Yet every year, thousands of sea turtles make their way onto the beaches at night and lay their eggs deep in the sand; weeks later, tiny hatchling turtles dig their way out and dash to the sea. We're talking 1900 nests and 150,000 hatchlings, in the area.
Families can choose from several inexpensive guided tours that --hopefully-- will let visitors witness the awesome sight of a giant sea turtle making her nest. No guaranteed sightings, of course, but families can be pretty sure to see turtles during June, July and August. One tour lets visitors watch a hatchling release.
Fort Lauderdale Sea Turtles and Nests
Worldwide, there are eight species of sea turtles, and three of them lay eggs and hatch in Greater Fort Lauderdale, from March through October. In 2009, the threatened Loggerhead sea turtle had 1,809 nests; endangered Green sea turtles had 71 nests; and Leatherback turtles had 45. After 45 to 55 days of incubation, more than 1,900 nests successfully hatched.
To take the Loggerhead turtle as an example: the mother turtle -- who weighs several hundred pounds -- crawls from the sea up on the sand, and takes an hour of hard work to dig her nest using her rear flippers. She then lays approx. 100 eggs, covers them with sand, and heads back to the sea.
Weeks later, the hatchlings -- just two inches long -- crawl out of the sand and dash to the sea. Only about one in 1,000 survives to produce offspring. Greater Fort Lauderdale tries to help the odds, dimming lights along the beach, supporting conservation programs, and encouraging visitors to watch form a distance -- or better still, to participate in guided Turtle Walks and nighttime tours.
Guided tours minimizing disruption for the sea turtles, and are also great for families: you'll learn a lot! Chances of seeing the turtles are high during the peak summer months; the tours below are available in June, July and August (depending on the tour.)
Moonlight, Sea Turtles and You! at the Museum of Discovery & Science
During June and July, this program offers a chance to watch a 400-pound Loggerhead sea turtle emerge from the ocean and lay her eggs. (Of course, no sightings are guaranteed! But chances are good.) Guests will also meet the museum's resident female Loggerhead, "Dulce". The program starts at the Museum of Discovery & Science at 9pm and ends at approximately 1am. Participation is $19 for non-members; reserve in advance. Find out more at www.mods.org.
Sea Turtle Awareness at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach
Join a park ranger on a search for sea turtles, every Wednesday and Friday evening at 9pm during June and July. First, learn about sea turtles around a campfire. Park rangers then lead walks to look for nesting Loggerhead sea turtles. Walks last between one and three hours. Price is included in the price of park admission: $3 for a single car occupant, $5 for two to eight people. Bargain! Find out more at www.floridastateparks.org/LloydBeach/Events.
Sea Turtles and Their Babies at Anne Kolb Nature Center at West Lake Park in Hollywood
This summer program runs from 8-9:30 pm, on Wednesdays and Fridays from July 7 through August 27, 2010. It starts with an hour-long slide presentation and lecture; then participants can accompany a naturalist on a hatchling release to see what these tiny creatures face during their first crucial minutes of life. Participants will also learn about the species of sea turtles found in South Florida, habitat, breeding and nesting, etc., and problems now facing sea turtles. Participation is $5 per person; register in advance. For more info call 954-926-2480.
For more info on Sea Turtle walks and hatchling release programs, visit www.sunny.org/seaturtles.
*Photo courtesy of Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB.