Best time to travel to South Africa

Turtle Nesting in South Africa

If you've never seen a turtle that weights 400 kg, you should visit South Africa

Best time: November–March

Turtle Nesting
Turtle Nesting

Giant sea turtles, particularly the Leatherback and Loggerhead, love warm South African beaches so much that they cross an entire ocean to lay eggs there. The reptiles choose to nest at precisely the same beach they hatched themselves. Just so that you realize the scale of such a wildlife encounter—a Leatherback turtle is the largest of all sea turtles and the second largest reptile after a crocodile.

Safaris take place at night when huge reptiles leave the sea to find a safe place on the beach to lay their precious eggs. Baby turtles normally hatch in two months, but only a few of the hatchlings will survive, about one or two in a thousand, to be precise.

Turtle tracking season in South Africa is from November to March, a time when you'll find dozens of tours on offer. Most of them operate in the St Lucia Wetland Park located in KwaZulu Natal. Great turtle spotting areas are found in Mabibi, Cape Vidal, Manzengwenya, Sodwana Bay, and Kosi Bay. The season may vary slightly depending on location.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit South Africa for turtle nesting?

Turtle nesting in South Africa occurs between November and March. Tours which observe the turtles can be booked in advance. These tours generally run during the night when turtles appear on the beach to lay eggs. Show more

Where are the best places to see turtles in South Africa?

St Lucia Wetland Park in KwaZulu Natal is a well-known location for turtle nesting. Other popular nesting spots in coastal areas include Kosi Bay, Cape Vidal, Manzengwenya, Mabibi, and Sodwana Bay. An experienced guide runs organized tours to explore these areas without disturbing the nesting patterns of turtles. Show more

What types of turtles can be found in South African beaches?

The leatherback turtle (320kg) - the largest sea turtle species, and the loggerhead turtle are the two species of turtle observed on South Africa's beaches. The loggerhead turtle is known to nest primarily in dune areas. By law, disturbing their nesting process or capturing the turtles in any way is prohibited by the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Living Resources Act of South Africa. Show more

How can visitors ensure the safety of sea turtles while on tours?

It is important to observe nesting turtles from a safe distance while on tours in order to ensure their safety and well-being. Experienced tour guides provide instructions on how to navigate nesting sites without harming the turtles. Turtles should not be touched, harassed, or their eggs removed from their nests. Any trash should be discarded properly since litter can cause harm to the turtles and affect their nesting process. Show more

What other wildlife encounters can be found in the surrounding areas of turtle nesting spots?

Turtle nesting in South Africa provides nature lovers the opportunity to observe other wildlife such as meerkats, buffalos, elephants, and rhinos. iSimangaliso Wetland Park located nearby is a conservation park with many other wildlife. Additionally, for bird enthusiasts, the region features various bird-watching spots. Show more

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