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A peaceful underwater encounter with a sea turtle is an unforgettable experience. Although a threatened species, these prehistoric armoured mammals can often be spotted in the waters around Curaçao. Which turtle species live here? Where do they swim? When do they come to shore to lay their eggs on the beach? And where is the best spot to observe the hatching of a turtle nest and watch the tiny baby turtles crawl to the ocean?
Of the 7 species of turtle that live in the oceans around the world, 5 of them can be found in the waters around Curaçao. The unfortunately named ‘soup’ turtle (green turtle) is an endangered species and may no longer be eaten. This also applies to the loggerhead turtle. The hawksbill turtle and the leatherback turtle are on the brink of extinction. The leatherback turtle prefers deeper waters and is rarely spotted, but the other 3 species can be seen while scuba diving or snorkelling.
The best locations for an underwater encounter with a sea turtle are Playa Lagun beach, the sunken tugboat at Caracasbaai and around Klein Curaçao. Sometimes the turtles will completely ignore tourists, but often they will be curious and approach people.
The turtles lay their eggs on the beaches in the small bays of Shete Boka National Park . When the nest hatches, dozens of baby turtles will scramble across the beach to make their way to the ocean. Please remember: sea turtles are an endangered species, so do not touch them, refrain from using a pocket torch and do not disturb the nests. No luck spotting turtles? For guaranteed turtle sightings and a close-up underwater look, visit the Sea Aquarium in Willemstad where visitors may even feed the turtles.
Sea turtles grow to be approximately a metre long, weigh 70 to 200 kilos and can live for more than 80 years. The hawksbill turtle lives near the coast and eats sea sponges; the loggerhead turtle lives around reefs and feeds on shellfish. The green turtle is found in shallow water and eats sea grass – this is also the only species of sea turtle that sometimes comes ashore just to sunbathe on the beach. Although these three species are diurnal, they always lay their eggs at night. The nests also hatch only in the dark.
“When the eggs hatch, dozens of baby turtles scramble across the beach to reach the ocean”