When you start researching a trip to Barbados, swimming with turtles will immediately come up as one of the main attractions on this Caribbean island. I’m sure it’s a bucket list item for many. Who wouldn’t want to meet one of these beautiful reptiles in person, in a perfectly turquoise sea?
There are a ton of organized boat trips that take groups of tourists to locations where they can swim with these amazing creatures – complete with blaring music and generous open bars. Appealing to some, but I prefer a less crowded encounter. Also, there are negative consequences to some of those boat trips – like encouraging the turtles to become food dependent, and exposing them to the danger of boat related injuries and obnoxious grabbing hands.
There are many beaches on Barbados, like Worthing, Paynes Bay, and Mullins where it’s entirely possible that you could find yourself face to face with a Hawksbill or Green turtle while casually swimming. This first happened to me on my favorite beach ever, Browns Beach on the south coast of the island. I was snorkeling and collecting sea glass early in the morning and boom…it was right there. A perfect turtle swimming right below me.
Another time we rented a small kayak from Dees Beach Bar and rowed out about 150 yards into Carlisle Bay where we took turns jumping off into the water. At least 5 Hawksbills were lazily swimming around, keeping their distance, but gliding close enough for us to see the incredible patterns on their shells and heads. Geometric golds and browns, some dark, some light. Each one unique. Nature really is so amazing. It’s heartbreaking to think about how these Hawksbills are so critically endangered.
The turtles are extremely important to Barbados, and many Bajans are actively working hard to protect them. It’s encouraged for visitors to save the contact info of the Barbados Sea Turtle Project and keep it close at hand during your stay, in case you come across a turtle in distress – or even newly hatched babies struggling to make it to the water. I’m so grateful to the people working hard to help the turtles, and its very reassuring to know these special creatures are valued by many. Supporting the conservation effort is a great way to make your visit even more meaningful.