Just south of Máncora, in a small town called El Ñuro, you have the opportunity to swim with wild sea turtles. Apparently these turtles come from the Galapagos Islands. They gather around a fishing pier early in the morning and stay throughout the day. I've heard you are likely to see more turtles if you arrive early. Up to forty! They come in with the fishing boats as the fishermen feed them their unwanted catch.
Getting to the turtles.
We were staying in Máncora and planned to travel south to Organos and then on to El Ñuro via public transport. However, this plan fell apart at the first hurdle. Even though the bus journey from Máncora to Organos takes just fifteen minutes and cost only two Soles, you cannot buy a ticket without ID. We had been told not to bring valuables as you have to leave them on the pier when you go for a swim. So, I didn't have my passport and therefor no bus ticket.
(If you do have ID and want to catch the bus, the station is in the centre of town and the buses have EPPA printed on the side. From Organos you’ll have to catch another bus to El Ñuro or take a tuk tuk.)
In the end, after much hassle, we found a tuk tuk driver in Máncora who agreed to take us to the turtles and bring us back for sixty Soles. This price included stopping at a beachfront restaurant in Organos that was clearly paying drivers to bring them unwitting customers. The price seemed a bit much, but it was getting late, and I was getting frustrated, so we just paid the tuk tuk driver.
It was just passed midday when we finally arrived at the pier, but there were still a dozen or so turtles swimming around. We had to pay ten Soles to enter the pier and from there we had the choice of either viewing the turtles from the pier or paying a few more Soles to swim in a small roped off area. A third option was to pay another ten Soles for a boat trip. This was starting to feel like very much the tourist trap. We opted for the boat trip.
Swimming with the turtles.
We climbed onboard with about ten other tourists and were given life jackets, but no masks or goggles. The boat then did a rather needless large circle from the right side of the pier around to the left side, taking about twenty minutes. Apparently you can see dolphins (so they told me), but we didn’t see anything. Eventually we set anchor about ten yards from the roped off area next to the pier and were told to jump in.
Once in the water all the frustration and hassle washed away. The turtles were much larger than I had previously realised and certainly had no fear of humans. They swam right up to me, even bumping into me and nipping at my trunks. I was able to use my GoPro to get these photos. I set the camera to record a video and take a photo every five seconds. This way I could simply concentrate on trying to keep the camera pointing at the turtles recording a video and photos as I swam around. We swam with the turtles for about twenty-five minutes in total.
After we'd finished swimming our tuk tuk driver insisted on taking us to the beachfront restaurant in Organos for some mediocre over priced food, then back to Máncora.
Swimming with wild sea turtles was an absolutely magical experience, but everything before and after was just a lot of hassle.
In hindsight, a better option would have been to go on an organised tour with one of the many travel agents offering half day turtle seeing excursions from Máncora. I’m normally a very independent traveler and don’t like going with the dreaded tour groups. But, I noticed when we were swimming that the tour boats provided masks, snorkels, and flippers to their customers. They also recorded underwater videos for keepsakes. All these things would have made the experience much more enjoyable. Plus, we would have arrived earlier and avoided a lot of unnecessary hassle. If I’m ever in this part of the world again, that’s the way I would do it.