Any Google search will tell you that one of the cooler things you can do in Barbados is to swim with the sea turtles. Multiple day charter companies are even dedicated exclusively to swimming with the turtles tours. We were all set to book ourselves on one of these day cruises – partly just to get out on a boat, partly because I really wanted to swim with the turtles – when we ran into another traveler while we were out grabbing dinner who had just swam with them that day and gave us the run down.
The best spot to catch a dip with the turtles is in Paynes Bay, on the west side of the island over in St. James. Lucky for us this was in walking distance from where we stayed. We got to the beach at around 11, which was a bit late for optimal turtle discovery. At least 7 charter tour boats were anchored out in the bay, making the waters insanely crowded. We rented snorkel equipment for $10 a set on the beach and hoped for the best.
Nearly defeated at not seeing a thing, we grabbed a beach side rum punch and soaked up some rays. Eventually we started to see turtle heads popping up to catch some fresh air. It was like they could sense all the tourists finally leaving them alone. Not one to miss out on the opportunity, I grabbed my gear without loosing sight of where I saw the turtles and headed out to the water.
Right off the beach is a small reef so finding the turtles was easy an easy swim out. The only problem with this is that it is so close to shore that it can get a bit cloudy in areas from the sand being turned up in the waves. Despite that, we managed to find at least three different turtles. It was magical. They don’t even seem to care that you are swimming with them and definitely don’t try to swim away. The bale (thanks Google!) of turtles finally dismantled and I followed one while Jason trailed the other two. We swam peacefully together for at least 20 minutes. We both eventually lost them when our ill fitting masks began to fog up to the point where we couldn’t see a thing. Bummer.
We also managed to see a lot of other sea life while snorkeling. I was surprised at the variety of fish we found literally right off the beach. We saw sea snakes, parrot fish, puffer fish and a lot of other colorful creatures. It felt so good to be back in the water. We’ve both really missed swimming every day.
In the end, we managed to save ourselves $200 on a charter boat that would have taken us exactly back to our hotel and had a much better luck finding the turtles once the hundreds of people on the boats headed back out to sea for their next stop. If you are heading to Barbados, definitely make a stop to swim with the turtles in Paynes Bay. Just be sure to go early in the morning, or after 1pm when the boats are leaving. You can get to Paynes Bay on the Holetown bus. A ride costs $1, just be sure to hold on tight! Those drivers go fast.