The Locals' Guide - Lord Howe Island


Turtle spotting at Old Settlement

Posted by Pinetrees Lodge – Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Contributed by Pia Funch (photo from ProDive): On Lord Howe Island, animals don’t fear humans. Here, we get to experience sea turtles, sharks and birds peacefully going about their day with no worries at all. Tour operators on the island offer turtle tours, where you get to see the turtles and learn about their history. Sea turtles don’t breed on the island. However, Green turtles and the rare Hawksbill turtles come to feed here all year around, keeping the precious coral reef ecosystems healthy by controlling the community structures of the reef.

Lord Howe Island’s Old Settlement Beach is famous for its resident superstars, so this is the place to go if you’d like to have a BBQ/beach/turtle day all in one. Turtles love hanging out here in the shallow and calm water where they feed on sea grass or rest in between the coral at Sylphs Hole.

Today, I’m on a mission. I’d like to show my visiting friend a turtle, so we pack our bags and head down to Old Sett’. My friend immediately starts snoozing under the rays of the sun. I’m sitting up staring at the water. Almost two hours later, I feel a hint of disappointment as I come to the realisation that they might not show up today. A few people taking a stroll on the beach mention that they haven’t seen any today either. “Oh well, maybe tomorrow”- we tell each other and we smile. It’s definitely not the worst place to be - with or without turtles.

Suddenly, the corner of my eye catches something. Is that something? Is it moving? A minute or so later, we both see it. The unmistakable little round head popping out of the water to take a short breathe before disappearing again. We frantically put on our snorkelling gear on and carefully swim out until the white sand becomes sea grass. There it is! As we get close, the large Green turtle is carelessly eating sea grass at the bottom. We dive under and the turtle looks lazily at us before ignoring our presence completely. How incredible it is to be able to observe such a beauty up close without it being fearful of us. After a few minutes, we decide to give it some privacy and swim back. On the beach, another smaller turtle has decided to join a few people in the water. This one is not feeding but curiously swimming around greeting people. As we get closer, the turtle decides to swim straight towards us and I have to move awkwardly to avoid the turtle getting stuck between my legs. To protect these magnificent animals, we don’t touch them or chase them around in any way. However, this little fella is all about having fun and we all laugh out loud whilst trying to not get in its way.

A while later, back on the sandy beach, a family shows up and we point out the now three turtles swimming around near the shoreline. The children’s small faces light up in awe and the whole family walk out in the water to watch them. Now, where else in the world can you take a stroll on a beach and then have a quick swim with wild turtles?

It’s paradise at its best. It’s Lord Howe Island.


The Locals’ Guide to Lord Howe Island is written by Denis Corcoran, Pia Funch, Luke Hanson, Geordie Tennant and Dani Rourke. We regularly visit the island’s iconic locations (and our secret spots) in different conditions, seasons and times of day (by foot, bike, kayak, boat and snorkel), and hope to share our experiences with you. If you need some travel inspiration, details on locations and the best activities, or just a brief online escape from your daily routine, then read our posts about life on Lord Howe Island.