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Meeting wild Loggerhead Turtles in Kefalonia

Meeting wild Loggerhead Turtles (4)

Rewind to summer 2014 and there we were on a tiny island off the coast of Greece with wild Loggerhead Turtles just inches away from our feet…how was this even happening?!

This was such an unexpected treat when I visited Kefalonia last year because it was only through word of mouth (and also eavesdropping on a fellow guest at our hotel reception) that I had even found out about the turtles in Argostoli Bay. But after talking to locals about the details, we found out where and when we needed to be to find the infamous sea turtles. We were told that the turtles patrol the bay every morning between 9am and 11am waiting for fisherman to discard any fish that they are unable sell. Although it’s never a sure thing as the turtles come of their own accord to catch some breakfast, we definitely didn’t want to miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity.

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Argostoli Bay

We started walking down to the town centre of Argostoli at around 10am and arrived in no doubt of where the turtles were as when we got to the bay there was a small congregation of people with their cameras clicking away.

As we approached the bay the first turtle swam from beneath a small fishing boat and it was huge. I later found out that Loggerhead Turtles are the world’s second largest hard-shelled turtles so it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise; but having never seen any turtle this close up in the wild before it was something I just didn’t expect!

It was mesmerising watching them swim up and down the bay, coming up for air and bobbing on the surface in the gentle sea current. They glide through the water so beautifully, we could have stood around watching them all day. I wondered how long they had been coming to the bay and how this tradition even started but no one seemed to have any answers, locals simply see them as an extended part of their island life.

But of course it’s not just around the Greek islands you’ll find Loggerhead Turtles, their enormous range encompasses all but the colder waters of the world’s oceans. They seem to prefer coastal habitats and often frequent inland water bodies but will travel hundreds of miles out into the open ocean.

We sadly found out after our encounter in Kefalonia that Loggerhead Turtles are actually an endangered species and were placed on the endangered list as ‘threatened’ in 1978. The reasons for this being mainly humans hunting them for their shells and flippers as in some parts of the world they fetch a high price. Although there are now laws against this, in many areas it is something that sadly continues to take place anyway.

As well as humans being a threat, their nests are often destroyed by other predators like Raccoons and Wild Pigs on beaches and are hunted by Reef Fish and Sharks in the water which has a huge impact on their numbers and chances to reproduce. When I found out about this, I felt fortunate that I got the chance to see these beautiful animals in their natural habitat. You could also tell by the way people reacted to them that the turtles had a positive impact on everyone that was watching them from the side of the bay. It was simply amazing.

Meeting wild Loggerhead Turtles (3)

Meeting wild Loggerhead Turtles (2)

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Meeting wild Loggerhead Turtles (1)

Top 10 fun facts about Loggerhead Turtles

1) They only lay 4 eggs every 2-3 years

2) Mature females will often return, sometimes over thousands of miles to the beach where they hatched to lay their own eggs

3) They live between 47 and 67 years old

4) They can weigh anything from 80kg to 200kg

5) They can move through the water at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour

6) They dive for an average duration of 15–30 minutes

7) They are primarily carnivores, munching jellyfish, conchs, crabs, and even fish, but will also occasionally eat seaweed

8) Small juveniles will spend from 7 to 12 years traveling oceanic waters before returning to nearshore waters

9) The Loggerhead is named for its exceptionally large head

10) The first sea turtles were on Earth nearly 150 million years

…Also something I had to share (despite being a little random!) was how to sign ‘Turtle’ in British Sign Language (BSL). It is my favourite sign because it is so utterly adorable but also completely representative of  the animal itself so go on, give it a go ;)

British Sign Language

Have you ever seen turtles in the wild before or had any encounters like this? Comment below :)

Mel x

About the author

Hi, I’m Mel! The adventure-seeking vegan travel blogger behind Footsteps on the Globe. On this blog you'll find my latest adventures, travel inspiration as well as tips and tricks on how to be vegan around the world. You don’t have to give up being vegan to follow your travel dreams and I’m here to show you how!