Latest update: 10 May 2021
How close? Extremely close. In the cooling waters of Curaçao, you not only have about a 100% chance to spot a turtle, but you can also marvel at them from just a few meters away. I’ll tell you where to go.
Where do you find turtles on Curaçao?
You can find yourself some “turtle spotting security” near Klein Curaçao (in theory) or at Playa Grandi (in practice). You’ve also got a reasonable shot at either Playa Lagun or Porto Marie. You can even encounter them at the other beaches of Curaçao, but if you want to see them for sure, I recommend Playa Grandi.
Snorkeling with turtles near Klein Curaçao
Klein Curaçao is a small, remote island near Curaçao. Perfect for a day trip, but apparently – when I’m there’ not that perfect for turtle spotting. I can’t find a single turtle, and honestly, I don’t think the snorkeling is that interesting either. There’s barely any coral, and there are just a few fishes out there. I must admit that I’m quite spoiled after snorkeling trips in Belize and Mexico. But still, I expected more. Only when the Mermaid boat crew (with whom I sailed to Klein Curaçao) throws the lunch leftovers into the water, the fish turn up. Still no turtle.
I do find a turtle nest on Klein Curaçao, neatly marked so that no one damages it. When I did an internship in Aruba many, many years ago, I witnessed a nest of turtles hatching. With a group of people, we admired the spectacle for hours at a distance. Someone even drove up and down to the KFC or McDonalds to feed us all with supper. I even refused to go home to get my camera; I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. All those little turtles finding their way to the water, it was magical.
At Klein Curacao, the turtles only show themselves when we are back on the boat, ready to leave. I hadn’t quite imagined it that way, but I still can’t take my eyes off them.
Although I was unlucky, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to spot turtles at Klein Curaçao. Definitely give it a try, because it is a fun day trip! Even without turtles. 😉
Tip! You can rent a snorkel set in many places, but you often get quite old equipment. And, honestly, today’s snorkel masks are so good! If you plan to do a lot of snorkeling on vacation, a snorkel mask is an excellent investment. Buy it at Decathlon or Amazon, for example.
Snorkeling with turtles at Playa Grandi
Playa Grandi, or Playa Piskado, is all the way in Westpunt. It is not a particularly attractive beach, and there is a lot of activity. There is a diving school, there are chickens roaming the parking lot, there are quite a few fishing boats, and there is a wonderfully cheerful man who rents out beach beds to welcome me and my friend. Two beds with a parasol and table cost 20 guilders. The man points to the places in the water where we have the best chance of spotting a turtle, and he watches our bags for free. That’s great: my best friend and I can snorkel together without worrying about our stuff.
On the waterfront, along the pier, is a small, sheltered workshop for the fishermen. Local fishers bring their catch here and clean the fish immediately. What’s left, they throw back into the sea. And that is exactly why you have a turtle warranty here!
At the end of the pier, the fishermen throw their fish waste into the water. It immediately attracts the turtles. While on my first snorkeling attempt at Playa Grandi, I was still enthusiastically swimming after a turtle in the distance; it turns it’s much easier to just hand out here. Four turtles are enjoying an easy snack at this spot. Very chill, very quiet. They eat, they swim from time to time, and they return to eat some more. The turtles are so close! Magic!
Of course, you do float around the turtles with a group of fellow tourists. And of course, there is always someone who finds it necessary to constantly block everyone’s view because he wants the best Instagram selfie, and worse, some people even touch the turtles. Don’t do this – this is REALLY bad for the turtles, in terms of stress, and you can also make them sick with the dangerous substances in your sunscreen. But, even though it is sometimes busy and not everyone behaves, it is a gorgeous display.
If you have a bit of stamina, at some point, you’ll be pretty much alone with the turtles because the rest has already swumoff.
Is swimming with turtles scary?
I am not a hero in the water. Far from it. While some people find the underwater world extremely soothing, I see danger everywhere. But with Caribbean temperatures, the crystal blue sea of Curaçao is so inviting – I forget my fear of water with enthusiasm. Especially when I have the chance to swim with turtles.
The turtles at Playa Grandi are anything but shy. So they swim right past you – sometimes they even swim straight towards you. I sometimes find that a bit in my face, but not scary. I actually can’t get enough of it. I take numerous pictures and easily float around the turtles for an hour, at least.
Not threatening, but threatened
The turtle may be the least threatening species in the ocean, but it is an endangered species. The rubbish in the sea is a big problem for the turtles – they eat the plastics. Also, people rob their nests. Read all about it on World Wildlife Fund‘s website. You can make a donation and adopt a sea turtle, if you like.
Tips for safe snorkeling with turtles
Snorkeling with turtles on Curaçao is so beautiful and that’s why everyone wants to enjoy it as intensely as possible. You can, at a distance. Treat the turtles with respect or they will stay away or even get sick.
- Do not touch! A turtle shell may seem rock hard, but a turtle has feelings in its shell. They don’t like being stroked at all. And let’s face it, when you’re swimming, you don’t want to be touched without being asked, do you? Moreover, that touch can get your sunburn on the turtle, and you don’t want that because:
- Do not apply or wear sunscreen. Turtles, like the rest of ocean life, don’t tolerate the dust and chemicals in our “regular” sunscreen. It can make them sick. So use sustainable sunscreen.
- Clean up your waste. If you bring something to eat or drink on the beach, don’t leave your rubbish. Take it back to your hotel, find a bin, but don’t leave it. The rubbish ends up in the sea and the plastic is a great danger to the turtles.