Here in Indonesia we are very lucky to find 6 out of the 7 species of sea turtle.
- Green turtle (Chelonia Mydas)
- Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
- Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys Olivacea)
- Leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys Coriacea)
- Flatback sea turtle (Natator Depressus)
- Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta Caretta).
The Leatherback sea turtle is the largest of the species, reaching up to 2.75 metres length and 600 – 900 kilograms weight, while the smallest sea turtle in Indonesia is the Olive Ridley weighing around 50 kilograms.
The most commonly encountered species we come across almost every trip are the Hawksbill and Green turtle, both on the endangered list.
Despite the abundance of sightings during our trips with the high numbers we see on our trips it’s hard to believe. This is due to the great work of the Indonesian government and conservation efforts in making the trade in turtle products illegal, and designated national park areas. Which is why we are so lucky to go to some of the best destinations to see them. Our Snorkel Venture trips run to – Komodo Resort is on the Komodo National park, Siladen resort in Bunaken. Papua Explorers in Raja Ampat and of course Misool Eco resort in the Misool sanctuary. Making any one of these trips gives you the best chance for a great turtle interaction.
Green turtles are one of the largest sea turtles and the only herbivore among the different species. The name is due to the greenish colour of their cartilage and fat and not their shells. In the Eastern Pacific, a group of green turtles that have darker shells are called black turtles by the local community. Green turtles are found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. Like other sea turtles, they migrate long distances between feeding grounds and the beaches from where they hatched. Classified as endangered, green turtles are threatened by overharvesting of their eggs, hunting of adults, being caught in fishing gear and loss of nesting beach sites.
Hawksbills are named for their narrow, pointed beak. They also have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a serrated-look on the edges. These coloured and patterned shells make them highly-valuable and commonly sold as “tortoiseshell” in markets.Hawksbills are found mainly throughout the world’s tropical oceans, predominantly in coral reefs. They feed mainly on sponges by using their narrow pointed beaks to extract them from crevices on the reef, but also eat sea anemones and jellyfish.
A question we get asked on every trip
“How to spot the difference between a Green and Hawksbill”
There are several main differences between the two turtles. Hawksbills have a pronounced ‘over bite’, hence the name, but this might not be obvious if the animal is swimming away from you. A more obvious series of features you can spot on the animal’s shell. Are: On Hawksbills, the edge of the shell has a pronounced saw-like outline, while the outline is much smoother on Greens. This feature is easily seen when looking down onto the animal. Another easy to see shell difference is how the shell sections, or scutes as they are more scientifically known; on Hawksbills the central scutes overlap each other and are far more pointed on the edges. One last little tip for spotting the difference. If you are lucky enough to get up close and face to face. Look between the eyes. A Green turtle will have two scales between its eyes, whereas a Hawksbill will have 4.
On the subject of getting up close, How should we snorkel and behave with turtles?? Well the same as all sea creatures, we never want to disturb or touch anything. Remember wildlife reacts to the way you behave. If you stay nice and calm and relaxed, chances are the turtles will do the same. Allowing for great viewing or even photo opportunities. Giving the turtles space to swim or even more important, space to come up for air is a must. We find that on most of our turtle encounters, the turtles are very easy going and don’t mind the human interaction.