Every summer, thousands of loggerheads, leatherbacks and other varieties of turtles—including the Kemp's Ridley, the most endangered sea turtle in the world—swim to the shores of Florida’s beaches to lay their eggs. About two months later, hundreds of hatchlings emerge from the sand to start their lives in the sea.
For many visitors, watching these baby sea turtles make their way to the water is the highlight of their trip. Even locals who have lived here for years can’t get enough of the sight.
Here are three ways to get involved and possibly even witness a nesting or hatching during your visit.
1. Follow the Turtle Patrol
The Flagler Turtle Patrol is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization on a mission to protect sea turtles and their eggs. Every day during nesting season, which is May 1 to Oct. 31, these volunteers rise early to check the beaches for ""fresh crawls,” signs a mother has come on shore to lay her eggs. The Turtle Patrol then marks the nest and comes back daily to check on the eggs until they hatch. You can join the action by participating in one of its upcoming nest evaluations. Follow the Turtle Patrol on Facebook to learn more.
2. Be a Turtle-Friendly Traveler
If you visit during nesting season, there are several ways you can help encourage a healthy nesting and hatching. After a fun day on the beach, be sure to clean up after yourself. Level all sand castles, and fill in any holes that were dug in the sand. Clear the area of trash, chairs, umbrellas and other beach gear. The friendly people at Dodge the Dunes also remind you not to walk, park or drive on any of the grass or plants on the east side of A1A; these are nesting areas for turtles and other wildlife. Stick to the designated stairs and beach access points, and remember, it’s against the law to touch or disturb nesting sea turtles and hatchlings.
3. Learn More About Sea Turtles
Even if you visit before or after nesting season, you can still see and help support sea turtles at the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience’s Sea Turtle Hospital. This University of Florida-run research and rehabilitation center takes in injured sea turtles, and, once they’re healthy and strong, releases them back into their natural habitat. Throughout the year, you can tour the hospital and lab and learn more about the amazing efforts that go into protecting these massive, but fragile, creatures.