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At Resort Vacation Properties, we’re all about accommodating our visitors with the comfiest homes and best beach and bay views on the Island! But, there’s one Forgotten Coast inhabitant that has a home far too small for guests—the sea turtle!

Turtles are one of the most revered and storied creatures in existence. Some groups of Native Americans believed that a turtle even carries the world upon its back. In cultures from other parts of the world, they can represent luck, endurance, and long life. Here on the Forgotten Coast, where many come to nest, we don’t have a particular mythology for them, but they are among our favorite guests. To help you get to know these fascinating creatures, we’ve compiled a list of little-known facts about our friends from the sea!

They’re travelers—and homebodies, too

Sea turtles can travel over 20 miles a day! Their greatest migration, though, is to home—some travel up to 1,400 miles to lay their eggs on the same shores where they hatched.

They navigate using the earth’s magnetic field (maybe)

Sea turtles can detect both the angle and intensity of the earth’s magnetic field. A new theory suggests that they use this ability to navigate, which is how they find their way back to where they hatched after years of being away.

Their sex is determined by outside factors

Unlike most creatures, their sex isn’t determined by genetics, but by outside factors—namely, the temperature of the sand outside of their nest. Warmer temperatures lead to mostly females, while cooler weather typically yields males.

They’re team players

Because it’s almost impossible for the hatchlings to make it out of the nest on their own, the hatching of one triggers the hatching of the rest. Even with all of the babies working together, it can take up to a week to dig out of their nests!

They’re night owls

When the babies finally make their grand entrance, it’s in the dark. They emerge at night and follow the light, which traditionally leads them to the water. Development along beaches has altered this, however, and oftentimes the lights from houses confuse the hatchlings. That’s why it’s important to turn off outdoor lights during nesting season!

They breathe air

Sea turtles are most often associated with their underwater adventures, but they actually breathe air! They’re champs at holding their breath—they can last 4-7 hours when they’re sleeping or relaxing! However, during physical activity, it’s a paltry 2-3 hours at best.

They can be geriatrics

A healthy sea turtle can live to be about 80, with some even surviving to be over 100! That means some of these incredible creatures even manage to outlive the human researchers studying them.

Unfortunately, our sea turtle friends are endangered. To keep the sea turtle population in existence, there are various laws in place to protect them. If you’re lucky enough to witness a hatching, leave the hatchlings alone and avoid using flash photography or any light. It’s important for them to find the ocean on their own, and, as they follow the moonlight to the ocean, other light will disorient them.

St. George Island and Franklin County are always actively involved in conservation and caring for their greatest assets—the stunning beaches and unique wildlife. Earth Day gives reason to highlight, celebrate, and educate about the area’s efforts. For example, did you know that the “Leave No Trace” Ordinance, which requires all beachgoers to remove all personal items from the beach by 9:00 p.m., serves a purpose greater than just clean beaches? It’s an important protection for St. George Island’s favorite guests—sea turtles!

The island is a popular nesting site for the endangered species, a responsibility we take very seriously. Between May 1st and October 31st, migrations of sea turtles come to our shores to lay eggs in the same nesting grounds where they were hatched, with some traveling as far as 1400 miles! Temperature of the surrounding sand determines the sex of the hatchlings, and it can take them up to a week to dig out of the RVP Turtlesnest. While a popular but disproven myth claims that sea turtles hatch during the full moon, they do emerge at night to make their way to the ocean, where only an estimated 10% survive to adulthood. Because of the rarity of sea turtles, St. George Island feels privileged to be a nesting site. Strict guidelines and federal regulations are enforced to help protect these precious creatures of the sea, so, if you’re lucky enough to see this miracle, please respect both the turtles and the law by not disturbing them!

 

 

If you find yourself on St. George Island for Earth Day and want to celebrate with education, there are two great options in the area. The FSU Coastal & Marine Lab in nearby St. Teresa hosts a free open house with a focus on the importance of improving human awareness of the tight connection between healthy ecosystems and healthy societies, such as the importance of estuaries and other wetlands in controlling air and water pollution. This event, open to all ages, is from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and more information can be found here.

Another opportunity to learn about estuaries can be found just across the bay at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., this non-profit organization features aquatic tanks, historical and cultural exhibits, and outdoor boardwalks—all with free admission! More information can be found here.