Looking forward to swimming with turtles in Turks and Caicos? Not only does the pristine blue water and powder soft beaches make these islands a premier vacation destination, but Turks and Caicos wildlife offers great diversity including the sea turtle, a fascinating creature that is a vital link to a healthy ecosystem.
What Types of Sea Turtles Live in Turks and Caicos Waters
The character Crush in the movie Finding Nemo is which type of sea turtle?
Is it (a) leatherback (b) green (c) hawksbill or (d) loggerhead?
(b) Green sea turtle – Named for the green fatty part under its shell, the green sea turtle has a short, unhooked snout, a more flattened oval-shaped body and paddle like flippers.
Sea turtles have been around for millions of years, and the Turks and Caicos is home to several types of these ancient swimmers.
As well the green species, the hawksbill and loggerhead turtle are also found in the islands. With a large head and hard reddish brown shell, the loggerhead is an omnivore eating mollusks and crustaceans, but mostly prefers to dine on jellyfish. Named for its unique sharp curved beak, the hawksbill turtle showcases a beautiful shell featuring overlapping scales that combine to create a highly attractive pattern.
Turtles in Turks and Caicos Turtles are Integral to the Ecosystem
Sea turtles provide a number of benefits: The sea grass beds provide a place for breeding and development of shellfish, crustaceans and fish. It’s essential that the sea grass be cut short so it can thrive and grow across the sea floor. Sea turtles graze on the grass keeping it short and helping to maintain its health. As well, sand dunes and beaches benefit from the turtles. The leftover shells from the hatched eggs provide nutrients to dune and beach vegetation.
Over the years, turtle populations have decreased. Efforts are being made to preserve their numbers for future generations. One example is the 2008 TCI Turtle Project. A collaboration between the Marine Conservation Society, the University of Exeter (UK) and TCI Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR), the project’s aim was to improve management and monitoring of the islands’ turtle fishery. Hi-tech satellite tagging on green and hawksbill turtles allowed scientists to follow these creatures’ movements and activity at sea.
Also, a Turks and Caicos conservation plan in 2014 brought in new regulations such as a ban on turtle product exports, gear restrictions, and live release of under or over-sized turtles.
Best Places to go Swimming with Turtles in Turks and Caicos
Perhaps you’re a snorkeling or dive enthusiast and would like find the best places to go swimming with turtles in Turks and Caicos.
The grassy areas around Smith’s Reef and Bight Reef (Coral Gardens) are ideal sites. There are three entrances to Smith’s Reef; two of them off Coconut Road and the other one off Lower Bight Road. Be aware of the boat lanes and avoid going beyond the buoys.
If you’re staying along Grace Bay Beach, you can walk to the Bight Reef area and find easy water access. While sea turtles are fascinating and the opportunity to observe one in its natural habitat is unique and exciting, keep a respectful distance not blocking their way and swim calmly. Don’t touch, feed or chase them.
Providenciales boating and snorkeling charters to nearby cays provide plenty of opportunities to witness these hypnotic creatures moving gently through the waters.
While enjoying the Turks and Caicos wildlife be mindful that your encounters with the Turks and Caicos sea turtles demand our respect as an ancient resident of this earth and an essential link in the health of our global home.