How to see turtles in Bermuda
Bermuda's shallow coral reefs, seagrass beds and crystal clear unpolluted water make ideal habitats for sea turtles. Although lots of Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles can be seen in protected calm waters in Bermuda, the fact is no such turtles are actually born in Bermuda. They are born elsewhere and mostly come from places like Mexico, Cuba and Costa Rica.
In fact you will find plenty of young and juvenile turtles in Bermuda's water who swim for hundreds of miles to reach their favorite habitats in Bermuda. So why turtles do not nest and lay eggs in Bermuda even though the island has perfect sandy beaches that adult turtles need for laying eggs. There is a grim history behind this.
Bermuda had abundance of green turtles prior to settlement taking place in early 1600s. The meat of green turtles was always in great demand worldwide and these poor creatures immediately became victims once the settlement took place in the island. Although a law was passed in 1620 prohibiting killing of juvenile and adult turtles, it actually failed to enforce the restriction due to ever surging demands for green turtle meat. And by end of 1700s, virtually the entire population of green turtles was eradicated.
It was in 1930s when the last nesting of green turtles was recorded in Bermuda. In 1970s, naturalists brought in thousands of green turtle eggs from places like Costa Rica and Suriname, and buried them in the sands here so they could hatch. It is known that the turtles usually return to their original place where they are born when they become adults and lay eggs. They use the position of the stars and the moon to get directions even if they are thousands of miles away. They can continuously swim for weeks and months if need be.
Green turtles usually get matured at the age of 40 years or so. So after the eggs were hatched and the baby turtles made their way into the Atlantic in 1970s, none have so far returned to Bermuda to lay eggs and the wait still continues.
In 2005, a rare loggerhead turtle came to a sandy area near the Clearwater Beach in St. David's Island and laid eggs. After 60 days of incubation, the baby turtles were born and they marched towards the water. They too are expected to return after about 25 years. Note that loggerhead turtles mature faster than green turtles.
Bermuda turtles in natural habitats
So if you are keen to see turtles in Bermuda, there are several ways. But it is extremely difficult to see them at their nesting places in the island because as I mentioned, there aren't any at present. To see turtles in their natural habitats, go towards the sheltered water areas and you should be able to spot them. Here are some water areas worth trying:
1) St. Daivd's Island: Clearwater Beach
, Turtle Bay, Long Bay etc. The shallow water sea grass beds here are great habitats for green turtles.
2) Castle Harbor
: You may see turtles heading for the sandy flats during the change in tide.
5) Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour
in the western water areas out of Daniel's Head towards the partially submerged shipwreck Vixen, you may be able to spot lots of turtles here. But they get very scared out of the engine noise and tend to disappear immediately.
Turtles in Captivity
Well if all efforts fail, you can still see some turtles in Bermuda, although not in their natural habitats. Here are some places that you can visit:
1) Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo
(BAMZ): Several green turtles are kept in an outdoor pool in a small sandy beach area just outside Bermuda Aquarium located in Flatts Village (Hamilton Parish). The pool is just 15-ft off the street. You can see them for free. The zoo inside also houses turtles including couple of Galapagos Turtles, but that will require admission fee.
Turtle at BAMZ outdoor pool
2) Devil's Hole Aquarium
: You will find large green turtles here in a pool including the one named Romeo which is over 75 years old. You can feed them with a rope having food tied at its end. It's located at Smith's Parish.
Note that The Bermuda Turtle Project initiated jointly by Bermuda Aquarium Museum & Zoo and Sea Turtle Conservancy, is aimed towards conservation and education of turtles. The project mainly focuses on the stages of life cycle between juvenile to maturity.
Over 3,500 turtles have been tagged so far and it has given enormous data about their behaviors. Turtles that were tagged in Bermuda have been found in distant places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Mexico etc. So you can imagine how far they travel in their lifetime.
Visitors' Reviews & Comments
Karen Lelonek (July 2013) Subject: Sea Turtle Excursions in Bermuda
I will be visiting in the first part of September via cruise. My ship will be in port for two nights. I am a sea turtle enthusiast and was told by a friend who visited last year that they were lucky enough to be on a tour that had no problem finding turtles. I believe it was a snorkeling tour but they do not remember any contact information. I would be able to cross this off my bucket list if I was fortunate enough to see these majestic creatures myself. Any information you can provide that could make this more likely would be appreciated.
Raj (bermuda-attractions.com) July 2013
Hi, Snorkel boat tour and Glass Bottom tour by Reef Explorer takes you through the water area which is a natural habitat of Atlantic green turtles. You can usually see lots of them there. You will find information about such tour here: Reef Explorer