The Galapagos Green Turtle is the only species to nest on the archipelago, and is rarely found anywhere else in the world. Here in the Galapagos they are abundant, and can often be seen on snorkeling and diving excursions anywhere near the coasts all over the islands.
Like all turtles, their life starts as a tiny hatchling from up to 200 eggs laid by a female. All alone they will have to battle cormorants, albatrosses, gulls, frigatebirds, crabs, hawks and countless other predators who wait for the young turtles to emerge. Most never reach the sea. For the few who do get there, it’s still not safe as sharks and frigatebirds prey on them. The tiny percentage that escape to the open ocean still face a battle to survive and grow until they reach adulthood more than 30 years later.
In the water these animals are a beautiful and elegant site, usually seen swimming gently through the clear waters. However the Galapagos Green Turtle is a particularly strong swimmer, and they can travel for long distances at speeds of 30mph or more. Adults have a mainly vegetarian diet, but juveniles are a little more opportunistic and will try and eat anything! The biggest specimens can grow to weigh over 280lb (130kg).
Galapagos Green Turtles are officially listed as “endangered”. Their main threat is, unfortunately, humankind. They have been actively hunted for their shells and meat, as well as suffering accidental drowning when getting caught in fishing nets. The introduction of invasive species has also added to the amount of predation on the hatchlings, putting further pressures on numbers. Happily, he trade of Galapagos Green Turtle parts has been outlawed on the market, resulting in a dramatic drop in deliberate hunting.
The Green Turtle is not the only species. You can also see the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle in the Galapagos. This is a highly at-risk species, and the protected National Park of the Galapagos is used as a hunting ground for a small but important enclave. Elsewhere in the world Hawksbill numbers are in steep decline, and the waters around Galapagos and the coast of Ecuador are one of the few places where this species has a stable population.
Encountering one of these magnificent creatures in the ocean on a Galapatours cruise will create the memory of a lifetime. Speak to one of our Galapagos experts who can help you select an itinerary with plenty of snorkeling opportunities to maximise your chances of swimming next to a Galapagos Green Turtle.
Fast Facts about the Galapagos Green Turtle
- This is the only species of turtle to nest on the Galapagos
- They are known as "Green" turtles because the algae in their diet gives their body fat a green tint
- The largest ever recorded Green Sea Turtle weighed 870lb!
- To remove salt from their bodies, Green Sea Turtles have a gland behind each eye. When secreting it looks like they are crying!