Sipadan is one of few places in the world where sea turtles gather and live freely in the wild. In Sipadan divers get the rare opportunity to swim side by side with more than twenty turtles each dive. All sea turtles in the world are considered as threatened species mainly due to human practices like the consumption of turtle eggs and illegal collection of turtle shells. Many turtles have also lost their natural habitat due to real estate development and pollution. Many turtles have died chocking on plastic bags mistaken for food (jelly fish) and they are also threatened by entanglement, especially in fishing nets. Fortunately, Sipadan has a very healthy population of sea turtles.
Thanks to Sabah Park; our governing body that helps preserve and protect Sipadan together with the combined efforts of dive resorts and operators in our area, diver and snorkelers get to see turtles swimming peacefully, free from any threat. Turtles gather in cleaning stations in various dive sites in Sipadan to have small cleaner fishes and shrimps help clean them. Divers can get really close to them as turtles here are not afraid of divers thanks to the No-touch rule implemented by all dive operators here. Since turtles are not harassed, they are not afraid.
There two species of sea turtles in Sipadan. The most common is the Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), an endangered species and the rarer species is the Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) which is a critically endangered species.
The Green turtle and Hawksbill turtle both look rather similar but the biggest difference between a Green turtle & Hawksbill turtle is its beak. The Hawksbill turtle has a sharper and curvier beak while the Green turtle's beak is unhooked. An adult Green turtle is broader and a lot heavier and larger in size. Both turtles are endangered species but the Hawksbill turtle is considered as critically endangered with a significantly low population as compared to the more common Green turtle. The Green turtle is carnivorous when young and turned herbivorous as an adult with seagrass as its main diet. The Hawksbill turtle is omnivorous and prefer sea sponges and jellyfish as its primary food source.
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