Information on turtles
Sadly, although sea turtles have lived on this planet
for 130 million years, the 7 global species of Marine
Turtles are all in serious decline throughout most of
their range. Habitat degradation, pollution, egg
poaching and over-fishing threaten to make them extinct.
An International campaign was launched on 1st March
2006, under the banner of the Year of the Turtle 2006,
uniting peoples from Australia to Thailand and Iran to
South Africa. The organisers hope to spotlight the
threats and encourage even greater public support for
these extraordinary marine creatures. Quite frankly they
need all the help they can get.
Historically, five of these species have been found in
Thai waters, although there have been no records of the
loggerhead turtle in the last 15 years. The four species
of marine turtles that can still be found in Thai waters
are as follows:
The sea turtle is a reptile which spends all of its life
in water. It obviously needs to go to the surface from
time to time, to breathe air. Bear in mind they can
actually drown if severly frightened by divers.
The natural longevity of the sea turtles is not entirely
known, but they grow very slowly taking about 15 years
to reach maturity.
turtle's diet includes sponges, marine worms and
Adult Green turtles for example are largely vegetarian,
eating underwater grasses and seaweed, whilst the
Hawksbill turtle is carnivorous and eats invertebrate
animals of the coral reefs.
distribution of turtles in Thai waters is spread out
along the fine sand quiet beaches of the coastline and
islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea.
These two geographical areas also reflect different
nesting times of the turtles.
In the Gulf of Thailand the most important nesting areas
for green and hawksbill turtles are Khram and adjacent
islands which are located in the inner Gulf, Chonburi
Province. There are some islands along the east coast
from Chonburi, Rayong and Trat Province and some islands
in the middle Gulf of Chumphon and Surattani Province
where sea turtles are occasionally found. In the Gulf
areas, green and hawksbill turtles lay their eggs all
year round with the peak from May to August.
In the Andaman Sea coastal areas of Thailand, the main
nesting areas are north-west coast of Phuket, and
Phang-nga provinces. In particular these areas include
Thai Muang Beach and Phrathong Islands of Phang-nga
Province, Maikhao beach Phuket, Tarutao Island and
Adang-Rawi Islands of Satun Province . Olive ridley and
(occasionally) leatherback turtles are found in these
areas. The green and hawksbill are found at the Similan
Islands, Surin Islands and Tarutao Islands. The nesting
season of sea turtles in the Andaman Sea region occurs
only from October to March with a peak from mid-November
Turtles usually lay their eggs between November and
The females come ashore after dusk, but they have been
observed nesting until just before dawn. They select
their nesting site and dig a small pit 18 inches deep
using their rear flippers. A clutch of between 40 to 180
eggs will be laid, after which the pit will be carefully
concealed by sand before they return to the sea. The
whole process usually takes about one hour. During the
egg laying, the eyes of the turtle will be covered by a
colourless mucus to prevent dehydration and keep out the
After an incubation period of 60 days, the hatchlings
dig their way up to the surface of the pit, usually at
night when the sand is cooler. Hatchlings locate the
water's edge by orienting themselves to the horizon, but
distant house lights can disorient the youngsters so
that they actually crawl away from the sea.
The best diving areas to see turtles are the Similan and
Surin Islands National Parks, visited by liveaboards
from Khao Lak.
Turtles are most commonly seen in shallow reefs on dive
sites such as East of Eden (Ko Payu, Similans) or Ko
Torinla (Surin), but you may see them deeper on rocky
sites such as Elephant Head Rock or Deep Six (Ko Payu,
Similans). The usual sightings are Hawksbill and Green
At Thai Muang (National Park) beach, Leatherback and
Olive Ridley are the two main species of nesting
There is an annual 7 day event here, usually during the
first week of March, to release young turtle hatchlings,
which have been raised by the Fisheries Deptartment,
back into the sea.
This is designed to heighten people's awareness of the
declining numbers of nesting females and promote
arine Turtles have been given legal protection in
Thailand for many years, and His Majesty King Bhumibhol
Adulyade and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit have initiated
several specific turtle conservation projects.
The Royal Thai Navy has an active role in the turtle
conservation program and regularly patrols beaches in
the Similan and Surin Islands in the Andaman Sea, for
intruders and poachers. They also protect the green and
hawksbill eggs laid on the remote islands and keep them
safe from predators such as birds and crabs. Once they
are born, the turtles are brought to the Navy's turtle
protection centre in Phang-nga province where they are
nursed for another six months before being released into
There are several NGO's (non-government organisations)
and volunteer groups working in Thailand with the aim of
protecting sea turtles. Naucrates, for example, have
greatly reduced egg poaching on the islands of Ko Phra
Thong and Ko Khao, just north of Khao Lak.