One of the most famous scuba diving destinations in Asia not just Thailand, Koh Tao, which translates from Thai to English as ‘Turtle Island’, is home to two species of indigenous turtles, the Green Turtle and The Hawksbill Turtle. Although the name Turtle Island actually comes from the shape of the island viewed from the approach from the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan, which the original settlers did.
There is a great chance to see a turtle whilst enjoying a scuba diving during your open water course as there are several resident turtles. There is also a breeding and conservation program run by several local dive schools with a chance to see the feeding of juvenile turtles before their release into the wild!
When seen in their natural habitat turtles are usually calm and will allow a respectful scuba diver to come quite close and can then be observed eating algae, swimming along the reefs and, if you are lucky, heading to the surface to take a breath before descending for a further meal! Each turtle has a distinct pattern of scales along its face much like the fingerprint on a human.
If you are lucky enough to get a photo or video of the left side of the turtle’s face you can submit the image for identification to the Facebook page Koh Tao Turtles and find the name of your turtle! If it is as yet unidentified you can choose the name yourself! Without a photo or video evidence it is still possible for you to identify the species of turtle that you have seen. The Hawksbill turtle has a distinctive beak-shaped face with 2 pairs of prefrontal scutes (the scales on the front of the face inbetween their eyes). The carapace (or shell) is also distinctive with an elliptical shape with the scutes (or scales) overlapping and a jagged edge, although this can be worn smooth in older individuals. The Green turtle has a rounded face with only one pair of prefrontal scutes. The carapace is rounded or oval with scutes that abut (do not overlap) and a smooth edge.
Do you want to see a turtle? Then book your dives with us, either a 1 day try scuba diving or the open water course to get your diving licence. You will have the biggest smile on your face afterwards.