An Overview Of Cozumel Scuba Diving Turtle Tours
By Dennis Anderson
At Hotel Villa Deja Blue, we help travelers enjoy Cozumel dives in a relaxing atmosphere leveraging information from our experience living on Cozumel Island.
Cozumel is home to endangered hawksbill and loggerhead sea turtle species that make encountering one an unforgettable experience. Nesting occurs often around early Fall.
Divers can find great success spotting exotic marine creatures while diving at Cozumel Reefs National Marine Park.
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Green turtles are beloved creatures among scuba divers and snorkelers, beloved creatures beloved by both. With long necks, wide jaws, serrated lips, serrated beaks, serrated mouths, more robust armored plates than other extant turtle species and robust bodies capable of withstanding more rigorous treatment, green turtles have long been revered as icons of aquatic biodiversity.
As with other marine turtles, green sea turtles spend most of their lives out in the open ocean using the Earth’s magnetic field as an invisible map to navigate long journeys. When ready to reproduce they return to beaches where they were born.
As they make these epic migrations, shrimp populations become vulnerable to numerous threats that threaten their lives and cause their population to decrease significantly. Commercial harvesting for eggs and meat, habitat destruction, beachfront development projects, fibropapillomatosis (a disease which kills off significant portions of its victims), incidental catch when shrimp trawling, etc. all play key roles in contributing to their decline.
Green turtles may not be at the top of their global rankings, but divers can still enjoy encountering these gentle giants around Cozumel’s national marine park. While hawksbill and loggerhead turtles typically feature algae-covered shells covered with barnacles or algae blooms that obscure vision, green turtles found here usually sport smooth shells in shades of brown, cream, or even purple for easy viewing by divers.
Turtles also take great care to keep their shells looking their best by regularly brushing against soft and hard corals to scrape off any unwanted guests from their surface. Not only are these beautiful creatures beautiful to look at but indigenous people believe that turtles represent immortality and life – thus their painted shells hold symbolic meaning for many cultures around the world.
Cozumel’s waters are fortunate enough to serve as a turtle sanctuary of sorts and many beaches on the island provide natural nesting sites for both green and loggerhead turtles. Chankanaab marine park provides an especially fantastic experience, showcasing both species along with conservation efforts being put in place in order to help ensure they survive; hatching season typically runs from late July/early August through to October here.
Like other sea turtle species, hawksbills are critically endangered (IUCN 2015). Their survival is threatened by habitat loss and pollution as well as illegal hunting; additionally they may ingest marine debris like balloons, plastic bags, floating tar and oil or fishing gear which interfere with digestion and cause injury or death. Female hawksbills return to their birth beaches multiple times over many years in order to lay multiple clutches of eggs over several years.
Hawksbill sea turtles are distinguished by their distinctive beak or bill, which is long and tapered like that of a bird’s beak, making it possible for them to reach into crevices and holes on coral reefs to feed on sponges. As “reef-cleaner” species, their sponge-eating encourages natural succession of reef communities by freeing up space for other organisms; moreover, their diet remains specific; only feeding on certain types of sponge despite being in close proximity of others.
Hawksbill sea turtles, the tropical species among sea turtles, often live their lives in coral reef environments. Omnivorous by nature, these reptiles eat everything from fish and gastropods to echinoderms and sponges as primary food sources; their throat is lined with spines for breaking up tough exoskeletons while their overlapping carapace scutes provide additional protection from corals or sharp objects in their environment.
Hawksbill sea turtles stand apart from green and loggerhead sea turtles by keeping their beautiful shells free from algae or barnacle growth, often brushing against soft or hard coral to scrub away any undesirable parasites that might have attached themselves to them.
Cozumel offers three species of sea turtles, but hawksbills are by far the most likely to be seen grazing or resting. Hawksbills may often be seen at the surface during daytime hours grazing on coral reefs or relaxing on beaches.
On a dive, you may witness them foraging through cracks and crevices in the reef or coming up to the surface to feed. While this sight is impressive, we must keep in mind that they are endangered species and respect their presence.
Loggerhead sharks are known for their broad, muscular heads. Their powerful jaws enable them to feed on hard-shelled prey such as mollusks and whelks; other prey includes shrimp, clams, sea urchins and jellyfish. Loggerheads often lay their eggs along beaches in both the Atlantic and Caribbean regions. Eggs are laid at night and hatch within 68 to 88 days; females produce two or three clutches each year, giving birth to “puplets.” Each puplet’s carapace (top shell) features five lateral scutes while its plastron (bottom shell) is heart-shaped with light margins, both being dull reddish brown in hue. Front flippers also possess two claws; as an added surprise, natural glands behind its eyes process salt from the seawater before excreting excess salt which gives rise to so-called tears – giving rise to its name!
These marine reptiles are one of the world’s most critically endangered sea creatures, growing to 3 feet long and weighing 250 pounds or more; living more than 50 years in their natural environments.
Their populations are under threat worldwide due to habitat loss and destruction, coastal development, pollution, watercraft strikes, pollution entanglement with commercial fishing gear entanglement entanglement as well as disease spread through nets or other fishing equipment, net captures or accidental capture by nets and equipment used for fishing purposes. Protected species in several countries.
As they mature, loggerheads move between nesting beaches and feeding grounds on the ocean surface or seagrass beds for feeding purposes. Loggerheads have one of the widest distribution ranges among all sea turtle species – they nest on beaches both North and South Atlantic as well as in Eastern Mediterranean Sea as well as subtropical and tropical oceans globally.
Every summer and fall, Cozumel’s east coast plays host to magnificent marine mammals that visit from all around to lay their eggs – it is an amazing natural spectacle to watch them make their journey from beach to ocean! Please help keep these precious marine animals safe by not walking through their nests or near their laying sites and turning off your lights at night on the beach – the Tybee Island Marine Science Center plays an essential part of conservation efforts designed to safeguard these magnificent marine life forms.
Visit Cozumel during May through October and you have an excellent chance of witnessing sea turtle nesting and hatching activities on its southern and eastern beaches. At this time of year, thousands of baby turtles emerge from their holes of hatching to crawl towards open ocean and make their instinctive journey homewards.
While watching turtle nesting beaches is exciting, you must be extra cautious not to disturb these baby turtles. One way is to stay away from any beaches marked as turtle nesting areas as local residents work to maintain them in an eco-friendly manner. In particular, try not to throw items such as apple cores and banana peels into the water as these items do not belong within their marine diets.
Chankanaab National Park in Cozumel’s southern tip offers another great place to spot turtles – as it is protected and features both green and hawksbill turtles as well as other marine life.
Akumal Bay, just across the channel from Cozumel, offers one of Mexico’s most unique turtle encounters – snorkeling through shallow waters where barrier reef invites loggerhead sea turtles daily for feedings!
Experience these majestic beasts of the deep as they emerge to feed, as well as snorkel alongside other marine life such as manta rays and large schools of exotic fish. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity!
Join locals on September 15th when the island celebrates the “Day of the Turtle”, when hundreds gather along its beaches to witness baby turtles making their journey from nest to ocean – an event you won’t soon forget! It is truly heartwarming and something you will carry with you for life.
Be sure to book your trip with Hotel Villa Deja Blue and enjoy your stay on the beautiful island of Cozumel.