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How to Swim with Sea Turtles on St. John

a turtle swimming under water

One of the coolest – and cutest! – creatures to be found in the waters surrounding the island of St. John is the sea turtle. In the Virgin Islands, we have three species of sea turtle which can be seen frequently: hawksbill sea turtles, green sea turtles, and loggerhead sea turtles.

Sea turtles tend to hang out around beaches with plenty of turtle grass, as that’s where they feed. These peaceful animals swim at a serene pace, coming up to the surface intermittently for air. Often times you’ll spot them resting on the sea floor, simply taking in their surroundings. The sea turtles of St. John are accustomed to the presence of snorkelers, so you’ll often get an up close and personal experience with these magnificent islanders during your time here, though we do ask that you maintain proper turtle etiquette.

a turtle swimming under water

Proper turtle etiquette means respecting the sea turtles’ space – no chasing, no touching, and definitely no riding the turtles.

While there are several beaches to potentially swim with turtles on St. John – Maho Bay, Francis Bay, and Honeymoon – our current favorite site is the deserted Scott Beach. Caneel Bay Resort has been closed to the public since the hurricanes of 2017 which means there’s been little to no traffic on the idyllic Scott Beach. As a result, the turtle population has increased tremendously. It’s not uncommon to spot upwards of a dozen turtles while you’re snorkeling there.

The turtles who hang out at Scott Beach are often joined by an array of sea buddies passing through – sting rays, spotted eagle rays, nurse sharks, and even dolphins.

Scott Beach can only be accessed through a tour with one of our expert guides to protect the environment and ensure the safety of our guests. Our “Kayak and Snorkel with Sea Turtles at Caneel Bay” tour departs in kayaks from Honeymoon Beach and takes you over to Scott Beach. From there, we’ll help you secure your kayak, get your snorkel gear on, and lead you through the snorkel site.

This 2.5-hour tour includes water, a snack, all the necessary snorkel and kayak gear, lockers to store your valuables, and your expert island guide. Before and/or after your tour, you’re also welcome to enjoy all of the facilities at Honeymoon Beach.

For additional longer excursions to experience the sea turtles both at Scott Beach and at Henley Cay, check out our two other guided tours that include hiking as well here.

a turtle swimming under water

Have you ever swam with sea turtles or is it still on your bucket list?



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