Phi Phi Scuba Diving

See The Hawksbill Turtles

Hawksbill Turtles, along with blacktip reef sharks, are amongst the most treasured encounters for both divers and snorkelers in the waters here around Ko Phi Phi.

Sadly Hawksbill Turtles are listed as Critically Endangered, or at serious risk of extinction primarily through human activity. See the Hawksbill Turtles with a special scuba dive trip with the adventure club phi phi These docile creatures have a distinctive appearance, including a tapered head ending in a characteristic sharp beak that resembles that of a bird (hence its common name), and a decorative amber, yellow and brown protective carapace or shell. The scientific name, Eretmochelys imbricata is also indicative of its appearance – imbricata means overlapping scales or scutes.

Habitat

As an adult Hawksbill Turtles are medium-sized, reaching up to 1 meter in length, weighing between 40 – 68kgs, and living an average lifespan of 30 – 50 years in the wild. Adults are found to prefer shallow coastal waters and coral reefs throughout tropical waters, and some temperature areas. Hawksbill Turtles seen on an Adventure Club Phi Phi scuba diveHawksbill turtles may have home reefs (and even favorite hiding places on the reef) where they spend much of their adult lives – which is where we are so fortunate here. Our divers frequently come across these beautiful creatures during our local dive trips, especially at Malong and Palong dive sites.

But it is just as common for our snorkelers, to see Hawksbill turtles, particularly on the Phi Phi Ley trip.

Feeding

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Hawksbill Turtles are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems and help to maintain the health of coral reefs.

These turtles use their sturdy beak to feed primarily on sponges, jellyfish, and the fleshy polyps of certain hard corals. It’s estimated that one turtle can consume over 450 kilos of sponges per year.

It is with the help of turtles that prevents the spread of sponges across the reef creating a balance with other reef encrusting organisms.

Nesting

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The hawksbill turtle takes decades to mature, first breeding at 20+ years of age. Turtles leave the sea to lay their eggs on the beach. They will choose a spot, dig a hole, lay their eggs, cover them up and return to the sea leaving their eggs behind. The eggs will remain buried for around 60 days until they hatch. Hawksbill Turtles lay an amazing 60 to 200 eggs every nesting season, then rest for 2 to 3 years before nesting again.

Nesting sites along the Andaman Sea coast of Thailand include beaches at Phra Thong island, Thai Muang National Park, the west coast of Phuket island, the Surin and Similan islands (Huyong Island), and Turatao National Park.

Having survived the dash to the sea, hawksbill hatchlings are believed to spend their first few lost years in the open ocean before returning to more sheltered coastal waters. It is estimated that less than one out of 1,000 eggs will survive and reach adulthood.

Threats

Hawksbill Turtles are threatened by habitat loss (both feeding habitat and degradation of nesting habitat due to coastal development), disorientation of hatchlings by beachfront lighting, over-exploitation, and egg collection, fishing-related mortality, and marine pollution. However, they are most threatened by wildlife trade through poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking.

Sea turtles need to surface to breathe and therefore are particularly susceptible to entanglement in marine debris or trash, gillnets, ghost nets (abandoned nets) or accidental capture on fishing hooks. Many drown once caught and as fishing activity and marine pollution expand, this threat becomes a greater problem.

Hawksbill turtles are also impacted by changes in the global climate. Eggs that are incubated in warmer sand temperatures tend to produce females, while those laid on cooler sand are more likely to be males. The outcome of this is likely to be a skewed sex ratio, which could threaten the stability of hawksbill turtle populations in the future

Today’s population of hawksbill turtles is sadly believed to be less than 10 percent of what it was a century ago. The decline of this species is primarily due to human exploitation for tortoiseshell, with the hawksbill shell being the most decorative and sought-after, their beautiful brown and yellow carapace plates being manufactured into tortoiseshell items for jewelry and ornaments. While the legal hawksbill shell trade ended when Japan agreed to stop importing shell in 1993, a significant illegal trade in hawksbill shell and products continues.

Come and see the Hawksbill Turtles, pick and book an excursion today!

By Published On: November 27th, 2018Categories: Marine Life
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