When you go for a night-time walk to watch a sea turtle lay eggs on the beach, you know there’s a chance you won’t see any turtles at all.
But we had the opposite problem Saturday night in Juno Beach on a walk led by Loggerhead Marinelife Center.
After we were lucky enough to watch “our” turtle lay her eggs, there were so many turtles coming ashore nearby that we couldn’t leave the beach without disturbing them. Our group was asked to stay put until the volunteers could make sure our exit wouldn’t disturb any.
Every turtle walk is different. Last year, I spent the evening at John U. Lloyd State Park in Dania Beach on a turtle walk, but the turtle world did not cooperate. Even there, however, a night on a dark breezy beach talking about turtles isn’t a total loss.
There are a dozen places on the Atlantic coast that offer turtle walks through nesting season, which winds down at the end of July. Here’s my earlier guide on where to take turtle walks. While many turtle walks fill up quickly, some spots on some walks are still open.
With family visiting from out of town, I decided to reserve a walk at the Juno Beach Loggerhead Marinelife Center because it was 75 minutes from home and because last year Palm Beach County beaches had 616 nests per mile – the most in the state.
Juno Beach is a turtle hot spot and volunteers there explained they don’t mark off nests on their beach with sticks and fluorescent tape because there would be so many that you couldn’t walk on the beach!
The Marinelife Center is also a good place to take a turtle walk because before it starts you get to view the many tanks of turtles in rehabilitation. No one goes home, then, without seeing a sea turtle, even if it is in captivity.
Our walk began with the required educational instruction. All turtle walks are licensed by the Florida Wildlife Commission in order to improve public understanding of sea turtles and key points must be covered.
Before our talk was finished, we were rushed out to the dark beach and allowed to group ourselves behind a nesting turtle. Children (who have to be 8 or older) were allowed to sit around the perimeter of the nest and adults huddled behind them. Everyone got a good look at the egg-laying, which continued for more than a half hour.
“Our” sea turtle, however, decided to take a stroll, plodding along the sand southward , rather than heading back into the surf.
It was only when she thumped across the beach that we appreciated both her size and her clumsiness on land.
Usually, turtles go straight for the surf and the group is led back to the nature center. We stayed behind her at a safe distance. But, meanwhile, using a night-vision scope, volunteers had spotted another loggerhead getting ready to nest just north of us and one south of us. As we threaded our way back to the center, there was an endangered green sea turtle nesting high up on the sandy shore.
This may sound like lots of turtle viewing, but unless it was your turn to borrow the night scope, you couldn’t see these turtles in the dark. Nevertheless, for participants hoping to see even one turtle, the extra turtle traffic was good news indeed. Perhaps we’re doing the right things to preserve these species.
Turtle walks at Loggerhead Marinelife Center
- 14200 U.S. Hwy. 1, Loggerhead Park, Juno Beach 33408
- 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays in June and July 2013.
- Tickets are $17 each. (Walk-ins are $20, and a spot is not guaranteed. )
- Walks begin at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and can last until midnight. Registration started May 1 and can be made online. (As of mid-June, July dates are available.)
- Other places to take sea-turtle nesting walks.