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Adventure Travel Magazine


Larry Larsen's Media

Beach Nesting Turtle Watch

by M. Timothy O'Keefe

seaturtle    Because sea turtles are endangered or threatened species, people taking part in organized turtle watches in the United States are subject to various federal and state laws.  Anyone conducting a turtle walk in Florida must have a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (407/575-5407).
    All of the turtle walk programs are on Florida's East Coast since this is where the greatest concentration of nesting occurs. You are not allowed to use a flashlight or take flash photography.  For pictures of the egg laying--which you generally are permitted to photograph but verify this ahead of time--you will need fast film and a tripod. At night, even fast film is unlikely to work.
    While researching sea turtles, I discovered several turtle walks which I have described in detail in my book "Sea Turtles."  Following is a brief synopsis of a few of those turtle walks.

Canaveral National Seashore/Merritt Island
National Wildlife Refuge 



Walks are jointly conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (which has jurisdiction over the Merritt Island NWR) and the National Park Service (which has jurisdiction over Canaveral National Seashore). The programs start at 8PM and last until midnight. If a turtle is not sighted by 11PM, the walk is canceled.  Reservations are made by calling the Canaveral Information Center 904/428-3384.  Calls are taken May 15 for the June walks; on June 15 for the July turtle watches.

Sea Turtle Preservation Society Melbourne Beach

        Turtle walks are conducted by this organization in June and July.  However, the society did not supply any further information.  The contact number is 407/676-1701.

Sebastian Inlet State Recreation Area
9700 South A1A Melbourne Beach, FL  32951

        Public walks are conducted Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights of June and July. Reservations are taken two weeks ahead of a scheduled walk.  The first call of the day is taken at 9AM. Groups are limited to 20 people.    Telephone 407/589-2147. You can make reservations for up to six people.

Florida Power & Light Hutchinson Island

        Walks are conducted Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings at the FPL St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant on Hutchinson Island.    Reservations are made by calling (in Florida only) 800-334-5483 after May 15. Walks begin at 9PM with an orientation and education program. A limited number of spaces are reserved for guests staying at the three hotels on South Hutchinson Island.

Marinelife Center of Juno Beach
1200 U.S. Hwy. 1, Loggerhead Park, Juno Beach

        Turtle walks are conducted Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings in June and July.  Reservations may be made beginning May 1 on a first-come basis: 407/627-8280.

John D. MacArthur Beach State Park 
10900 State Road 703, North Palm Beach

    Walks are held Mondays and Thursdays in June and July and last from one to two hours.    Reservations are taken no sooner than the first working day following Memorial Day: 407/624-6952.  Groups are limited to 25.  The maximum amount of territory covered by walking is under two miles.  There are no age restrictions.  Normal state park admission fees apply: $3.25 for a vehicle holding up to eight people.

John U. Lloyd State Recreation Area
6503 North Ocean Drive, Dania.

    Walks are held Wednesday and Friday evenings in June and July.  They last between one and three hours, depending on when a nesting turtle is sighted.  Reservations are taken beginning May 1 by calling the park at 305/923-2833. Each group is limited to a maximum of 25 people with a minimum age limit of six years old. The walk covers about a half-mile of beachfront.    Normal state park admission fees apply: $3.25 per vehicle with a maximum of eight people per vehicle.

Hobe Sound Nature Center Hobe Sound, FL


Sea Turtle book photo by O'Keefe

Walks are scheduled Tuesday and Thursday evenings in June and July. Walks are usually over by midnight but have been known to last until 1AM.  Reservations should be made by calling the Nature Center at 407/546-2067 starting in April.  Thirty people are allowed to sign up for each walk, with no minimum age restrictions.  Waiting lists are also taken in case of last-minute cancellations.

Blowing Rocks Preserve Tequesta

    Blowing Rocks Preserve is a unique geologic formation, the largest Anastasia limestone outcropping on the Atlantic Coast.  Extending for more than a mile along Jupiter Island, this facility is owned and operated by The Nature Conservancy.    At this time, turtle walks are by invitation only and are not open to the general public.

    Editor's Note: This article is a partial excerpt from the book, "Sea Turtles - A Watcher's Guide".


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