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Swiming with Sea Turtles in Barbados

Swimming with sea turtles in BarbadosSwimming with sea turtles in Barbados is one of the best interactions with natural life in the Caribbean.

It is almost as fun as the famous Stingray City off Grand Cayman island.

Most Caribbean sailing excursions start and end the same:

- Get on the boat, often a catamaran
- Sail to the destination
- Go snorkeling
- Sail back while the crew gives provides snacks and plenty of refreshing drinks

It's the destination that matters the most. We have taken quite a few sailing and snorkeling excursions. The most memorable ones for us have had the most interesting sea life.

They include Stingray City in Grand Cayman, barracudas in St. Thomas and this one, a Barbados turtle swim with wild green and hawksbill sea turtles.

Our Barbados excursion fit this pattern when we came aboard a large catamaran with about 20 other people. We chugged out of the port at Bridgetown and headed to our first stop, a simple and brief snorkeling swim over a reef that revealed nothing special.

It was our second stop that made the difference. We joined several other boats near a beach and spotted sea turtles and people in the water together.

The brown-green turtles were about three to four feet long, rose occasionally to the surface for air and dropped back down again. They swam closely among us in the hopes of getting food. Our guide didn’t disappoint them.

Cost and How to Go


Barbados catamaran
Some operators take passengers on catamarans, which are often more expensive than other boats.
Cruise ships usually offer a Barbados turtle swim among the available excursions. They represent local operators and take a cut of the price for providing the convenience of booking the trip for passengers.

Prices often include taking a boat to the turtle swim, meals and drinks.

Expect to pay $70 to $90 or more for an adult and $60 or more for a child depending on the cruise line, sailing date and amenities of the trip.

It also depends on the type of boat. A catamaran is often more expensive.

Budget-minded Caribbean travelers can book directly with an excursion operator and sometimes save money.

The sea turtles mostly live on the west coast of the island, which also is the location of the Bridgetown cruise docks. Some operators will simply drive tourists to the closest beach with the turtles and charge even less than the boat tours.

Keep in mind there is no guarantee of a great turtle experience like ours. One reviewer said, “We only got to see one turtle for about 10 seconds before it swam away, which is of course up to nature but still a major disappointment.”

More About the Experience


Barbados sea turtle
Swimming with sea turtles is a top Barbados attraction.
We arrived at the locations of the turtles within a few hundred feet of the coast. We immediately entered the water with our guide after getting instructions about how to be careful around the turtles.

As we pushed our masks under the water, we could see them swimming toward people for food and swimming away again. They were remarkably calm.

Our guide pulled out his own food, swam toward a turtle and attracted its attention. We all came nearby, but not so close to touch or disturb the turtle. It munched through the food and drifted away.

Unexpectedly, a large turtle swam under me from behind toward the guide. It was so close my flipper grazed its shell. It didn't react to the touch at all.

So we had at least a half dozen turtles swimming close to us to get to the food. They expertly and easily swam among us, underneath us and around us. They didn't seem to mind being within a few feet of us, but they also swam in a way to avoid any direct contact.

Clearly they were used to human swimming close to them.

Their large brown eyes and beautiful colors made their serene behavior all the more beautiful as we shared the water with them.

In time the guide ran out of food and directed us back onto the boat. We parted with the turtles still swimming among passengers from other boats.

The catamaran made one more stop, this time on a secluded white sand beach. The crew served us our snacks and plenty of refreshing drinks. We strolled on the sand for another half hour or so.

Swimming with sea turtles in Barbados ranks among the best snorkeling excursions in the Caribbean.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Excursions   

January 27, 2018

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