Sea turtles are fascinating and ancient reptiles that have roamed the Earth’s oceans for millions of years. Their presence in our oceans is not only captivating but also critically important for the health and balance of aquatic ecosystems. Therefore, sea turtles often serve as a flagship species for marine conservation efforts. Their iconic status helps to draw attention to broader marine conservation initiatives and encourages people to support protection and preservation efforts.
Bonaire is home to three of the world’s seven sea turtle species. In our waters, you can find loggerhead, hawksbill as well as green turtles. We have year-round opportunities to encounter them on our dives. At Beyond The Corals, our dive guides know a lot about their behaviours and hence also on where the best spots are to dive with them. Come join us for some wonderful dives and you might find yourself face to face with one of these animals!
Our three turtle species here in Bonaire are:
Green turtles have a small head in proportion to their body. The carapace is a smooth, heart-shaped shell with shades of olive or brown. They are herbivores, primarily feeding on seagrasses and algae. This makes Salt Pier are great dive site to encounter them! Fun fact: the name ‘green’ does not refer to their color but to the greenish hue of their internal fat.
Hawksbills can be identified as they have a unique narrow and pointed beak. Their heads are quite narrow as well with two sets of scales in front of its eyes (2 pairs of prefrontal scales). Typically, their carapaces have a serrated edge and are characterized by a mix of colors including shades of brown, orange, and yellow. That is why they are critically endangered, as their shells are historically prized for their intricate unique patterns and colors. Hawksbill turtles are omnivorous (feeding on both plants and other animals), but their preferred food in many areas is sea sponges. They will also eat marine algae, corals, mollusks, tunicates, crustaceans, sea urchins, small fish, and jellyfish.
Loggerhead turtles are known for their relatively large heads in comparison to their body size. They are equipped with powerful jaws, which they use for crushing prey like crabs and mollusks as they are mostly carnivores. They have a distinctive reddish-brown carapace, with a slightly heart-shaped appearance and lighter-colored plastron (bottom shell).
If you want to further develop your knowledge about turtles and want to help out in local conservation efforts, you can take the PADI Sea Turtle Ecology and Research Diver specialty. This two-dive specialty is unique to Beyond The Corals, as nature conservation is of the utmost importance to us. Learn more and become a marine ambassador! Furthermore, find out more from Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire during one of their biweekly presentations.