When thinking of giant sea turtles, the first image that comes to mind for me is of Crush and Squirt, the lovable turtles from Disney’s Finding Nemo. So when we got the opportunity to snorkel with them in Barbados on our recent cruise, we jumped at the chance. Our experience with these majestic creatures almost ended before it began when we were informed that the excursion was canceled due to operation technical difficulties. Of course, that phrase gives no real indication as to the reason it was canceled, but we were lucky to rebook on an excursion that was part turtle snorkel and part catamaran cruise for a cheaper price than the original. Problem easily solved – and after an early morning exploring Barbados, we met up with the excursion group for an afternoon snorkel with the giant sea turtles!
The excursion, ran by the local company Tiami, began with a 40 minute catamaran trip out to the snorkel site on rough waves, so rough that we were fearing that this replacement excursion would be canceled due to inclement weather. Luckily it carried on in spite of the high winds, and we made it to the snorkel site with little problems and no one providing personal chum for our little buddies in the water. A brief safety lesson later and in the water we went.
Turtle snorkels in Barbados are conducted similarly regardless of tour operator. A few crew members from the ship will snorkel in the water with pieces of food to entice the turtles to the surface, and depending on the situation, could result in zero to a great deal of turtles in one small area. Our catamaran was on the larger size of the vessels at the site, with volume of guests to match, so we had two to three crew in the water at any given time attempting to bring the turtles up while splitting the group into smaller sections in the water.
We barely made it into the water before the familiar outline of a sea turtle began rising to the surface, gently floating around the guide eating his lunch time feast. Our own personal Crush for the day. Armed with underwater cameras we then proceeded to follow this turtle for 10 minutes of near collisions and close encounters. The turtle did not care that we were there at all, aimlessly wandering around looking for its next meal. Not to let one turtle get all of the free grub, another two showed up shortly there after for the rest of the snorkel period.
Unlike fish, who are easily startled by any little movement, these sea turtles just don’t care and are more than relaxed to be around humans in this environment. This was painfully obvious by the fact that there were 60+ people crowded on the surface, splashing the water furiously, with an obnoxious few diving down into the water to touch the turtles even after many warnings against it by the tour operators. The large group ended up being a detriment as after 30 minutes of snorkeling we were tired of being bumped in the head and kicked all over to enjoy being in the water with turtles for much longer. Instead, we spent the final 15 minutes of the snorkel period watching from above with every few minutes seeing them peak their little heads out of the water for a breath of fresh air. The rest of the excursion experience was spent with a 45 minute beach break before returning to port to board the ship for the next destination.
Although we were disappointed with the large crowd that the cruise sponsored catamaran had, it may be difficult to be on anything else. After finding our first excursion was canceled, we hurriedly attempted to get my brother to book us with an external company at his computer at home only to be found out that a lot are reluctant to book cruise ships anymore due to cruise ship unreliability in arriving to port on time. Luckily the turtle excursion is one of the most popular tours offered in Barbados, and itineraries are offered for any taste and budget. But it doesn’t pay to shop around just in case, either.