Protecting Nesting & Hatching Sea Turtles

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Nesting and hatching sea turtles

Every spring, in South Florida, thousands of turtles emerge from the Atlantic ocean. They crawl up the soft sand on a quiet 9 mile stretch of beach and dig their nests. Loggerhead turtles Caretta caretta nest most nights from May to July. Green turtle Chelonia mydas also nest in these months.  However, our favorite, and the largest turtle of all, growing to a massive 10 feet in length, is the magnificent Leatherback turtle Dermochelys CoriaceaIf you want to see the rare Leatherback, then March to May are the best months. Hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys imbricata also nest here year round and are seen most often when snorkeling at the beach, in the daytime.  Turtles can often be seen from the beach or from boats, as they float on the surface and mate in the warm gulf stream waters. If you want to see the baby turtles hatching on the beach, the best time to visit is July and August.

Leatherback turtle - Dermochelys coriacea

Once a female sea turtle is mature, she will return to the same beach she hatched on many years before, to dig her own nest.  Each time she nests, she will normally pick a place within 100 yards of her orignal nesting site.

Loggerhead turtle - Caretta caretta

Mother turtles will lay between 80-120 eggs in each nest. Most will lay two clutchs of eggs per season.

Baby turtles hatch on the beach May thru October

A mother turtle can determine if her babies will be male or female, by the temperature of the sand she lays her eggs in. Each nest will be either all male, or all female, depending on what nature needs at that time.

One of my favorite times of year is when the baby turtles hatch.  You have to wake up early for this, but it's wonderful to see them emerge from the sand and run to the ocean, where they will stay for the rest of their lives.

Each summer I like to volunteer to help the baby turtles.  Many get turned around and go the wrong way into the sand dunes, or get trapped in crap burrows. Some even go into hotel pools or the parking area or even the road.

I can tell you the hotels that are closest to the turtle's beach.  I also know of a couple of home stay (Bed & Breakfast) places for solo travellers on a budget.

Green turtle - Chelonia mydas

Female Turtles will sometimes dig more than one nest before deciding on the perfect site. If she decides the conditions are not correct, she will abandon the nest before laying eggs.

Leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea

Male sea turtles never come ashore, they spend all their lives in the ocean.

The South Inlet walk path leads to this sandy beach

It is illegal to use any lights on the beach, as it can scare the turtles, and prevent nesting. Do not use flashlights or camera flash, as it can disturb the turtles. This is very important, as lights could scare the mother turtles. All lights on the beach are strictly prohibited.

Females return to the beach of their birth at around 30 years old to make their own nests.  They are not always sucessful at first, it takes practice.

Anyone can help the baby turtles : )

I welcome people to join me and help look for baby turtles that have gone the wrong way.  Some end up in hotel pools or even on the road. It does not cost anything to volunteer to take part. Please contact me for dates and full infrmation.