Did you know that about 90 percent of sea turtle nesting in the U.S. takes place in Florida? Amelia Island is one of the idyllic spots where the ancient rituals of nesting and hatching unfold during the summer. Here's what you need to know to enjoy this unique time on the beach while helping to protect these endangered animals.
- Dim the lights: Making sure that your beachfront home base uses sea turtle-friendly lighting prevents sea turtles from wandering away from the ocean. You can also help by closing drapes and blinds after nightfall and, if you're on the beach at night, either walk by moonlight or use a turtle-safe flashlight (these have a reddish light.)
- Fill the holes: Digging in the sand is one of the essential summer pleasures, but, when you're done, please fill them in. Nesting mother turtles and their hatchlings can easily fall in and become trapped. Extra good deed points for filling in holes you come across at the end of the afternoon (Perhaps make this a contest for the kids while you pack up?)
- Pack it up: After you've enjoyed the perfect beach setup, please take down and remove your tents, beach chairs, umbrellas and the like. Nesting turtles are sea creatures who crawl onto land with great difficulty (they often weigh around 200 pounds,) and they can't turn or go around large objects left in their path. Turtles can also become trapped underneath your items and hatchlings can be confused by them when they emerge. If you have trash and leftover food, please make sure it leaves as well since foxes, raccoon, and other animals are drawn to them and often find sea turtle eggs to prey on along the way.
- See for yourself: Attend a nest excavation conducted by the permitted volunteers of Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch. Three days after a nest has emerged and hatchlings have crawled to the sea, their permitted volunteers "excavate" the nest. This is simply an inventory of all the remaining nest contents: unhatched eggs, shards (empty egg shells), dead hatchlings, and yes, sometimes even live hatchlings. If live hatchlings are found, they will release them for you to see. Everything else is returned to the nest to be left as it was. You'll learn the history of that nest and interesting facts about sea turtles. Excavations begin in early-mid July and continue until all the nests have hatched and emerged. Check the continually updated excavation schedule on their website. While there is no guarantee that you will see a hatchling, you will come away with new information and an appreciation for this natural wonder.
- If you happen upon a hatching: leave the hatchlings to emerge and crawl on their own. Enjoy the experience and remember it always! (Sea turtles that survive and grow to adulthood go on far-ranging migrations over the course of many years - but they always return to the exact beach where they were born to lay their own eggs.)
for more about the island's natural beauty
and to plan your trip
. You can see a special excavation from last year here.