It’s nesting season—and Palm Beach County beaches are not only some of the most densely nested in Florida, but along the entire coastal United States. That means the odds of divers encountering sea turtles in the water soars between March and October—and Jupiter Dive Center can help you discover these amazing sea creatures!
Five species of sea turtles are found in our area, and all are considered endangered or critically endangered. The three most abundant species are the loggerhead, green, and hawksbill. Less abundant are the leatherbacks and the Kemp’s Ridleys. So with five species swimming around, how do you tell which one is a Chelonia mydas?*
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Sea turtles of all species are cold-blooded, so warm water is critical to their survival. Loggerhead sea turtles can be found in coastal waters, and they occasionally travel inland. Hatchlings live in the Sargassum mats found floating several miles offshore.
Loggerhead sea turtles are the most common sea turtle in Florida. Their name derives from a distinctive part of their anatomy—their big heads. They are carnivorous and their diet consists of mainly crabs, fishes, and jellies; although sometimes they’ll munch on seaweed as well. Loggerheads weigh between 200 and 350 pounds and typically measure about 3 feet in length. Their carapace (shell) is also reddish-brown in color.
Green Sea Turtles
Like the loggerhead, green sea turtles got their name due to their most obvious attribute: they’re green. But when the visibility decreases, there are still a couple of other clues to help you identify this species.
An adult female weighs around 300 pounds and they typically reach 3-4 feet in length, which on average is about 50 pounds heavier and a foot longer than loggerheads. They have small heads and their neck and shoulders are green and gold. They also have four scutes (the keratin shell plates) on each side of their shell.
Hawksbill Sea Turtles
Hawksbill sea turtles are easily identifiable by their hawk-like beak and their beautiful shells.
Harvesting of their shells for “tortoiseshell” jewelry and decorative items have landed this species on the critically endangered list.
Hawksbills are often seen while they pass through Florida waters, but they nest elsewhere.
Critically endangered, leatherback sea turtles are the largest and deepest diving of sea turtles. Although the majority of their time is spent swimming in the upper 900 feet of the water column, leatherbacks routinely dive deeper than 3,000 feet. A diver’s best chance to see one is when it is basking on the surface.
Unlike other species of sea turtles, leatherbacks have a soft shell that compresses with pressure changes and resembles leather (hence their name). They typically weigh between 700 and 1500 pounds at maturity and can reach lengths between 4 and 8 feet.
The largest leatherback ever recorded clocked in at a staggering 2,019 pounds and measured nearly 9 feet from beak to tail. Leatherback feeds almost exclusively on jellyfish, eating their own body weight of the gelatinous animals on a daily basis.
Kemp’s - Ridley Sea Turtles
The shell of a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is the key to its identification—not only because of its gray to olive coloring but because it’s rounder than the other species.
Unlike green sea turtles, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles have 5 scutes on each side of their shell and are wider, than they are long. They also tend to be smaller. A typical adult female measures 2-2.5 feet and weigh between 75 and 100 pounds. Although they are frequently found in Florida waters, they nest in Mexico.
How to Learn More
It's one thing to know the basics, but you can take your knowledge about sea turtles to a whole different level with a Sea Turtle Awareness Course offered in partnership with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. The class begins at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center where experts share their knowledge regarding the role sea turtles play in the marine environment, the issues they face, and the steps divers can take to protect sea turtles.
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center also provides sea turtle rehabilitation care, and students will be able to see hatchlings as well as adult turtles at the facility.
Beyond Turtles…Goliath Groupers!
It’s about to get a bit more crowded in Jupiter! Goliath groupers—those gentle giants of the sea—will start aggregating in our waters starting in late summer to spawn.
Diving with dozens of Goliath’s is truly a bucket list—and Jupiter Dive Center knows exactly where to take you.
Are you ready to dive with sea turtles and plenty of other amazing critters? The waters off Jupiter are full of beautiful reefs, exciting wrecks, and plenty of adventures. Call Jupiter Dive Center at 561-745-7807 and book your dive today.
* Chelonia mydas is the green sea turtle.
A Reminder About New Certification Requirements
Diving is an inherently dangerous sport, but fortunately, it doesn’t take much to substantially minimize the risk, and diver safety is Jupiter Dive Center’s number one priority. Please remember that all divers are required to have a nitrox certification, a surface marker buoy, a dive computer, and appropriate certifications for depth. Many of our charters require an advanced open-water certification and that information is noted on the booking page under each dive.
Lobster Sport Season July 27-28 2023
Lobster Sport Season is just around the corner and if you want to catch your dinner, there are a couple of things you need to know. (For some tips check out this blog post –but don’t pay attention to the dates, it’s from 2020), Our lobster dive charters require divers to be advanced open water and nitrox certified. During Lobster sport season, destinations are chosen with hunting in mind. Each diver is responsible for having their own recreational saltwater fishing license, any appropriate permits, and to practice hunting in compliance with season, size, and limits (here’s a link to the current regulations). We always maintain communal catch coolers on our boats. Happy hunting and bon appetit!