Best Places To See Turtles

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TURTLES TODAY: current situation and conflicts

All seven sea turtle species are endangered, facing threats from purposeful fishing, by-catch in shrimping, egg-harvesting, habitat loss (the build-up of beaches), entangement in fishing gear, dredging and eating undigestible garbage like balloons and plastic bags.


The biggest threat is fishing--both fishing of the turtles themselves (and hunting of their eggs) and by getting caught in fishing gear. Sea turtles have to come up to the surface for air, can sleep underwater. Females come up en masse to lay already fertilized eggs on beaches


Shrimp imported to the U.S. must come from a country that uses nets that exclude sea turtles to escape. Similar devices can be put on dredgers, which are used either to clear the sea floor or catch scallops.


Six species of sea turtles live in North America.

green turtle (Chelonia mydas) 300-350 pounds, biggest hard shell turtle; the biggest nesting sites are Tortuguero, Costa Rica, and Raine Island, Australia, but about 500 nest on Florida and there's a critical habitat around Culebra Island, Puerto Rico.


hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) 100-200 pounds, spend part of their lives on coral reefs and have a critical habitat near Mona and Monito Islands, Puerto Rico


Kemp's ridley turtle (Lepidochelys kempii) -- 100 pounds - 95% of worldwide nesting is at Rancho Nuevo, Tepehuajes, Mexico.


leatherback turtle(Dermochelys coriacea) -- up to 2,000 pounds. Most are in the Atlantic; Pacific stocks are down 80%. They migrate between Canada and the Carribiean. The biggest nesting population is off French Guyana. A criticial habitat is at Sandy Point, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.


loggerhead turtle(Caretta caretta) - 250 pounds, far-ranging turtles. Nearly 90% next in the U.S., Oman and Australia. About 80% of U.S. nesting is in Florida, especially the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge., but nests are commonly found up to North Carolina and sometimes Virginia.


olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) -- 100 pounds, The IUCN says the population is about half what it was in the 1960s. At 800,000, there are more of this species than any others. The biggest nesting beaches are La Escobilla, Mexico; Gahirmatha, Orissa, India and Sergipe, Brazil.


flatback turtle, (Natator depressus)-- 160 pounds. Only nests off northern Australia


The most spectacular (and reliable) way to see sea turtles is when they are nesting. Some species do this individually; others go en masse in what's known as an "arribada." If you're viewing a turtle laying eggs on the beach at night be careful not to disturb the turtle with any lights. Turtles may stop what they're doing if you use a a flashlight or flash with your camera.


The group See Turtles has a variety of trips that specifically aim to help sea turtle populations. For longer adventures, check out's Volunteer/Job Opportunities, which take place around the world; some pay you a stipend, some you have to pay to play.


What's the difference between a turtle and a tortoise? The short answer is tortoises live on land. Turtle is used for a wide group of animals, according to the California Turtle and Tortoise Club.

If you want to be a turtle pedant, here are the categories:

All 250 or so turtle species are part in the superorder chelonia, the "crown group," and the the group Testudines.

All 40 tortoise species are in family Testudinidae, order Testudines.

All 7 seven surviving sea turtle species are all in the superfamily Chelonioidea, but they're in 6 familes.

About 200 freshwater turtle species range from the tiny Bog Turtle to giants like the Asian Soft-Shelled Turtle or North America's largest, the Alligator Snapping Turtle.


south South - See other aninals Down South



Hilton Head Loggerhead Turtles & Dolphins
Hilton Head Island's Coastal Discovery Museum leads night beach walks to see the threatened loggerhead sea turtles that nest on the island and kayak and boat tours to dolphins offshore.
100 William Hilton Parkway, Hilton Head Island, SC, (843)-689-6767
Holden Beach, NC -- Loggerhead Nesting
Loggerhead turtles lay about 20 nests on Holden Beach between May and September. Volunteers from the Holden Beach Turtle Watch Program monitor their progress and move nests to safer spots, if necessary.
Bald Head Island, NC
The Bald Head Island Conservancy takes care of its 100-some turtle nests by hiring interns to track and guard them overnight. They also conduct walks.
Tybee Island Marine Science - GA
Every summer endangered sea turtles lay eggs on Tybee Island. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center leads talks on the turtles and helps educate the public to watch out for them--and not disturb them with flashlights, camera flashes or even house lights when they lay eggs May to August. 1510 Strand St
Tybee Island, GA (912) 786-5917 map »
St Catherines Island - GA
St. Catherine's Island has a Sea Turtle Conservation Program for K-12 teachers and internships for students to help with the monitoring and research into nesting turtles.
Loggerhead turltes at Cape Romain Wild Life Refuge - SC
The Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge is a major nesting ground for endangered loggerhead turtles (alonge with woodstorks and brown pelicans, oyster-catchers). Most of the turtles nest on Bull Island from May to August. The wildlife refuge protects the turtle eggs from predators and erosion by moving some nests. The state counts them here.
5821 N Highway 17, Awendaw, SC (843) 928-3264 map »
Folly Island, SC Loggerhead Nesting
Loggerhead Sea Turtles nest on Folly Island from May to September. The same female may climb ashore 2-5 times a season, digging a nest for 100 eggs overnight. The Folly Turtle Beach Watch Program helps protect the eggs, guides walks and gives tips on how you can help. (Report tracks or babies to 843-588-2433, dawn is the best time to look. Don't be tempted to help babies into the water; they need to imprint on the beach they may come back to one day. Don't turn on lights in the dark. The South Carolina Aquarium has a hospital to take in stranded turtles.
Dewees Island- SC - Loggerhead Turtles
Dewess Island attracts more than a dozen loggerhead turtle nests a year. The Dewees Turtle Team monitors and helps protect them.
Isle of Palms - SC
Loggerhead turtles nest on Isle of Palms and the volunteer Island Turtle Team keeps track of them. They also take stranded turtles to the Turtle Hospital at the NC Aquarium.
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science monitors the 5,000 - 10,000 sea turtles that visit Chesapeake Bay each summer. About 250 to 350 mostly juvenile loggerheads and Kemp's ridley turtles get stranded in the bay each year (especially in May, June and October). The RIMS Sea Turtle Stranding Program rehabilitates and takes data on them.
Weekly tours leave from Watermans Hall.
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
The Virginia Institute of Marine Science monitors the 5,000 - 10,000 sea turtles that visit Chesapeake Bay each summer. About 250 to 350 mostly juvenile loggerheads and Kemp's ridley turtles get stranded in the bay each year (especially in May, June and October). The RIMS Sea Turtle Stranding Program rehabilitates and takes data on them.
Weekly tours leave from Watermans Hall.

Fripp Island - SC - Loggerhead Turtles
Fripp Island, SC hosts dozens of nesting Loggerhead turtles from May to August each year. Fripp Island Logerhead Patrol walks the beaches, monitoring nests and helping out turtles in trouble. They have an innovative trap for ghost crabs that prey on the nests and will even dig them out if the crabs try to break into a nest.
Florida - See other animals in Florida
Archie Carr NWR - FL
The Archie Carr NWR, on a barrier island off Florida's east coast, is the most important loggerhead turtle nesting site in the western hemisphere. A quarter to a third of all loggerhead and green turtles in the U.S. nest right here. The refuge only started in 1991, so there's not big park infrastructure yet. But in June and July there are turtle walks from 9 pm to midnight to see turtles laying their eggs.

Reservation required. You can start calling  (321) 723-3556 May 1.

Tours at the Barrier Island Management and Ecosystem Center: T, W and July Saturdays. $10.   Caribbean Conservation Corporation
Sebastian Inlet State Park, McClarty Treasure Museum: Start calling (321) 984-4852 May 15. Free tours Fri, Sat, & Sun. See the refuge's fact sheet.

Cocoa Beach - FL
Sea Turtles nest on Cocoa Beach from May to August. Volunteers from the Sea Turtle Preservation Society guide walks in June and July. They're also trained to help out stranded turtles.
Manasota Key - FL
Sea Turtles nest along Manasota Key, Gasparilla Island, Little Gasparilla Island, Don Pedro Island and Palm Island from May to August. Volunteers from Coastal Wildlife Club walk beaches every morning to monitor nests and help any turtles in trouble. They also educate the public about the Gopher Tortoise, which is in the same area, in decline, but not a sea turtle.
Singer Island - Palm Beach Sea Turtles
The Sea Turtle Conservation League of Singer Island monitors sea turtle nests from March to October. They recommend these local walks:
Amelia Island, FL Loggerhead Turtles
Amelia Island hatches thousands of loggerhead turtles a year, with 89 nest in 2009. Volunteers from Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch meticulously record the location of each nest, move the eggs if they think the location is too dangerous, and monitor the hatchlings.
Mote Marine Labratory, FL - Turtle Walks
The Mote Marine Laboratory leads guided walks along Longboat Key and Lido Key on Saturday mornings in the summer. While most turtle tours are late at night, these go early in the morning, about 7 am. They also need volunteers to walk at least 1 mile of beach 2 days a week to monitor for loggerhead and sometimes green turtle nests.
The center rehabilitates turtles that needs help.
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy., Sarasota, FL (941) 388-4441
CA California -- See other animals in California
Leatherback Turtle Cruise
Once a year the Sea Turtle Restoration Project hosts a cruise out to the Farallon Islands to spot leatherback turtles. They join Pacific Environment which  cruises the area more often from August to November, but not specifically looking for turtles. The October trip is timed to when the leatherbacks are in the area eating jellyfish.

Hawaii Hawaii --- See other animals in Hawaii
Oahu--Snorkel with Dolphins & Turtles
Off Oahu you can snorkel with dolphins and turtles all year or go out in a boat to see whales in the winter.
Under the Sea offers really small tours with six or fewer people and a crew that's usually all women.
Waianae Boat Harbor, Slip A5, Oahu Hawii 96792 (near Ko Olina Resorts
(808) 306-7273
Ko Olina Ocean Adventure gives you an underwater camera with your $107 (2009) tour, which leaves from the Ko Olina Resort & Marina
92-1480 Aliinui Dr, Kapolei, HI (808) 671-2512
Whales & Turtles by Submarine - Hi
Atlantis Adventures runs submarine cruises out of Waikiki, Maui and Kona. They have all kinds of permutations on the cruises on all kinds of submarines, including a whale lunch cruise in season. They range from 35 minutes to several hours, with some including elaborate meals or an extra charge for a good view. Up to $150 in 2009.
Kamehame Beach - HI - Hawksbill Turtle Nesting
Hawaii Wildlife Fund needs volunteers to track where and when Hawksbill turtles nest and then to watch over the nests to protect the hatchlings from predators like mongoose, dogs, pigs and rats. The Nature Conservancy bought the black sand Kamehame Beach to ensure their safety.
northeast Northeast - See other animals in the Northeast
National Marine Life Center - MA
Opened in 2004, the National Marine Life Center takes in sick or injured turtles and seals until they are ready for release. The center also works with the state to "headstart" land turtles--raise them indoors for their first precarious year. They're open to the public all summer and eventually hope to take in other marine mammals that strand on Cape Cod.
120 Main St, Buzzards Bay, MA (508) 759-5477
Turtle Pond Central Park - NY
Turtle Pond in Central Park got its name in 1987 from all the turtles who live here. Many may have started out as pets. You can easily see them from the dock. New Yorkers first saw spotted turtles in the park, but it now houses snapping turtles, red-eared sliders and some painted turtles.
Bruce Yolton has captured many Central Park wildlife photos.
Texas - See other animals in Texas
Padre Island Loggerhead Turtles
All the beaches in Texas are patrolled for sea turtle nests, but the turtles overwhelmingly come to Padre Island--117 nests in 2009. They nest from May to September and may include the Kemp Ridley's turtle, which nests during the day, but don't count on seeing one of these rare turtles.
From June to August the park also hosts events to release baby sea turtles. These are from nests built in dangerous places. When two nests are due to hatch, they'll post the date on the website.
Malaquite Visitor Center (361)949-8068

Canada Canada -- See other animals in Canada
Latin America Latin America -- See other animals in Latin America




Magdalena Bay & San Ignacio, Baja
 See Turtles, which pairs eco-volunteers with turtle conservation groups, sends you on a trip to see how researchers study the endangered green turtle. The research gives some work to the locals (catching turtles in nets) and alternative to poaching turtles or fishing, which accidentally kills many turtles. The work is done through  Magdalena Baykeeper  and GrupoTortuga.


The Galapagos Islands off Ecuador are the Mecca for wildlife watchers. The endangered Galapaogos fur seals and Galapagos sea lions are part of the reason: protected from hunting they let you get quite close.
Bonus species: Endangered Galapagos Penguins, Giant tortoises, iguanas, flamingos, petrels, Flightless cormorants, Blue-footed Booby, albatross.

Matura Beach, Trinidad
About one in six endangered leatherback females nests here in Trinidad. On some nights you may see as many as 150 of the biggest turtle on earth in April through July. Locals patrol the beaches to protect the turtles from poachers. If you go through See Turtles and Earthwatch, you can help patrol and weigh and measure the eggs.
Europe Europe - See other animals in Europe



Crete, Greece

Greece is the main country with sea turtles in Europe and Rethymnon has most of them. Crete says that in a recent survey 385 nests were found on just 10 km of Rethymnon beach, about four to five times the density of Chania or Messara Bay. You can volunteer for the group Archelon here or in a turtle hospital in Athens.


Katelois, Greece

The only sea turtles found in Europe are in Greece and Cyprus, euroturtle says. Loggerheads nest in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus while Green Turtles are mostly in Turkey and Cyprus. Katelois is one of the big nesting areas; a foundation has set up and environmental center that has volunteers patrol the beaches. So far they just recommend onlookers stay off the beach at night.

Africa Africa
Boa Vista, Cape Verde, Loggerhead Turtles
Boa Vista, an island in the Cape Verde archipelago off Africa, has a large loggerhead turtle nesting population. The Turtle Foundation accepts volunteers for a minimum of 2-3 weeks to stay on the island in June to October.
Asia Asia
Papau--Biggest Leatherback Turtle Nesting Ground in the Pacific
The Raja Ampat Islands in Papau, Indonesia, are supposed to have the largest number of leatherback turtle nests in the Pacific. Save Our Leatherbacks Operation believes the islands have less than 1,000 nesting turtles left. SOLO leads trips for divers to live aboard a boat. The area also has eco lodges.
Neelankarai Beach-INDIA -Oliver Ridley Sea Turtles
One of the few places in the world you can see Oliver Ridley Sea Turtles is this stretch of beach around Neelankarai beach. The Tree Foundation works with local students, who patrol the beaches to protect the turtles and eggs.
Tree Foundation No. 63, Ist Avenue, Vettuvankeni, Chennai – 600 041, India.
Tel: +91-44-24492242
ProFauna Sea Turtle Protection Beach, BALI
Bali's homegrown environmental group, ProFauna, works with local communities to patrol beaches and protect sea turtle eggs from organized poachers.
Many of the nest sites are right in front of hotels, including the Sahid Hotel
Ras Al Jinz, Oman
Ras Al Jinz in Oman is one of the best places in the world to see green turtles, which enjoy a protected area nearly 100 miles long. The facility has an elegant restaurant and hotel. Others camp nearby, out of range of the turtles. +968 96 55 06 06
Oz Australia

Nigaloo Reef, West Australia

Too many endangered sea turtles were getting disturbed by tourists, so the Ningaloo Turtle Project set up the Jurabi Turtle Centre to give guided tours that won't bother the animals when they lay eggs in the middle of the night from November to March. Turtles start hatching in January.
Bonus species: whale shark, Manta Rays, Humpback whales.


Cape Thoun, West Australia

Australia has six of the seven species of sea turtle in the world. One species, the flatback (Natator depressus), only lives in Australia. It's most abundant in Western Australia and Cape Thouin is probably the biggest nesting site on the mainlan, Australia's Environment Department says. You might also try Barrow Island, Cemetery Beach in Port Hedland, Eighty Mile Beach in west Kimberley, and Bell's Beach near Wickham. Nesting occurs mainly in December and January.


How is this animal doing?
Best Locations List
friends of the dolphin
See Turtles
IUCN Marine Turtle Specialist Group 
Tybee Island Marine Science Center
California Turtle and Tortoise Club
The Turtle Hospital
Caribbean Conservation Corporation/Sea Turtle Survival League
HEART (Help Endangered Animals - Ridley Turtles) 
Defenders of Wildlife - Sea Turtle
Marine Bio
NOAA - Marine Turtles
Sea Turtle Restoration Project
World Wildlife Fund
WideCast - Latin American Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Volunteer/Job Opportunities

wildlife reading
Marine Turtle Newsletter








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