eastern Caribbean. Photo by David Stanley.

The Tobago Cays are an archipelago located in the Southern part of Saint Vincent comprising five small islands are a myriad of coral reefs. The area is one of natural beauty where there exists many varieties of coral reefs as well as extensive marine flora and fauna.

Regarding swimming with sea turtles, the area is well known for the green sea turtles that gather right under the water’s surface, making it a fun way of seeing the animal glide through the water. You can see Green sea turtle and Hawksbill sea turtle here.

Best travel time: January – June 

Best Operators near Tobago Cays, Caribbean for swimming with Sea Turtles 

Multiple tour operators are offering sea turtle encounters. Here are the most reliable ones (Rated on Google Maps and TripAdvisor):

  1. Indigo Dive 
  2. Bequia Dive Adventures
  3. Serenity Dive 
  4. Dive Bequia 
  5. Jean-Michel Cousteau Diving Caribbean 

Summary of The 10 Best Places to See Sea Turtles

So, here you have it! Ten beautiful and spectacular locations on this planet where you have the possibility to swim with sea turtles and be able to further understand how they live.

Wherever you decide to go, remember to enjoy the moment and cherish the experience of a lifetime! 

If you would like to read a heart warming story about a 3D printed brace restoring a turtle’s health and hope, then be sure to check out this blog post.