At the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm near Boatswain's Bay, the island government has set about conserving the green sea turtle in a big way and the farm is one of the ways they do it. It isn't cheap but you can spend the day there so on an hourly basis, it's worth it.
Conservation plays a big part in the island's effort to save the turtles but this facility sets out to redress the supply part of the problem. And feeding the turtles is easily done. It turns out visitors will happily buy a bag of food at the door and sprinkle it on the water. These are the world's best fed turtles.
At Boatswain's Beach turtles mate, lay their eggs and hatch their young in safety, unmolested by people or predators. Unmolested in the worst sense they may be but not entirely free from human interaction. The baby turtles are subject to daily indignity in the form of being picked up and fondled by adoring visitors.
The turtles don't seem to mind. In fact, looking at the adults in the larger ponds, they thrive on it. [Still, I foresee a 'Turtle Liberation and Rights' group down the road:)] They grow to a good size (all that feeding pays off) before being released into the sea to live among the reefs and wrecks around Grand Cayman.
The Boatswain's Beach farm also supports two other endangered turtle species, the hawksbill and kemp's ridley turtle, which is the world's most endangered sea turtle.
The Grand Cayman Turtle Farm is part of the Boatswain's Beach complex. It's not a resort but a quieter kind of adventure park, which provides visitors with an up-close and, very fortunately, not so personal look at sea predators, like sharks and crocodiles. People like to see predators; I noticed this whenever we took our kids to the zoo. The lions, tigers and other meat-eaters always draw the crowds. Perhaps being predators ourselves makes us empathize or maybe we just like seeing other meat-eaters safely locked up.
Boatswain's Beach includes restaurants and shopping so there's something for everyone to fill a day when the beach has begun to pall. After you've eaten, shopped and watched turtles enough, there's also a Nature Trail, free-flight bird aviary, and iguanas to see for those who want a relaxed pace.
One other attraction at the Turtle Farm is a live caiman. Now there are none left in the wild on Grand Cayman, it's a salutary reminder of what would have been lurking in the bushes before our ancestors exterminated them. Caimans are small crocodiles, or alligators, and, unlike the iguanas, pack quite a bite into their short length.
For those who haven't done enough snorkeling, the park features a fresh water tidal lagoon and a huge salt-water lagoon where you can swim with the native fishes you missed out in the open sea.
There's also a touch pool for kids and adults to 'pet' crabs, sea urchins, and starfish. You could look on the Grand Cayman Turtle Farm as a low stress way to begin your underwater adventures, if you've never dived or snorkeled before.
Destin, Fla, USA