My guide to swimming with turtles in Cyprus – a bucket list experience if there ever was one!
Whenever I think of swimming with turtles I always imagine you have to do it in one of those far-flung destinations like Bali or the Maldives.
To me, it seemed like something that would be expensive and well out of my price range. Well, it turns out I was wrong about that.
We went on a half-day trip snorkelling with turtles in Cyprus and, guess what, it didn’t cost the earth. It was also amazing! However, that’s not to say the day was exactly as I expected. However, seeing the turtles merrily swimming away under the water was incredibly cool and it felt like a proper bucket list experience that I was so happy to check off.
Plus, we got some amazing photos of the experience that I know I’ll treasure forever. I only wish that I got a little bit closer to the turtles, but more on that later on.
Here’s a complete breakdown of my trip…
Where can you go swimming with turtles in Cyprus?
There are a number of places that you can go swimming with turtles in Cyprus. We were staying in Kissonerga, just outside Paphos, so this particular experience was on that side of the island.
The place we went was St George’s Harbour, which is in Pegeia.
Who did we book the turtle snorkelling experience with?
Well, we booked directly through the hotel. There was a big sign by the pool that we walked past every day that advertised a handful of trips.
One for a scuba diving full-day experience and another for a half-day snorkelling with sea turtles experience. It literally didn’t say anything else, just sea turtles, snorkelling, half day. Not a lot of information to go on!
We ummed and ahhed for a bit. There was another advert for a full day scube diving trip which also sounded cool. I’d always wanted to try it and I liked the idea of finally doing it. However, I was less enamoured by the training you had to do in a pool beforehand. Of course, I understand you have to do training, I didn’t fancy having to concentrate for three hours while I was on holiday! Call me lazy but I really wanted to just switch off, not have to focus and take in important information. Terrible, I know.
In the end, we decided to book the snorkelling with turtles. We booked via the reception desk at the hotel. Again, there wasn’t a huge amount of information. The only thing we knew was that we were getting picked up at the reception at 9.30. Exciting!
How big was the group on our trip?
There were only four of us on the trip. I don’t know if that was a particularly small group due to it being out of season – we were visiting in early October – but I didn’t mind. More turtle time for us! It was another couple who were with us on the trip. They were from Germany and they were actually on their honeymoon. What a great thing to do on honeymoon!
Anyway, we drove to the beach and parked up near the shore, where there were other vehicles parked up. There were groups of other snorkelers around (larger groups) so it was pretty clear that this was the place to be for snorkelling with sea turtles.
A guide to swimming with turtles in St Georges Bay in Cyprus
Arriving at the harbour + getting our equipment
The first thing we did was get sorted in terms of equipment. We were handed goggles that we then had to go and wash out with soapy water at a nearby sink to ensure that the glass was clear. There’s no point snorkelling if you can’t see anything, right?
Then we were handed a pair of flippers each. There were a bunch to choose from so we all got a pair that matched our shoe size. And then it was onto disrobing! I’m not gonna lie it did feel a little awkward. One minute we’re all standing around and then we’re getting undressed in front of one another. But I guess I got over it pretty quickly.
It was around this point that I asked, perfectly innocently, “Oh, are we not getting a boat then?’ I was really only saying my surprise out loud because that’s what I had in my head about what we’d be doing. However, I think that made our tour guide think that I couldn’t swim or something because when he pulled out a couple of hand-held scooters he made sure that one of them was handed to me. I was fine with that, they looked cool!
Anyway, it was then that we headed down to the water, all ready for action. We got a quick demo of how to use the scooters and that was it.
Preparing to go into the water
There wasn’t a whole lot of safety briefing for this tour. Maybe that’s because there were only four of us, I’m not sure. But either way, we pretty much went in without any direction. Our guide asked us if we wanted a pool noodle (a type of float) but I felt like it would just get in the way.
We walked out and then began to swim, and luckily the water temperature was pretty nice. Not too cold or anything! We basically just swam out and then started going to different areas of the harbour to try and find the turtles. This was it!
Searching for sea turtles…
Now that I’m writing this I actually remember that the poster at the hotel said ‘sea turtles – guaranteed’. I asked the receptionist at the hotel and she said that’s because the tour guide knows exactly where the turtles hang out and where they’re likely to be. He even had names for them!
The one he mentioned the most was Jenny, and he talked about her like he was talking about a friend, which made me chuckle. Another name he mentioned was Max, which was the big male turtle. So we weren’t just looking for any old sea turtles, we were looking for Jenny and Max!
Still searching for sea turtles…
However, it appeared that the turtles didn’t want to be found that day. It felt like we were swimming for ages without a sniff of any turtles.
Our tour guide kept shouting over and asking the other snorkelling groups in the water if they’d seen the turtles and then we’d head over to a different area… and a different area… and a different area.
I was starting to think we wouldn’t see any at all! Of course, we would be the people who went on the ‘guaranteed’ swimming with turtles in Cyprus tour and didn’t see one! That would be just my luck!
And then, just when I was about to give up in my head, we saw one. I heard our tour guide yelling and pointing and then there one was gliding away in the water below. It looked so chill, just floating away while we all lost our minds and scrabbled to keep up with it. It was incredible!
We swam along with it for a few minutes and it felt like one of those really special moments that don’t come around very often. Our guide told us afterwards that this turtle was Max!
Spotting turtle number two!
We decided to turn around for a break after that and then, after we’d headed back halfway to shore, we saw another one! I just appeared out of nowhere. I can’t remember what the name of this one was, all I can remember is that is wasn’t Jenny – which was a bit of a shame.
We headed back to shore and took a 15-minute break and a drink – which was very welcome. We then headed back out for another go, and this time I felt a lot more comfortable swimming.
I was able to dive down into the water properly, and I didn’t get half as much seawater in my mouth this time around. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any more sea turtles this time but I was OK with that – I felt like two sea turtles were decent innings.
Key information about this trip
1. You don’t need to pack snorkelling gear
First thing to note is that you don’t have to bring any equipment. The snorkelling gear and flippers are all provided for you.
As I mentioned, the tour guide also provided what he called a ‘scooter’ – a battery-powered machine that you operate with your hands. It basically powers you along in the water when you want to go faster – or you’re a bit tired. I don’t think there would be enough for everyone if there was a larger group, however. I only saw two but perhaps there were more.
2. There’s no boat
When we booked this trip I envisioned catching a boat from a harbour and then driving it out into the middle of the sea, where we would then jump in and begin our snorkelling adventure. A bit like the Blue Lagoon trip!
It turns out that isn’t the case. You simply park up at the harbour and enter the sea from the shore – which I wasn’t expecting!
3. You have to be a strong swimmer
One thing I would mention is that the waves got pretty choppy the further you went out – like when we went beyond the harbour area.
The other girl in our group didn’t feel comfortable and she ended up turning back, although she did come back in when we went in for the second time after a break. So you do have to be a strong swimmer.
You’re in the water for a long time, you’re well beyond your depth so you can’t just stop and have a breather, and you have the waves to deal with. I do feel like it took me a little while to get a hang of snorkelling. I would have done a practice round if I got the chance!
4. Don’t put your mask on too tight
Unless you want a big red mark on your forehead! If I did it again I’d adjust my snorkel mask before I went in the first time. Mine was really quite tight. I thought it was fine as you want it that way to keep the water out, but by the time I came out after the first session, it was a little painful.
It was also imprinted on my forehead for the rest of the day. At one point I thought it was going to be there forever but luckily it disappeared after I had a shower in the evening. Phew!
What should you pack to go swimming with turtles in Cyprus?
There was a moment on the drive to the harbour when I panicked that we were supposed to bring our own snorkelling equipment with us on the day. And, obviously, we hadn’t.
I think that came from the Blue Lagoon cruise we’d done the day before where I realised that they didn’t provide snorkelling masks… but only we were on the boat and about to jump in. So, it’s worth noting what you should bring for this trip.
Oh, the poster in the hotel also failed to mention that the tour guide will take photos with a Go-Pro as part of the trip! I’d just bought a plastic phone cover so I could take my phone out with me, but it’s not really suitable for this. But it’s all good, you have the Go-Pro!
What’s provided on the trip…
- Snorkelling gear
- Flippers (in a range of sizes)
- A motorized scooter
- Camera (GoPro)
What you should bring for snorkelling with turtles…
A swimming costume
Let’s start with the obvious. I would add to this and say a swimming costume that you feel comfortable in. As I said ou have to strip off on the shore of the beach, which, I’m not gonna lie, I felt a little bit awkward about. Maybe you’ll be fine but just a heads up!
Shoes for swimming
As I’ve mentioned, you have to walk down to the beach to enter the water. Our tour guide seemed to do this effortlessly, meanwhile I was gingerly stepping over all the rocks and sharp bits that were hurting my feet. Next time, I’d pack water shoes/aqua shoes (whatever you call them) that you can wear with flippers and save myself a bit of pain!
I can’t tell you how much seawater I swallowed during the first leg of the snorkelling experience, but it was a lot!
I was therefore absolutely gasping for something to take the taste away of all the horrible sea water when we got out. I was extremely jealous of the other couple’s big bottle of Sprite… until I clocked the shop nearby.
- A towel
- Hair ties
One last thing…
Remember to share your phone number with the tour guide so that they can send the pics to you on WhatsApp afterwards! Our guide almost forgot, I had to remind him, otherwise he would’ve gone and we never would have seen the amazing photos and videos!
FAQs about swimming with turtles in Cyprus
Where is the best place to swim with turtles in Cyprus?
As far as I can tell there are various places on the island where you can swim with turtles, so it just depends where you’re staying.
There is a spot in Ayia Napa where you can swim with turtles, and Protaras is another place that is listed, so there are various options.
Are there turtles in the Blue Lagoon in Cyprus?
Well, not that I saw. We went on the Blue Lagoon trip and while the water was beautiful and crystal clear, I didn’t see any turtles.
To be honest, three or four other boats pulled up at the same time so it kind of had more of a party boat vibe… rather than somewhere you go to spot wildlife. I’m sure you can (I’ve seen a couple of YouTube videos about it) but it wasn’t advertised as a place to spot sea turtles!
Can you swim with turtles in Paphos Cyprus?
Yes. I believe the one we did would be listed as a Paphos experience as it wasn’t located too far away from Paphos. The other couple on the trip were based in Paphos and they were picked up from there. We were picked up from our hotel in Kissonerga, a little bit out.
If you don’t fancy getting in the water and swimming with turtles you can also do a turtle cruise from Paphos. It’s called the Atlantis Turtle Watching Cruise and it’s listed on TripAdvisor.