One of the many perks of cruising is being able to hop off the ship, grab your snorkeling gear and dive into the wonders that lie beneath the ocean’s surface. What you just may find on your adventure is the extraordinary marine life that calls the sea its home, such as the seven species of sea turtles around the world. Luckily, not only does Royal Caribbean sail to the destinations where you may just discover one of these magnificent creatures, but you also can join us to support programs that benefit them—on World Sea Turtle Day and all year long, and here’s how.
With our partners at World Wildlife Fund (WWF), we have developed ongoing programs and goals to help in the long-term health of our oceans and their iconic wildlife. Because, despite their beauty, six of the seven species of sea turtles are endangered due to poaching, habitat destruction and accidental capture, among other causes.
Pro tip: While it’s incredible to swim with one, if you have the chance, it’s important to remember not to touch a sea turtle while snorkeling. Their shells may look tough, but they are sensitive to the oils our hands carry.
Keep reading to discover where you can see and appreciate these gentle giants yourself, and learn more about our ongoing programs:
Brisbane, Australia – Hawksbill
Known for their pointed beak and the distinct overlapping scales that cover their shells, the hawksbill sea turtle can be found in Brisbane, Australia. They’re omnivores with a preference for sea sponges and can grow to be 2 to 3 feet wide. If you ever find yourself spending a day on the beach in Brisbane, be sure to poke your head underwater, too, for a chance to spot one swimming around the coral reefs.
The hawksbill is also critically endangered, in part due to the illegal trading of their shells. With WWF-Australia and Australian Museum Research Institute, we’ve launched “Surrender Your Shell.” Some people may have unknowingly purchased these shells and items, and now they can be handed in for research purposes. With our support through funding, scientists developed a way to extract DNA from the items to identify the turtle populations most at risk. This allows them to trace the origins and pinpoint the illegal sale and nesting beach location.
Bridgetown, Barbados – Leatherback
Leatherbacks stand out from other sea turtles because their shells are soft, instead of hard, and leather-like. They are the largest sea turtle species, and they migrate across both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And if you’re lucky, you’ll catch one floating off the coast of our new southern Caribbean homeport and popular port of call—Bridgetown, Barbados. Sadly, the leatherback is susceptible to egg collection and fisheries, making them vulnerable.
Fun fact: We’re lending a hand to Florida Atlantic University in their crucial leatherback research at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, Florida.
Port Canaveral, Florida – Loggerhead
The loggerhead species is known for their larger heads and powerful jaws, which allow them to munch on hard-shelled marine life, like sea urchins and clams. You can find them around the Mediterranean, as well as off the coast of Port Canaveral, Florida before or after your cruise to the Caribbean. Though they are powerful, these turtles are still at risk because they tend to run into fisheries when grazing.
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico – Olive Ridley
When you see this species’ shell, you’ll understand why they’re named olive ridley turtles. Their shells are a shade of olive green you can’t miss. You can spot them across the globe, like in the waters of Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, Mexico, which you can sail to on Navigator of the Seas from our new homeport in Los Angeles. And although they are the most populous sea turtle, they’re still considered vulnerable because they nest in mass numbers at the same time each year and return to the same beach where they hatched—which makes them easy to find.
Darwin, Australia – Flatback
Flatback turtles are hard to miss because their shells are particularly flat compared to the other sea turtles’ round shells. After you’re done cooling off in Darwin’s Wave Lagoon, keep an eye out—and your distance—for these sea turtles swimming offshore or nesting on Australian beaches. The flatback is a small group, and it only nests in Australia. They are threatened not only because they can get entangled in fishing gear, but they’re also harvested for meat and eggs.
St. George’s Island, Bermuda – Green
Unlike the others, the green sea turtle is named for the color of its cartilage instead of its shell. It is the only herbivore of the different species. After checking out the ruins of Martello Tower on St. George’s Island, Bermuda, you can pop on some snorkeling gear to see if you can catch a glimpse of this sea turtle’s green flippers cruising by you beneath the surface. And as always, be sure to avoid shopping for turtle products. They’re an endangered species due to losing many nesting sites, overharvesting their eggs and the poaching of the adults.
Galveston, Texas – Kemp’s Ridley
If you join Independence or Allure of the Seas in Galveston, Texas, look out for Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. They have triangular heads, hooked beaks and round, grayish-green shells. With some extra time—before or after your cruise—roaming around Galveston’s colorful streets, you can pop by the nearby shores for a peek at this special species mostly found in the Gulf of Mexico.
They are the most endangered species of the seven, primarily because they are often accidentally captured in fishing nets. To help prevent accidental capture, we helped fund WWF’s development of technology that places LED lights on gillnets (so the turtles can see them and steer clear).
Head here to see how Royal Caribbean can take you to these places and more, so you can discover natural wonders—and their inhabitants like the sea turtle.