Turtle Snorkeling in Oahu
Our Turtle Snorkeling Oahu Tour
Snorkel With Turtles is a company that operates a turtle snorkeling boat trip out of Hawaii Kai on the southeast shore of Oahu. This turtle snorkeling tour has been operating mid May 2021 post Covid-19 shutdowns and we haven’t run a tour yet that hasn’t seen green sea turtles in the wild.
It is a 2.5 hour tour dock to dock. All snorkeling equipment is included. Turtle snorkeling guides are in the water and provide basic instruction on snorkeling for first timers. Floatation is provided, and there are even underwater scooter powered rescue floats for weaker swimmers.
Tours tend to sell out, but you can cancel for a full refund with 24 hours notice. Turtle Snorkeling Oahu is a popular activity, we recommend that book early, and you can always come back and cancel if your plans change.
What does turtle snorkeling Oahu tour entail?
While there are quite a few turtle snorkeling tours to choose from on the island. Here is how our tour works.
You boat departure time is indicated on your booking. You only need to be there prior to departure time. However, delays in transportation can make you miss the boat. It is best to plan on arriving a half hour prior to departure. When you arrive you will fill out a boat travel and snorkeling liability waiver and board the vessel.
This boat was built in Hawaii in 1990. It is an older vessel, fairly slow, but very wide and stable on the ocean. We are not going too far, approximately one half mile off shore. The vessel is USCG certified and inspected annually. It is a perfect vessel for turtle snorkeling Oahu.
Once you arrive and are signed in, the staff will begin to hand out snorkeling equipment based on your sizes. There will be time to try on the fins, masks, and positive floatation snorkeling vests. Snorkeling vests are bright yellow, and are not only for floatation, but for easy visibility in the water.
At departure time, the boat safety briefing will begin. The captain will give you are short briefing on the safety features of the vessel and emergency procedures. This briefing is required by the USCG, but is also important safety information in the unlikely event of an emergency.
The boat ride out will be used to brief guests on turtle snorkeling oahu procedures. How do I fit a mask? How do I clear a mask of water? How do I clear a snorkel? What is a proper fin kick? How do I use the safety vest? All of these questions will be answered by your snorkeling guide. Experienced snorkelers may already know some of this information, for them it may be a reminder.
The captain will maneuver the vessel to a submerged mooring. These moorings prevent anchor damage at sites we visit daily. A crew member will enter the water to secure the vessel to the mooring. It will then be time to begin snorkeling with turtles! Generally, more experienced swimmers will enter the water first, as they are usually eager to get wet. Less experienced swimmers will be offered the chance to hold onto the large rescue floats for assistance.
Once you in the water you will be able to look down and see the bottom. You will be able to see the turtles resting or feeding there. But wait, it gets better. Turtles breathe air. Every few minutes turtles will swim to the surface to breathe. This is when the close up encounters happen.
Don’t touch the turtles
Beside being illegal, it is also not a good idea for many reasons. Firstly, these turtles trust us not to harass them. They see snorkelers and scuba divers every day. And every day we don’t harass them. There is a level of trust between human and turtle. We ask you to respect this, not because it is illegal to touch a turtle (it is), but because it is the right thing to do. In addition, we will have to remove you from the water for the remainder of the trip. We are serious. Don’t touch the turtles.
How close can I get?
Well think social distancing, which is pretty close. Also, these turtles do trust us and may come closer. That is okay, just remain still and resist the temptation to reach out and touch them. Also, when they are coming up to breath, leave them a clear path to the surface. They will take about 5 breaths and then head back down to the bottom.
The ledges that you see underwater are the remains of collapsed lava tubes. All kinds of reef fish and coral are down there, about 30 feet.
The first fish that you will notice will be the ones that live in the water column above the bottom and will be closer to you. Some of these species are:
- The black triggerfish – a relative of the state fish, it is an all black fish with an intricate pattern of dark green/purple on its face.
- The Hawaiian sargent – you will be able to identify this damselfish by its oval shape and pattern of dark bars across the body (think prison bars)
- The pennant butterfly fish – white and yellow alternating pattern across the body of the fish with a long streamer pennant coming of the top of the fish
- The state fish – the humuhumunukunukuapuaha. Yes, that is really the name. It is also a triggerfish. This one you will need to look for on the bottom. It is mostly orange with a yellow V lade sideways on it back half.
- And then there are the rarer encounters
- Moray eels on the bottom
- Small white tip reef sharks (zero danger)
- Eagle rays
- And we have even seen Monk Seals (critically endangered)
- Humpback whales in season
Turtle Snorkeling Oahu additional free online training
While the turtle snorkeling Oahu tour we offer is snorkeling only, it is associated with the scuba diving shops Island Divers Hawaii and Honolulu Scuba Company. The shops sponsor free online training for those who would like to prepare as much as possible for the experience. It is not required. The guides are going to cover this material in the briefings before you get in the water. However, if you would like to learn a little more online, here is how you do that.
Create a free account with SSI and download the MySSI app
Once you have the MySSI app opened, navigate to Programs and Cards. One of the free programs you will find there is Snorkel Diver. That is the program relevant to our experience, but once you are there you may find other free online learning that interests you. Blue Oceans is an interesting ocean conservation program. There are others: Try Scuba, Try Freediving, Mermaid. All of it is free, so enjoy.