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5 Places to See Turtles in the Wild


We love to ‘shellebrate’ turtles and tortoises around the world and what better way to help support our turtles than seeing them in their natural habitats? We’ve put together a list of our top 5 destinations where you can see these freshwater beauties for yourself…
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1. Costa Rica

Tortuguero, also known as ‘Turtle Beach’ (say no more?!) is the best place to see turtles nest and hatch in Costa Rica, well actually, it’s the only place! If you happen to be lucky enough to witness the nesting for yourself, an experienced guide will take you with a torch to watch them make their way up the beach, dig holes and lay their eggs.

No one can visit the beach unaccompanied after 6 pm to ensure the safety of the sea turtles, but no need to worry as your guide will show you everything you need and more. Hatching of the baby turtles happens about 7-10 weeks after the nesting takes place and is mainly observed after sunset when the littlun’s wheel down to sea.

What kind of species can be found here? 

There are 3 different species known in the Tortuguero area of Costa Rica: The Leatherback Turtle – nesting in February & April, The Green Turtle – nesting between July to October and The Hawksbill Turtle, which also nests in the months of July to October.

Borneo baby turtles

2. Borneo

Borneo isn’t all jungles and orangutans, there are plenty of beautiful islands and beaches – one of them being Lankayan. A visit to Lankayan island during the right seasons, you’ll get the opportunity to watch baby turtles be released after hatching. You’ll also be able to spot turtles swimming across the seabed as you snorkel the beautiful coral reefs. Lucky you!

The local project that we support in Borneo, Reef Guardian, ensures that the marine life on the East coast is protected and they provide 24-hour care for sea turtles who lay their eggs on the beach. You can visit the charity yourself during our trip, and fingers crossed, witness a nest of baby turtles being released into the sea.

What kind of species can be found here?

The most common species in the Lankayan area is the Green turtle and the Hawksbill – both with nesting periods between July to October.

3. Malaysia

Tioman Island in Malaysia is best known for being all about turtles and tropical sunshine. Every May – September, sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. The Island is located in the South-East, with a turtle conservation centre which protects the eggs from being eaten by other animals, and once the babies hatch, they ensure that the bale reaches the sea safely.

The Island is also one of the best in Malaysia for turtle-spotting due to its large sum of coral, which equally helps attract the turtles and makes it great for snorkelling. Perhentian is another place in Malaysia that is known for turtle spotting when having a snorkel – so if your adventure takes you here, keep your eyes peeled!

What kind of species can be found here?

In this Malaysian Island, you will find the Hawksbill and Green Turtles, they come ashore to start their nesting from May through to October.

Snorkelling with turtles
Turtle under water

4. Indonesia

In the Indonesian Gili Islands, you will come across 3 tiny Islands which all are home to a turtle protection centre. One of our favourite of the islands, Gili Meno, is a great place to snorkel through coral canyons, rainbow fish, and even better, sea turtles. A little tip to help increase your chances of seeing these beautiful marine creatures – take your snorkelling kit and have a swim during the months of March-September, to possibly swim with not just one, but groups of them! Wouldn’t that just be the dream?

What kind of species can be found here?

The usual suspects again for Indonesia! In the Gili islands, you will find the Green and Hawksbill turtles.

5. Panama

Bocas Del Toro is a group of Caribbean Islands near the border with Costa Rica which has beautiful clear and warm waters making it perfect or snorkelling! Just south of this lies a 20 mile stretch of coastline, Chiriqui beach. This is one of the most important turtle nesting sites in the Caribbean and was once nearly wiped out, but since with help from local projects and charities, they have now sustained presence and greatly reduced poaching and other threats. If you grab your snorkelling gear and go in the right season, you’ll have a high chance of getting a glimpse of these turtles gliding through the ocean.

What kind of species can be found here?

The Hawksbill and Leatherback. Thousands and thousands of turtles come here every year to nest, and Chiriqui beach is one of the most important nesting sites for these two species in the world.

Baby turtle
Turtle under water

What’s the difference between the sea turtle species?

There are 7 types of turtles in the world, above – we have listed the common 3 found in our destinations – the Hawksbill, Green and Leatherback turtle. But what’s the difference? You might ask. Well, I’ll tell you!

  • The Leatherback is the champion of all sea turtles – it grows the largest, dives the deepest, and travels the farthest of all sea turtles. Instead of a hard shell, they are covered in a firm leathery skin. They can grow to 6 feet in length and weigh anything between 500-1,500 pounds.
  • The green turtle is the most recognised out of all the sea turtles and is known to be the most ‘beautiful’. Their shell colour is a collaboration of brown/yellow/white, and not green as the name suggests. However, due to all green turtles being the only breed that is vegetarian, their fat inside is actually green. Weird right?
  • Hawksbills are found in tropical waters around the world and like to spend their time in coral reefs, lagoons and rocky islands. You can tell their physical difference by its narrow head and sharp, bird-like beak.

Psst, guess what?!

To show our undying love for turtles, here at Rickshaw, we’ve decided to adopt our very own! Meet Michelle (or Mishell, as we like to say), she lives in the waters of Tortuguero, Costa Rica and is a Green turtle. By adopting her we’ve helped support the Sea Turtle Conservancy Programme – who is the world’s oldest sea turtle research and conservation group that focuses on research, education, advocacy and the protection of important habitats.

Adoption certificate