Every dog has its day, and so too does the turtle.
Yes, like every other creature, food, beverage and tradition, the turtle now has an official day, which is May 23.
But there’s good reason to spend 24 hours celebrating and learning more about the turtle.
Depressingly, almost all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered, with the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) citing poaching, loss of habitat, climate change and the slaughtering of the creatures for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, for their decline.
Opting for sustainable seafood can help, as can refusing to buy souvenirs such as jewellery and ashtrays made using turtle parts.
If you’re visiting a turtle hotspot, dispose of any litter using bins, be careful to avoid disturbing any nests, don’t use flash photography or flashlights during night tours, and join an eco-friendly tour so you can see the creatures in action.
Here are some top places to go turtle watching:
1. Queensland, Australia
Of the seven species of marine turtles, Australia boasts six of them; the flatback, the loggerhead, the green turtle, the hawksbill, the leatherback and the olive ridley. The northern and eastern tropical coasts are particularly rich places to spot turtles, but their remote locations mean they’re not easy to access. Instead, the Sea Turtle Foundation recommends Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia or the enduringly popular Mon Repos in Bundaberg, Queensland.
There, night tours are arranged during the nesting season, which is from late October to late February, and visitors are treated to the area’s resident loggerheads. During the day, swot up at the visitor centre.
2. Heron Island, Australia
Another tip from the Sea Turtle Foundation is Heron Island, just south of the Great Barrier Reef and recently seen in Sir David Attenborough’s series.
The location means day trips aren’t possible, but during nesting season, green and loggerhead turtles breed here. Once on the island, you can join a small tour to learn more about the turtles and watch them nest. Snorkelling is also a great way of seeing the turtles. Check in with the guides on the island for tips on best snorkelling practice.
3. Kenyan coast
The Kenyan coastline is renowned for its turtles, with green, hawksbill and olive ridleys, loggerheads and leatherbacks spotted here. As with all of our tips, look out for tours that put turtle conservation at their core and are au fait with the Kenya Sea Turtle Conservation Committee’s approach.
If you have the time, there are opportunities to volunteer in Watamu, Kenya as part of their sea turtle conservation programme.
4. Costa Rica
Meaning ‘turtle catcher’, Tortuguero National Park offers great opportunities to see the creatures during peak season – July to September. Ostional, where the turtles dig their eggs into the volcanic sand, and Nancite beaches are both tipped as good places to catch a glimpse of olive ridley turtles, especially August to November.
Closer to home, the island of Zakynthos in Greece has seen loggerhead turtles nesting on the southern part of the island. The area has been protected since the Eighties to ensure the loggerheads can breed, so there are limitations on visitor numbers and restrictions on vehicles.
If you want to help the species, one way is to join Achelon’s volunteer programmes during the summer where you can help with conducting surveys on the turtles, treating injured creatures and raising awareness of the species.