There’s something magical about seeing graceful sea turtles gliding through clear blue water. These gentle creatures live in our oceans, searching for their favorite snacks and riding the currents. At Natural Habitat Adventures, we love sharing the thrill of seeing wild sea turtles with our travelers whether it’s on Selingan Turtle island in Borneo, swimming off a boat in the Galapagos Islands or snorkeling around a coral reef in Belize.
Unfortunately, these beautiful creatures are facing extinction as they continue to face many threats. It is estimated that only one out of a thousand marine turtle eggs will make it to adulthood. With threats from every angle, it’s no wonder nearly all seven species of sea turtles are considered threatened or endangered. Some of the largest threats to sea turtles include habitat loss, unsustainable fishing, illegal wildlife trading, pollution and climate change. While these seem like huge obstacles, an individual’s actions can make a huge difference. Check out some of our suggestions for reducing your individual waste. You can also bike to work to help reduce your carbon emissions, make educated purchasing decisions when traveling, and always check to make sure your seafood is certified sustainable.
Anyone who has encountered sea turtles in the wild knows why these animals are so special. Below is my personal recount of swimming in a sea of sea turtles on my recent trip to the Galapagos Islands.
A Sea of Sea Turtles
The water is still and quiet, and my Expedition Leader gives our group the thumbs up to plunge off of our panga into the frigid waters. Three…two…one…jump! I instantly feel the chill of cold water as it seeps into my wetsuit. This was the fourth snorkel of our Galapagos adventure, and I had already swum among countless fish, sea stars, sting rays, penguins, sea lions and marine iguanas. I didn’t expect to see anything different on this snorkel, but I suppose that is part of the mystery of the enchanted islands.
Through my childhood, I spent a lot of time at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, a turtle conservatory in South Florida, where I developed an early passion for sea turtles. I have seen plenty of rehabilitated sea turtles in captivity, and I learned how endangered these animals are. While I know there are opportunities to view wild sea turtles on many of our trips, like our ‘Swimming with Mexico’s Whale Sharks trip and our Natural Jewels of Costa Rica trip, I also know that wildlife is never guaranteed.
I started swimming off the coast of Isabela Island, where I saw a lot of large rocks and little wildlife. Did I really just plunge into this cold water to swim with rocks and a few fish? I expected this snorkel to be like every other previous excursion, but then I saw the turtles.
In front of my eyes were thirty sea turtles, feeding on plants and rolling in the waves. Blissfully undisturbed by my presence, the turtles swam all around me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. These huge reptiles were gracefully swimming in an ocean that protected them and allowed them to live their lives without fear. It reminded me of the work I did as a teenager, and how the people working to protect our environments really are making a great impact on conservation.
Though sea turtles have inhabited our planet for over 100 million years, they currently face extinction as a result of human activities. According to World Wildlife Fund, we lose tens of thousands of sea turtles each year to overharvesting and the illegal wildlife trade. Yet, World Wildlife Fund lists sea turtle ecotourism as one of the top ways we can help to conserve these species.
When you experience the impact that your ecotourism has on the wild, something changes within you. There’s a shift in your heart that says you cannot ignore these creatures and their needs, and it inspires you to make a difference. It’s as if you finally connect to the abstract concept of conservation, and you finally see these creatures the way they’re meant to be seen – in their natural habitats.