Turtles in Mafia Island

Tanzania has five species of turtle: the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Leatherback (Demochelys coriacea) and the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea).

In Mafia one will often see the Hawksbill while snorkelling and diving, and the much larger Greens (up to 1.5m) and Leatherbacks (growing to 2m) can be seen outside Chole Bay and on the reefs of Ras Mkumbi, especially during breeding season in August-September. Green turtles sometimes lay their eggs at the beaches around Lua Cheia in Bweni, and Sea Sense maintains and polices breeding sites around Chole Bay, where visitors may go to see hatchings.

The Leatherback is unusual in that it feeds almost exclusively on jellyfish; Green turtles eat sea grass and algae; Hawksbills graze sponges and invertebrates which is why we often see them in Choole Bay. Loggerheads and live Ridley turtles have varied diets, eating molluscs, crabs, fish and jellyfish.


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