6 places to dive with turtles in Asia Pacific

Can't get enough of these charming guys? Here's where you can fin alongside them

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It's tough to not get excited when you spot a sea turtle anywhere in the world

“Duuude!”. Whether you fell in love with Crush when you first saw the movie Finding Nemo or have always had a soft spot for these hard-shelled cuties, bookmark this list stat if you’re hoping to marvel at a lovely sea turtle or two out in the deep blue. 

Bunaken, Indonesia

This popular marine park in North Sulawesi is home to an insane number of turtles (you can expect to see up to 10 on a single dive!). It’s also a great place for wall and drift diving. Currents can be unpredictable, so keep an eye on your dive computer and don’t be too preoccupied with the stars of the show (or the camera).

Sipadan, Malaysia

Rich in corals and fish, Sipadan welcomes green and hawksbill turtles that mate and nest there. You’ll see them snacking on sponges or taking a long day nap at Barracuda Point, or you might find them flying over your head at West Ridge, Hanging Gardens, or Staghorn Crest. (Certified) thrill seekers should check out Turtle Tomb, an underwater limestone caves system with lots of passageways 20 metres below the surface.

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Hatchlings headed right for the open sea

Heron Island, Australia

Jacques Cousteau allegedly included Heron Bommie in the Great Barrier Reef in his top 10 dive sites, so you know it must be good. Expect plenty of reef fish, manta rays, reef sharks, invertebrates, and, yes, turtles. Green and loggerhead turtles start laying eggs around November, with some hatchlings emerging in December – also when the annual synchronised coral spawning happens – and you’ll see the gentle finners until March.

Derawan, Indonesia

Derawan has so much to offer: coral-rich walls, scores of stingless jellyfish at Kakaban, a multitude of nudibranchs at Samama, and cruising mantas and green turtles around the island of Sangalaki. Sangalaki is also where the turtles come to lay their eggs; it has a nursery that you can visit for a small fee to see hatchlings head to the sea for the first time.

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“Hello there, little one!”

Apo Island, Philippines

With 10 percent of its waters declared a marine sanctuary since 1982, Apo Island has one of the most diverse collections of soft and hard corals in Asia Pacific. Visibility is excellent all year and you are almost always guaranteed to encounter big groups of green and leatherback turtles. They share their territory with the likes of banded sea kraits, bumphead parrotfish, and colourful reef fish.

Ari Atoll, Maldives

While the currents in Ari Atoll can be challenging, its healthy reefs teeming with marine life make it a great spot for photo opportunities, including of large pelagics like whale sharks and manta rays. Maaya Thila in the north and Kuda Rah Thila in the south are the stand-out turtle-friendly sites.

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A diver since 2001, Jonathan’s favourite marine encounters include a pod of dwarf minke whales on the Great Barrier Reef and friendly whale sharks in Christmas Island. Topside, Jonathan is a graphic designer and an independent singer-songwriter.