How to identify sea turtles of the Red Sea

While snorkeling you may be lucky to encounter on of the four species of sea turtles present in the red sea.  Though there are four species present in the red sea, you will probably only get to see one or two of them while snorkeling: Hawksbill turtle and/or the Green turtle.


learn how to tell the difference between sea turtle species

You can tell the difference between Hawksbill turtle (left) and Green turtle (right) on the number of scales in the head. The Hawksbill turtle only have two set of scale pairs between over the nose (Green turtle has one long pair), and less scales on the side behind the eyes.


The Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) to the left is not an uncommon sight along the reef. As the name implies it has a beak that bare resemblance to a bird’s beak. When you encounter the Hawksbill turtle it is usually on the outer reef and the turtle is slowly on the move along the reef – or feeding on corals or invetebrates.

The Green turtle  (Chelonia mydas) to the right is often larger and likes to eat the grass on the submerged meadows of seagrass in bay areas. You will usually encounter the Green turtle on shallow water in the middle of a bay with seagrass busy feeding on the grass. And if you do not disturb it, it will just keep on eating …

The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) is the biggest and is a rare sight.

The Olive-ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is in turn the smallest of the sea turtles and prefers the ocean to the coastal waters and is therefore not likely to be seen while snorkeling.

All of the sea turtles are on the International Red List maintained by IUCN Leatherback and Hawksbill turtles are critically endangered while Green turtles are listed as endangered and Olive-ridley turtle is listed as vulnerable.

Method for green turtle observations

Method for green turtle observations

Learn more about how you can differentiate the turtle individuals and contribute to the knowledge on turtles in the Red Sea.

Turtle in the Red Sea

Green turtle in Abu Dabbab, Marsa Alam

And the Green turtle on the picture? Yes, your’re right. It has some shark suckers attached.