FIRST Time Swimming With Sea Turtles
And I emphasize the first because there WILL be a next time.
(Please be warned that there is about to be a massive picture overload of Green Sea Turtles.)
I recently went to Maui, Hawaii for my sister, Nadia’s wedding (that I will eventually get around to blogging about). It was an amazing 8 days of family time, beaching it and exploring a bit of Hawaii. I came on somewhat of a budget and so there were only two things I really wanted to do:
- See the sunrise on top of Haleakala and bike ride down
- Swim with sea turtles
I wasn’t dreaming too big.
Anyway, I successfully accomplished #1, which I’ll write about later. It cost a little more than I would’ve liked to spend and I didn’t feel like spending another $150 on the only other thing on my Hawaiian Bucket List.
After spending 5 lazy, yet glorious, days in Hawaii, I decided I should probably get going with my search for sea turtles. I heard that they’re always swimming around the ocean (whatdya know) and people see them all the time – without having to pay ridiculous amounts to a tour guide who may or may not even find any. So I left the condo and walked the 100 meters to Kamaole Beach #3 across the street, snorkel gear in hand.
So from what I remember of this amazing day, the first person that decides to talk to me is a large, white man with a beard dressed in a red suit and matching hat. In reality, it was probably a middle aged woman, but she may as well have been Santa: “Going snorkeling?” she asks, “there’s about 5 sea turtles over there”, she says pointing 20 meters away, “been there all day. Was swimming with them earlier”. I nearly screamed with joy, haphazardly threw on my mask and fins and dove straight into the water.
And this, my friends, is evidence of the best day of my life:
(Make sure to turn this bad boy on to HD. My apologies for the shakiness, I’m not the best swimmer, especially when I’m overwhelmed with joy.)
They were so incredibly friendly and didn’t seem to mind the dozen or so of us swimming around them. Some people were even petting them (which I would not recommend. Even though they didn’t seem to care, this is their home and we shouldn’t be bothering or potentially scaring them. Plus, they might bite if they feel threatened).
There were a few times were I swam behind one and they decided to switch directions and come at me. We were in pretty shallow water and I didn’t want to swim away in fear of kicking them, but these turtles would just come and push me out of their way with their fins like “hey lady, I’m trying to swim here!”
At one point, I saw about 8 at a time just swimming around gracefully. I spent a good 2 hours admiring them (AKA stalking them) until the tide started rising and the waves were getting too rough (and I had already turned into a prune). Obviously it was worth it.
Best. Day. Ever.
Some fun facts:
- Green Sea Turtles aren’t green on the outside but usually have green fat
- They can weigh up to 700 pounds
- They’re one of the largest types of sea turtles in the world
- They can be up to 5 feet in size (about the size of the brown-ish/yellow-ish turtle that swam under me in the video. Also about the size of ME.)
- Their heads are non-retractable
- They’re vegetarians when they’re adults
- Green Sea Turtles are an endangered species
- The usually live to be over 80 years old
Budget Travel Tips:
I think I was fairly lucky in how easy it was to find so many sea turtles. However, sea turtles (especially Green Sea Turtles) are usually in shallow water so before paying to go on a tour to see them, check out the waters yourself. There are many places in tropical islands named “Turtle Beach” or “Turtle Cove” because they are known to have sea turtles there. Try snorkeling there or do what I did and go to your nearest beach (which was Kamaole Beach #3 in Kihei, Maui). Like I said, they’re everywhere. Chat with people on the beaches and ask if they’ve seen any. Ask the locals. While trying to figure out the best tour to go on, I talked to many people who went on snorkel trips to see turtles and most of them said they only saw a few, at best. Wanna spend all day with them for free? Go find them yourself 🙂
*All photos taken with my Sony Cybershot DSC-TX10
© Kirsten Muolic and First For Everything, 2013.