Greater Fort Lauderdale’s clean, inviting beaches aren’t just popular with travelers; they also provide sanctuary to three types of sea turtles from March to October: leatherbacks, loggerheads and green turtles. Each species digs nests and lays eggs in the golden coastal sands before returning to sea. In 2010, there were 2,565 nests countywide, the highest recorded number since 2000.
This season, turn a beachside holiday into educational fun with sea turtle programs that offer close-up viewing encounters and showcase the area’s commitment to nurturing one of the world’s most important nesting areas. Nest-viewing programs feature the environmentally threatened loggerheads, which are predominant in the area (2,283 nests in 2010); green and leatherback turtles are endangered, so group viewing of nesting behavior is not permitted.
Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale leads up to 50 people on moonlit beach walks to observe nesting loggerheads Tuesday through Thursday in June and July. Programs run from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and begin with a slideshow and Q&A session at the museum before the breathtaking event on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Arrive early to see the museum’s resident loggerhead in the Florida Ecoscapes exhibition.The museum takes in a hatchling in need of rehabilitation and then releases it into the wild after two years. Museum access is included in the $19 fee. Reservations are required.
Did you know? Nests may contain 60-200 eggs that take roughly 60 days to hatch. Cooler nest temperatures result in more male births, while warmer temperatures produce more females.
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach offers the chance to see a visiting 300-pound loggerhead dig its nest on Wednesday and Friday nights in June and July. Up to 30 visitors gather at 9 p.m. at the Sea Grape Pavilion for the park’s popular Sea Turtle Awareness Program, a ranger-led campfire talk and beach walk. Reservations are required with no more than six people per booking. The program is included in the $6 per vehicle park admission fee.
Did you know? A female sea turtle produces multiple nests in one season, but then takes a year or two off before nesting again. It’s a ritual that dates to the days of dinosaurs.
Ann Kolb Nature Center in Hollywood allows you to witness turtle hatchlings making their first trip to the sea on Wednesdays and Fridays from July 1 to August 31. The program runs from 8 to 9:30 p.m. and begins with a slide presentation at the center before moving to Hollywood Beach for the release of rescued hatchlings. Reservations are required, with up to 50 per group. The fee is $5.
Did you know? Only about one percent of the offspring each season will survive to adulthood.
If You Go: Remember to keep a safe distance from nesting females and hatchlings. Avoid shining flashlights their way or using flash photography, because artificial light may disorient newborn turtles or discourage the adult females from laying eggs. (That’s why Greater Fort Lauderdale dims lights along its beachfront during nesting season.) You can help protect turtles for future generations by always picking up litter and respecting park guidelines.
Sea Turtle-Friendly Stays: The new B Ocean Fort Lauderdale Hotel includes a stuffed sea turtle in every room as part of the brand’s B Humane campaign; take one home and a portion of the proceeds benefit sea turtle conservation. Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach Resort & Spa offers a Sun, Sand, and Sea Turtles package that includes a stuffed plush sea turtle through Dec. 15, 2011. The Museum of Discovery and Science presents 10 a.m. turtle talks to guests at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale on Fridays in June & July.
For more information about sea turtle season, visit www.sunny.org/seaturtles.
This article was brought to you by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. To plan your trip to Greater Fort Lauderdale visit www.sunny.org.