There's nothing quite like Florida's sugary white-sand beaches bathed by its tropical turquoise waters. Basking under the sun and floating through the warm, crystalline ocean is a picture of paradisial perfection, and these are heavenly pastimes that attract sun-chasers to this glorious state's shores. However, in the midst of beach-goer's hustle and bustle, there's something incredible taking place - a natural phenomenon to which few people on Planet Earth ever get to bear witness. When that sensational Florida sun sets, the crowds hit the hay, and peace is restored once more, the beaches belong to one rare and endangered creature.
Hardworking mother sea turtles dig their holes and lay their eggs all throughout sea turtle season in Florida, setting the stage for the next generation of adorable baby turtles who'll hatch and make their clumsy way to the ocean for the very first time - and lucky beach-goers can observe such amazing behavior if they time it right and look in the correct places. From May to October, many of Florida's sublime beaches become nesting grounds for loggerhead sea turtles; in fact, almost 70% of the country's sea turtle nesting takes place on Florida’s beaches.
Florida's turtles typically nest from May to August, with babies emerging around 60 days after nesting to make their first journey to the ocean, opening up an extraordinary once-in-a-lifetime experience for Florida locals and visitors right into October. It's possible to watch this miracle of Mother Nature in action at beaches all over the world but to maximize the chances of spotting these sea turtles doing their thing, visiting the following three locations in Florida is one's best bet. Plus, there are even unique ways for visitors to get involved.
What To Know Before Heading To The Beach: Turtle-Safe Guidelines
Before going into where folks might be able to encounter Florida's majestic sea turtles continuing the circle of life, it's crucial to be aware of a few important factors so as not to disturb them - or even harm them:
- Please refrain from leaving objects on the beach, as such obstacles can obstruct turtles' nesting spots.
- Clear away sandcastles, fill any holes seen on the beach, and ensure all trash, beach equipment, fishing gear, and any other objects are removed and put away once they're no longer in use.
- At night, avoid using camera flashes and strong white flashlights, especially when baby turtles may be hatching from their nests under the sand. As they hatch, baby turtles are automatically attracted to the brightest light they can see, which they use as their guide when finding the water. However, human lights and artificial lighting will distract them and draw them away from where they need to be going - the ocean.
- People who wish to watch nesting and hatching turtles in the dark can use a light, however, it must have a red filter on it. Red light doesn't disturb the turtles, and therefore observers can still enjoy witnessing this fascinating event without disturbing or harming them.
If you find disoriented, injured, or sick turtles, report them to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission at (888) 404-3922 or *FWC on your phone.
Indian River County
Indian River County and Vero Beach play host to some of Florida's oldest wildlife refuges and some of the most protected beaches in the entire state, which form a safe oasis for several species of sea turtle, including enormous leatherbacks, loggerheads, hawksbill, green sea turtles, and even the incredibly rare Kemp's Ridley turtle. With many state parks and federal refuges designated to protect and preserve the area's unique creatures, this part of Florida truly is flourishing with life and thus offers prolific wildlife encounters to fortunate visitors who come to witness nature's marvels.
Of remarkable note, Sebastian Inlet State Park helps visitors savor the sea turtle season up close and personal by providing ranger-led guided Turtle Walk expeditions in June and July. During this awe-inspiring experience, visitors could get to observe the turtles as they come ashore to lay their eggs at night - a show that only a handful of humans on earth ever get to see. Each walk starts at 9 pm with a short and informative briefing about the turtles and their important role in the environment and then has participants cover about three miles of beach, making the whole experience a fairly easy feat.
Furthermore, another organization based in Vero Beach works tirelessly to ensure their region's sea turtle population remains protected: Costal Connections - a nonprofit with a dedicated and trained team whose turtle conservation work is renowned in the area. Come July and August when turtle nests begin hatching, their Turtle Teams begin their vital efforts in ensuring as many baby hatchlings as possible reach the ocean safely. The team also offers eye-opening nighttime turtle walks on Wednesdays and Fridays in June and July. Their turtle-watching tours commence at 9 pm, and reservations are required in advance. Guests can also join a Turtle Team for a morning walk along the beach to assist any babies struggling to find their way and to check turtle nests that have recently hatched, which are visibly marked by tape and wooden stakes to keep them undisturbed by the public.
LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort
LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort located in the fun and beauty of Naples, Florida, is one of the world's pretty and eco-friendly gems. Beautifully placed along the Gulf of Mexico, the region - with its warm, inviting beaches, crystal clear ocean, and awesome amounts of outdoor activities - is a dream playground for beach bums, nature lovers, and thrill-seekers alike. What's more, LaPlaya is the only Naples resort blessed with its very own beach, which serves as a private shelter for numerous types of turtle - more notably, the gargantuan loggerheads that live in and around the teeming waters of Southwest Florida.
Partnering up with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to protect its precious seasonal sea turtle visitors, LaPlaya extends its environmental initiatives to guests in the form of an extra-special offering during the nesting period: the yearly Sea Turtle Conservancy guest package, in which guests can enjoy two nights of luxury accommodation, dining at the resort's enchanting beachfront restaurant, and best of all, an exclusive turtle-filled experience. Guests who opt for this fantastic family-friendly package get the amazing opportunity to adopt a sea turtle and explore Conservancy itself to learn in-person what goes on, allowing them an intimate insight into the extremely important role it plays in protecting the environment of Southwest Florida. In addition, they also receive an exclusive sea turtle pin and get to enjoy a brief orientation about the region's sea turtles and their nesting habits.
Santa Rosa County
Showcasing pristine, protected shores, the beaches of Santa Rosa County shelter a special sanctuary for several species of sea turtle, such as massive loggerheads and the highly-threatened Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. As such, visitors of said untouched beaches can relish the surreal occurrences of the sea turtle world, with Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center being the perfect place to start. This nonprofit dedicates much of its time to educating the public about these ancient animals, their purpose, and their role along the region's lengthy stretches of unspoiled coast.
Offering an expert glimpse into the lives of these majestic marine critters, the center of Navarre Beach is a place of beauty and intrigue that teaches its guests all about the life cycle of sea turtles and the threats they face in the unforgiving, harsh modern world that menace their global populations. Last but not least, visitors can enjoy one more memorable thing before they leave; they'll meet the center's esteemed resident - Sweet Pea the green sea turtle - who cannot be released back into the wild and is instead cared for by the conservation center's committed team, who strive to give her the best life possible for the rest of her days. And there could be many, many days for Sweet Pea; after all, green sea turtles are estimated to live to a ripe old age of 70 years!
As three of Florida's best locations for catching a glimpse into the fascinating lives of magnificent sea turtles, people fortunate enough to descend to them may never fully appreciate just how lucky they are - particularly if they are graced by the presence of these breathtaking, but sadly endangered creatures. Because these dear marine mammals suffer innumerable threats with the sobering possibility of extinction, it's absolutely essential to enjoy the experience with them carefully and responsibly, to minimize the dangers they face today due to the global impact that humans force upon the planet and its inhabitants. By adhering to guidelines, seeking the expertise of the conservation centers and organizations, and being an environmentally aware, turtle-friendly beach-goer, people can continue to be enchanted by sea turtles and their spectacles, whilst they themselves get to keep on living and reproducing as Mother Nature herself intended.