Where to See and Swim with Turtles in Samoa
Samoa is one of the best countries in the South Pacific to see turtles in their natural habitat. Frequent visitors to the lagoon surrounding the islands, the world’s most adorable reptiles are commonly stumbled upon while snorkelling among the coral and the fishes. So, how can you guarantee to see a sea turtle in Samoa? Head to any one or several of the beaches and islands recommended in the list of places to see turtles in Samoa and your chances will vastly increase!
Towards the end of this article, we also want to make you aware of a place that’s not so good for seeing and swimming with turtles, should you want to avoid and keep your conscious clean.
One of the most popular stretches of lagoon and beach on the lesser-visited island of Savai’i, Manase is also one of the best places to see turtles in Samoa. Any casual snorkelling trip from shore may well likely be accompanied by turtles, while beach fales like Tailua Beach Fales feed turtles with papaya for guests to take a look (but thoughtfully do not encourage guests to go swimming with the turtles while they are feeding). If you want to go swimming with turtles in the Manase Lagoon, however, your best bet is to jump on a snorkelling tour with Dive Savai’i where it’s not unusual to see around 10 turtles per trip. Learn more about snorkelling tours in the 7 Best Snorkelling Tours in Samoa.
Location: Manase, northeast coast of Savai’i.
Take the 5-10-minute boat from Mutiatele on Upolu across the lagoon to Namu’a Island and you’ll no doubt see several turtles from the boat! Once you arrive on the island, you have more opportunities to see turtles underwater as you snorkel off the beach. Namu’a is a small uninhabited island with a few beach fales run by Namu’a Island Beach Fales available for day and overnight trips. Find out more about the island in our guide to the Aleipata Islands: Namu’a, Nu’utele, Fanuatapa & Nu’uala.
Location: Take the ferry from Mutiatele (check in at the shop opposite the wharf), Main South Coast Road on the east coast of Upolu.
On the south coast of Upolu, lined by some of Samoa’s most popular resorts, Maninoa offers a chance to snorkel with turtles, particularly at high tide. This is also the launch point of Samoa’s only dedicated turtle-swimming tour, Manoa Tours, which takes snorkelers further out in the lagoon to deeper waters where turtles frequent the most. Learn more about these tours in the 7 Best Snorkelling Tours in Samoa. Plus, check out more of Samoa’s best beaches in the 10 Best Beaches in Samoa.
Location: Resort/beach fale entrances are signposted off Main South Coast Road between Mulivai and Si’umu villages on the central north coast of Upolu.
Crisp white sands lining a vast stretch of turquoise lagoon, Lano is not only a stunning beach to visit on Savai’i but it also presents another opportunity to swim with turtles in Samoa. Either visit for the day using one of the day fales or join the friendly hosts of Lauiula or Joelan Beach Fales to stay in their ultra-spacious traditional-style beach fales overnight. With the reef quite far from shore, there’s safe swimming near the beach. For more excellent snorkelling beaches in Samoa, check out The Best Snorkelling in Samoa: Top 10 Places to Snorkel.
Location: Lano village, along the main road on the east coast of Savai’i.
5. Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary
Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary might be famous for snorkelling with giant clams, but the Samoa Pocket Guide team have also shared this experience with turtles! Pay your entry fees, go down the steps and slip on your mask, snorkel and fins for an awesome underwater world to explore. You’ll be amazed at how gargantuan these shelled specimens can get as you swim beyond the roped white buoys – best admired at high tide, might we add. First, you’ll need to swim over a section of sand before reaching the white buoys that cordon off the marine reserve area. Once you reach these feisty molluscs, needless to say, you shouldn’t touch them…
Location: Savaia village along Main South Coast Road (nearby Le Valasi’s Beach Fales) on the southwest coast of Upolu.
Isolated at the far end of Upolu‘s western lagoon, located between the islands of Upolu and Savai’i, Nu’ulopa is an island whose surrounding waters are a turtle sanctuary. Day trips to the island are available to take you out for a private island picnic and for amazing snorkelling directly off the beach, where you’re likely to see a turtle or two or three… Find out more about visiting the island in The Travel Guide to Nu’ulopa.
Location: Off the west coast of Upolu within the Apolima Strait. Find out about your options to get there in the link above.
7. Palolo Deep
Easily one of the best and most accessible snorkelling spots in Samoa, the Palolo Deep Marine Reserve provides another opportunity to snorkel with turtles. While the main snorkelling spot with its deep trench of staghorn coral is indicated by the white buoy, around the tiny islet seen from the shore is where turtles are often spotted. Note that snorkelling is best done here at high tide.
Location: Between the Marina and Vaiala Beach along Beach Road, Apia.
Another uninhabited island that gets its fair share of turtle visitors in its surrounding lagoon, Nu’usafe’e is accessible by boat from Maninoa and Tafatafa beaches along Upolu‘s central south coast. Snorkelling is best along the passages beside this sandy islet but much more on the subject can be found in The Travel Guide to Nu’usafe’e.
Location: Off the central south coast of Upolu. Find out about your options to get there in the link above.
The snorkelling off Manono is outstanding and provides plenty of chances to see turtles even if some of the coral they inhabit is still recovering from the 2009 tsunami. Either enjoy snorkelling from the wharf in front of Sunset View Fales where you might be lucky to see turtles or, better yet, enjoy a snorkelling boat trip that is included in your stay. You’ll head out to Manono’s surrounding majestic reefs where your chances of seeing turtles are extremely high. There are also plenty of boat and kayaking tours taking you out to these reefs where turtles reside, which you can find out more about in The Travel Guide to Manono.
Location: Manono Island. Boats depart from Manono-uta village, along the Main West Coast Road on the west coast of Upolu.
10. Shilo Reef
Accessible by boat just a 7-minute ride from the Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort, Shilo Reef is just one of the examples of the superb snorkelling sites where snorkelling tours can take you. On most expeditions, snorkelers are treated to banner fish, flute fish, fusiliers, zebrafish, surgeon fish and, of course, sea turtles!
Location: Tours depart from Pure Ocean, Sheraton Access Road, Faleolo, northwest coast of Upolu.
Wetland Turtles: Should You Swim with Turtles at the “Turtle Sanctuary” on Savai’i?
As we get to the end of our list of the best places to see turtles in Samoa, you might be wondering about the “Turtle Sanctuary” located in the village of Satoalepai on Savai’i, currently operating as “Wetland Turtles“.
Here, half a dozen turtles of all sizes and ages are kept in a small pool sectioned off from the wetlands in which staff will chop papaya to feed the turtles – notably not the nutritionally diverse diet the average sea turtle would receive in the wild. In the waters with already a layer of sunscreen glistening on top, visitors have the option to get into the pool with these wild animals to swim with them.
Despite the “Sanctuary” name that some tour operators are referring to this attraction, there is no conservation initiative behind this operation; we asked. It’s quite clear by the algae covering the bodies and shells of these creatures that some of the turtles have been here for quite some time.
In short, if you are looking to share an experience with these amazing animals, we recommend swimming with turtles in the wild in Samoa and avoiding the fallacy that is this “sanctuary”.
More on Places to See Turtles in Samoa
That’s it for our guide to the best places to see and swim with turtles in Samoa. For more tips for seeing amazing wildlife in paradise, take a look at the following guides:
- 10 Best Eco Tours in Samoa
- 5 Best Places for Bird Watching in Samoa
- Can You See Whales & Dolphins in Samoa?
Finally, plan the rest of your antics and create the perfect bucket list with the 101 Best Things to Do in Samoa: The Ultimate List.