This post is part of Blog Action Day--October 15, where bloggers around the world will unite by posting something about the environment on this day. If you are taking part in this project, please share your post by leaving it in a comment.
For people in Hawaii--locals and tourist alike--it is a rare treat to see turtles in the ocean or on the beach resting in their natural environment. It is especially awesome if the only place you had seen a turtle before is in an aquarium.
The "honu", Hawaiian name for the green sea turtle, is not called green because of the color of their shell or outer appearance, but for the color of their flesh which is green from eating seaweed. The honu is an endangered animal but has made a remarkable come back and you can see them often in certain areas of Hawaii's ocean and beaches.
There is another rarer turtle whose numbers have not rebounded and is nearly extinct, it is the Hawaiian Hawksbill Sea Turtle, named for its sharp beak-like mouth. Hunted and exploited for their beautiful shell which often was referred to as "tortoise shell", the population is alarmingly estimated at less than 30 nesting turtles. They are the most endangered turtles in the Pacific Ocean.
Watch a video of exclusive rare footage of Hawksbill baby turtles emerging from their mother's nest.
Both the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle and Hawksbill Sea Turtle are protected by the Endangered Species Act. It is against the law to touch, harass, or harm the turtles in any way, and the penalties include jail time or large fines.
If you see a turtle while swimming or snorkeling in the water, give it 10 to 15 feet of space and enough room to surface and breathe. If you see a turtle resting on the beach, stay a respectful distance away to admire it or take photographs. This resting honu photograph is courtesy of Go Visit Hawaii.
The best place to see Honu green sea turtles is at Punalu'u Beach Park. At night however, you can sometimes see Hawksbill turtles laboring across the dark sand to lay their eggs in holes above the tide line.
Other good places to see Hawaiian turtles are:
Kaloko-Honokahau National Historic Park in North Kona
Kahalu'u Beach Park, about 6 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Ali'i Drive
Honaunau Bay near the City of Refuge
Read our other post Hawaiian Ocean Life and Coral Reef Etiquette with links to a underwater video of sea turtles and fish that inhabit the fragile reef environment and how we can protect it, and also a link to download a free Hawaiian Reef Fish ID Chart.