Hawksbill and leatherback turtles live in large numbers along the reefs surrounding Barbados. At one time, these turtles were endangered, but things have changed on this island. The turtles are now protected and even watched over by local fisherman, and the population has significantly increased.
Turtles tend to stay in the same place for quite some time. In Barbados, they can often be found swimming and feeding along the relatively shallow reef near the Lone Star Restaurant. The turtles are monitored here, and guides have found that they are sociable and quite tame. While the turtles do not show up at this spot every day, locals and tour operators say that they can be found here at least 80% of the time if the weather is good.
Swimming with the turtles has definitely become one of the highlights of a family visit to Barbados. On good weather days, snorkelers can be seen swimming and interacting with the turtles as they play and feed along the reef. While swimming out from the beach is possible, it is not recommended for those families with younger children. One of the best ways to swim with the turtles is to sign up for one of the many sailboat tour and snorkeling excursions that include a stop at this reef. These tours are safe for children, and snorkeling equipment, life vests, and lunch are generally provided.
Tiami Catamarans offers five-hour sail and snorkel cruises daily. These excursions include three stops for swimming and snorkeling, and swimming with the turtles is the highlight of this trip. The first stop generally is the one at which you can swim with the turtles, and the remaining two snorkeling stops are at a shallow shipwreck and at another inshore reef. Their rates include round-trip transportation, drinks, and an expansive buffet lunch at anchor in a quiet bay.
Families who want to snorkel with the turtles and are staying at Almond Beach Village are in luck. This all-inclusive resort offers trips to visit the turtles three times each day. Check with the Watersports Desk to find out the current times. In addition, this family-friendly property offers a full-service nursery for children up to three years old. The resort's Kids' Club delivers a wide variety of daily activities for children ages four to twelve, including local dance lessons, arts and crafts, pool and beach time, and other adventures.
If you're going to the beach to swim out on your own, consider taking the family to the Lone Star Restaurant before or after your swim with the turtles. You can dine on the beach or on the deck overlooking the water. The food - and the proximity to the turtles - are excellent.
If your family is hankering for more nature adventures while on Barbados, make sure to take them to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve. It's well worth the trip. Here, you'll see turtles and land tortoises, agouti, peacocks, and a variety of other birds -- but the highlight of the trip is the opportunity to see the many green monkeys that inhabit the reserve. The animals roam freely in this Wildlife Reserve, and there are many opportunities to take close-up pictures. The best time to visit is at 3 p.m. when the animals are fed, so make sure to plan your day accordingly. Although the monkeys are free to move through the trees and leave the park at any time, you and your children will likely see one or two green monkeys if you visit at that time.