10 Spectacular Places for Families to See Sea Turtles
By Nancy Schretter, Editor
Family travel is booming, and family-oriented nature travel is one of the hottest travel segments of all. Travel destinations and resorts are catering to these trends by offering innovative, environmentally sensitive programs, unique opportunities for family members to observe nature, and wide variety of family packages. In this "10 Spectacular Places" article, you'll find the Family Travel Network's picks for the best places to take your family to see sea turtles in the wild.
Our family first had the extraordinary opportunity to see tiny Loggerhead sea turtles hatching years ago when we stayed at a beachfront condominium on Topsail Island in North Carolina. As we walked along the seashore one day, we noticed that one of the marked turtle nests was due to hatch that evening. My daughters were in preschool and first grade, and they were thrilled about the thought of seeing baby sea turtles scrambling towards the sea. So, we decided to bring a blanket and sleep out under the stars that night to see what happened. Unbelievably, we happened to get very lucky. At about 10 p.m., the sand began to collapse around the nest and one by one, tiny sea turtles emerged from the nest. We flagged down one of the turtle patrol ATVs and they showed us what to do. It was one of the most amazing experiences of our lives, and one that the children vividly remember to this day.
Families often have the opportunity to see sea turtles at aquariums and marine life parks. One spot in the Caribbean that is often associated with sea turtles is the Cayman Islands. Over 340,000 cruise passengers and visitors to Grand Cayman Island stop to visit the Cayman Islands Turtle Farm, home to over 16,000 Green sea turtles. Visitors have the opportunity to observe tiny baby sea turtles as well as massive adults, and a small group of young Green sea turtles are available to be held by guests. Each year, over 28,000 hatchlings and yearlings are released by the Farm into the waters surrounding the Cayman Islands.
While turtles can be easily viewed in captivity in the Cayman Islands, there are also resorts there that are helping to preserve the endangered sea turtles. Guests of the Little Cayman Beach Resort are helping scientists by recording observations of sea turtles while on vacation. Three species of sea turtles nest in the Cayman Islands: the Green, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead turtles. From May until October, Resort staff and island residents who have been trained to assist with monitoring surveys, search for signs of marine turtle nesting. The nesting locations are then reported to Department of the Environment officials for data collections and further nest monitoring. Resort guests taking advantage of the outstanding diving opportunities in the area also assist in turtle monitoring efforts.
It is quite rare to have the opportunity to see sea turtles in the wild. Along the adjoining sidebar, you'll find 10 spectacular locations for families to see marine turtles nesting, hatching, and swimming in their natural environment. One or two are in rather remote locations, but almost all offer excellent accommodations for families combined with outstanding eco-tourism opportunities. If your family loves nature, pick any of these destinations and you'll be likely to have the opportunity to make vivid vacation memories of your own.