Imagine an adorable fleet of tiny turtles flopping their way towards sea, leaving the beach behind them until their miraculously return, years later, to nest at the exact site of their birth. For lovers of nature and all things cute, witnessing a sea turtle hatch is an unforgettable experience. But you've got to get the timing right and need to know the best places to watch turtles hatch.
Yet, due to unsustainably developed coastlines, industrial fishing practices (in which turtles are accidentally netted), poaching, climate change, water pollution and the consumption of turtle meat and eggs, nearly all seven species of sea turtles have become highly endangered. Only 1 in 5000 baby sea turtles will live to be adults.
Plan your trip during the destination’s hatching season, but remember there’s no guarantee you’ll actually see a hatching. It’s no different than trying to guess the moment an egg in a birds nest will hatch – nearly impossible, even for conservationists. However, volunteering with a turtle conservation project will greatly improve your chances.
Remember: Never search for sea turtles without a guide. Never take any flash photography, or shine light without a red-filter on them. Mothers are easily disturbed when nesting. Don’t be part of the problem. Give them their space.
The situation of turtles in Malaysia has been dire for quite some time, particularly on the paradisiacal-looking island of Pulau Tioman. Despite this, the dedicated volunteers at the Juara Turtle Project have done an exceptional job at improving their numbers through nest protection, working with local communities, research, education and outreach. But they’re still fighting the good fight every day, especially against beach development by resorts.
An easy drive and ferry ride from both Singapore and Johor Bahru, the Juara Turtle Project offers affordable and accessible single and group volunteer experiences for turtle hatching and conservation.
When to go for hatching season: March to October.
If you're planning to visit Malaysia, we can help! Our Tailor-Made Trips service will connect you with a local expert to plan a fully customised excursion to this beautiful country.
When an area's name literally translates as “region of turtles”, you know you’re in the right place. Just 80km north of Port of Limon, on the palm-lined Caribbean coast, this is one of the most important nesting sites in the western hemisphere. Here, giant leatherback, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles all find roost.
A variety of turtle experiences can be booked through the park, whereas the Sea Turtle Conservancy group offer volunteer adventures in the area. Keep in mind that turtles nest on both coasts of Costa Rica. Check out Osa Conservation’s volunteer program on the country’s Pacific side.
When to go for hatching season: Caribbean coast: July to October and March to May. Pacific coast: October to February and July to November.
A sample tailor-made trip: Discover the Caribbean coast in a hired car to watch the turtles lay their eggs.
For those short on time: If you're visiting Costa Rica as a stop on your cruise or for other reasons only have limited time, take a half-day tour from Limon to the Tortuguero channels.
Green sea turtles are the most common species on the sandy shores of Sri Lanka. Four other species of turtle nest here as well, but due to their dwindling numbers are, sadly, a rare find.
The Kosgoda Sea Turtle Conservation Project has run a rustic but vital hatchery in the area since 1988, and has been especially hard at work to protect nesting grounds since the devastation of the tsunami in 2004.
When to go for hatching season: November to May.
How to get there: Kosgoda is an easy day tour from the Southern coast of Sri Lanka, like Bentota, and includes a trip to the turtle hatchery and Galle.
A sample tailor-made trip: Turtles are special to many people, but especially the youngest ones enjoy watching these turtles, like during this Family Adventure trip in Sri Lanka.
While the status of sea turtles in the Mediterranean might not seem so dire as in other regions, rampant tourist development and net-fishing still threaten populations. Think it’s time to turn that Greek beach vacay you’ve been planning into a volunteer trip?
Organisations such as Archelon work to ensure the conservation of turtles at numerous sites of coastal Greece and its islands, graciously offering a less-intensive conservation work to sunbathing ratio for a variety of volunteers (part-time, full-time, individuals, families and large groups).
When to go for hatching season: August to October.
Take a tour: From Heraklion, Crete, you can take a cruise to visit islands and coves with the chance of spotting sea turtles and dolphins.
A sample tailor-made trip: Greece is a great island to discover in a hired car, like in this Along the Coast trip.
Near the authentic fishing village of Ras Al Jinz, this area of the Arabian Sea is world-renowned for its endangered green turtle nesting grounds.
Oman’s eco-tourism project at Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve, does its best to help tourists witness a hatching, while ensuring that human induced threats are controlled. The centre also offers visitors guided night trips in hopes of witnessing a nesting.
When to go for hatching season: Year-round, usually peaking in July.
Other areas for sea turtles: The island of Daymaniat is well known for its pristine underwater world, including sea turtles and whale sharks if you're lucky.
A sample tailor-made trip: Deserts, Dunes and Turtle Watching - the ideal itinerary for those wanting to explore Oman in depth. From the busy capital Muscat over the vastness of the desert to beach paradise, this itinerary includes it all.
This popular beach resort is also a turtle-watching hot spot, with a number of conservation organisations offering turtle tours, with controlled release of hatchlings most nights during peak season.
When to go for hatching season: July to September.
See sea turtles in the wild: Hop on a catamaran tour to the Islas Marietas and spot sea turtles, manta rays and many colorful fish with the provided snorkelling equipment.
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Situated on a narrow strip of strip of sand separating the fresh water of Turkey's Daylan River from the Mediterranean, this landscape is worth a visit in itself – though Iztuzu is commonly called “Turtle Beach” for a reason.
Almost bulldozed in the name of mass tourism during the 1980s, the Kaptan June Turtle Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation has not only won hard-fought battles against development to ensure the safety of loggerhead sea turtle nesting grounds. It’s also succeeded in making Iztuzu Beach a much loved eco-tourist attraction, great for travellers of all ages.
When to go for hatching season: May to June.
Coastal Mozambique is a gorgeous and extremely important site of marine biodiversity that is, regrettably, under great threat.
For anyone looking for a deeper engagement with marine life than simply a visit to a conservation center, Underwater Africa offers volunteer experiences ranging for 4–16 weeks. From turtle walks to scuba dives, volunteering in Mozambique is a great way to spur a passion for ocean conservation in Africa and at large.
When to go for hatching season: December to March.
The Philippines' tranquil turquoise waters of Port Barton are a great place to kick back and see some turtles in action. Whether you’re snorkeling in “Turtle Bay” or viewing a hatchling release at the nearby Secret Paradise Marine Sanctuary, it’s an easy place to satisfy that turtle-watching fix.
When to go for hatching season: December to May.
How to see the turtles: Swim with the sea turtles on an island-hopping day trip from Port Barton with plenty of opportunities to snorkel and soak up some sun.
A tailor-made trip sample: Palawan is an extraordinary island to discover, from the sandy shores of El Nido to the Underground River in Sabang, our Palawan Beach Dreams itinerary takes you to the highlights of the island.
Top image: Newly hatched baby turtle toward the ocean © beltsazar/Shutterstock