Snorkeling with Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

May 20, 2016

Hawaiian green sea turtles are a common sighting for guests of our Lanai Snorkeling Tours. They graze on the algae and grasses found throughout the reefs, and nest on Hawaii's beaches. Not only are they wonderful to watch, but they also have a special significance in Hawaiian culture as an aumakua, which is a family god or deified ancestor, so they are greatly respected. The Hawaiian word for the sea turtle is honu.

One of the interesting things about these fascinating marine animals is the various sizes of the individuals you might encounter. A full-grown adult can reach between 200 to 500lbs with a 40-inch shell, but when they first hatch, they can fit in your hand. As you can imagine, it takes some time for them to reach their full size. Scientists estimate ages of 60-70 years, or even older. Amazingly, they won't reach sexual maturity until about 25 to 30 years old, and sometimes even 40 years old!

The adults you might see are among the lucky few survivors, because the younger a turtle is, the more likely it is to succumb to predators. In fact, predation is so high, females have adapted to laying three to six clutches per nesting season, with around 100 eggs in each clutch. This high number of offspring helps increase the odds that some of her progeny will survive.

The lives of all sea turtles are full of peril, but although most green sea turtles are on the decline globally, the Hawaiian green sea turtle has seen a major resurgence, with a population increase of about 53 percent over the past 25 years. It helps that they are protected by law, and that people treat them with respect. That means not trying to touch them, and especially not trying to ride them. This is for your own safety as well, because they have been known to defend themselves with a rather powerful bite.

Despite being called green sea turtles, their shells tend to range from olive brown to black on top and light yellow on the underside, although green is the color of their favorite foods. These turtles have an important job as algae grazers. That is keeping Hawaii's precious coral reefs from being smothered by it. Yet, that's not all they eat. In fact, they are known to dine on mollusks, sponges, jellyfish, salps, and even tubeworms if they can. There's nothing wrong with a little extra protein!

We hope that you'll get a nice sighting of at least one of these graceful creatures on our Lanai Snorkel Tour. If you're lucky, you could even end up spotting more than one! Mahalo!

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