Have you ever been diving in the crystal-clear waters of the Riviera Maya and been lucky enough to spot a sea turtle?
These fascinating creatures have been around for millions of years and are among the most ancient species on Earth. In these turquoise waters, you may spot the green turtle, the hawksbill turtle, or if you’re lucky, the loggerhead turtle.
Each of these sea turtle species has unique characteristics that make them special and important to the marine ecosystem. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, encountering one of these magnificent creatures is a truly unforgettable experience.
So, let’s dive into the world of sea turtle species you’ll see on dives in the Mexican Caribbean and discover what makes them so captivating.
Green Sea Turtles
Green sea turtles are one of the most fascinating creatures you can encounter on a dive in the Riviera Maya. With their impressive navigational abilities, herbivorous diet, and graceful swimming style, they are a true wonder of the ocean.
Size & Appearance
Green Turtles are a medium-sized species of sea turtle, with an average length of around 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet) and a weight of 68-190 kg (150-420 pounds).
They have a sleek and streamlined body with paddle-like flippers that allow them to swim through the water with ease. As their name suggests, they have a greenish-colored fatty tissue, but their shell is usually brown or olive in color.
Habitat & Diet
Green sea turtles are found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, including the Caribbean Sea. They are strictly herbivorous and eat mainly seagrasses and algae, which contributes to their green-colored body fat.
In the Riviera Maya, they can be found in seagrass beds, coral reefs, and around rocky outcrops. They can also be found near shorelines, especially during nesting season.
Green sea turtles are known for their slow and graceful movements in the water. They are migratory creatures and travel long distances during their lifetime, returning to specific feeding and nesting areas.
These turtles are known to stay in one area for several years before moving on. They are often seen basking in the sun on the surface of the water, but can also stay submerged for long periods of time.
Female green sea turtles return to the same beach where they were born to lay their own eggs. In the Riviera Maya, there are several beaches where turtles come to nest.
Nesting season typically runs from May to October, and during this time, it’s important to be respectful of nesting turtles and avoid disturbing them. Turtles lay around 100 eggs per nest and hatchlings emerge after around 60 days.
Green sea turtles are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to habitat loss, hunting, and accidental capture in fishing gear.
In Mexico, green sea turtles are protected by law, and it is illegal to hunt, capture, or sell them. Several conservation programs are in place in the Riviera Maya to protect these turtles and their nesting sites.
Interaction with Divers
If you’re keen to see green sea turtles in their natural habitat, then the Riviera Maya is one of the best places to do it. You’ll need to don your dive gear and head out to one of the many fantastic dive sites in the area. Look out for seagrass beds, which are the favorite feeding grounds of green sea turtles.
Don’t forget to look up too! You may also spot them swimming gracefully through the crystal-clear waters, their streamlined bodies cutting effortlessly through the water.
It’s important to remember that green sea turtles are protected by law, so it’s essential to give them plenty of space and observe them from a respectful distance. If you’re lucky enough to see a nesting female or hatchlings making their way to the ocean, be sure to keep your distance and let them continue on their way undisturbed.
On your dives, keep an eye out for the hawksbill turtle, one of the most fascinating and unique species of sea turtle. With their sharp, curved beaks and love for coral reefs, these turtles are a true sight to behold.
Size and Appearance
Hawksbill turtles are typically smaller than other species of sea turtles, reaching an average length of about 90 cm (35 inches) and weighing between 45-90 kg (100-200 pounds). Their shells are characterized by a distinctive pattern of overlapping scutes, which form a serrated edge along the turtle’s back.
Habitat and Diet
Hawksbill turtles are primarily found in coral reef habitats, where they feed on a variety of invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, and sea anemones. They are known to be highly selective eaters, with a particular preference for certain species of sponges.
Hawksbill turtles are relatively solitary creatures, spending most of their time swimming and foraging in the reef. They are known for their ability to wedge themselves into tight spaces within the coral, where they can hide and rest.
Like other sea turtles, hawksbill turtles return to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. They typically lay between 100-140 eggs per clutch, with the hatchlings emerging from the sand about two months later.
Hawksbill turtles are listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), primarily due to habitat loss and hunting for their shells, which are highly prized in the jewelry industry.
Conservation efforts have focused on protecting nesting beaches and reducing the impact of human activity on coral reef habitats.
Interaction with Divers
Hawksbill turtles are known for their curious nature, and if you’re diving in the Riviera Maya, you might have the chance to swim alongside one of these magnificent creatures.
While it’s important to respect their space and not disturb them, you can enjoy watching them as they gracefully swim through the water. If you’re lucky, they may even pose for a photo or two!
The loggerhead turtle is one of the largest and most well-known species of sea turtles in the world. With its broad and strong head and muscular body, it is an impressive sight to behold.
While less commonly found in the Caribbean waters close to the Riviera Maya, spotting a loggerhead while diving in this area is truly something special.
Size & Appearance
Loggerhead turtles can grow to be quite large, with adult females reaching up to 3 feet in length and weighing over 200 pounds. They have a distinctive broad and strong head that is supported by a powerful neck and muscular body. Their shell is typically reddish-brown in color and covered in a scaly texture.
Habitat & Diet
Loggerheads are found in oceans around the world, including the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. They prefer warm, shallow waters and can often be found near coral reefs, rocky outcroppings, and other areas with plenty of food. Their diet consists mainly of spiny lobsters, crabs, and other invertebrates, which they crack open with their powerful jaws.
Loggerhead turtles are known for their strong and determined nature. They are skilled swimmers and can dive to depths of up to 1,000 feet in search of food.
Loggerhead turtles carry colonies of small plants and animals on their shells which serve as important habitats themselves. As many as 100 species of animals and plants have been recorded living on one single loggerhead turtle.
Like other species of sea turtles, loggerheads return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs.
Females will often lay several clutches of eggs per season, burying them deep in the sand to protect them from predators. The eggs typically hatch after 50-60 days, and the baby turtles make their way to the ocean.
Loggerhead turtles are considered a threatened species, with their populations declining due to habitat loss, pollution, and other factors. Conservation efforts are underway around the world to protect these magnificent creatures, including efforts to reduce fishing gear entanglements and protect nesting habitats.
Interaction with Divers
While loggerhead turtles are less commonly found in the Caribbean waters close to the Riviera Maya, they can still be spotted while diving in the area. Divers are encouraged to approach these turtles with caution and to avoid touching or disturbing them in any way.
Diving with a responsible and eco-conscious dive operator, such as DivePoint, can ensure that these majestic creatures are respected and protected.
See The Caribbean Sea Turtle Species with DivePoint!
Diving in Playa del Carmen is a truly unique experience that offers the opportunity to see three different species of sea turtles in their natural habitat.
Whether you’re lucky enough to spot a green turtle, hawksbill turtle, or loggerhead turtle, it’s a truly unforgettable experience.
At DivePoint, our experienced guides can take you on a dive to find these amazing creatures, and ensure a safe and enjoyable diving experience that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. (Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera to capture the magic!)
And while you’re in the area, why not consider booking a cenote diving tour too? The crystal-clear waters of the cenotes are a sight to behold and offer a unique diving experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
We hope you liked this blog post on Sea Turtles!
Which is your favorite sea turtle species?
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