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An Underwater Photograph of an Endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles (1/3)

One of the most captivating and beautiful creatures in Hanauma Bay is the Green Sea Turtle, or honu. These graceful animals inhabit the waters of the bay and many other places around the world.

The honu are featured in Hawaiian mythology, petroglyphs and as aumakua (personal family gods). Early Hawaiians used green sea turtles as a source of food, tools and ornamentation. The native Hawaiians made sure to keep their use of the turtle in balance with nature.

However, with the arrival of western culture came the exploitation of natural resources like the turtles. Large numbers of green sea turtles were harvested throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth century. In 1974, the State of Hawaii passed a regulation providing protection. In 1978 the Hawaiian green sea turtle was placed on the list of threatened species.

Interacting with Turtles

The summer months are usually the best times to visit the honu at Hanauma Bay or other locations. When observing and swimming with the green sea turtle, it is important that you take a few precautions. Under no circumstances should you disturb the turtles. Do no touch, chase or scare them. It is best to stay at least 10 feet away from the turtles.

In Hanauma Bay, the turtles remain in the shallow water near the reefs. They are very comfortable around people and will swim alongside snorkelers. Even if a turtle approaches you, give it plenty of room to swim and surface for air. State law makes it illegal to touch the turtles.

Look for signs of annoyance while you are swimming with the honu. If you get too close, the turtles will warn you by making a “yawning” type motion with their mouth. When they are very irritated, you will see a “flipper swipe” over the forehead. This is the turtle’s way of telling you to back off.

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