Loggerheads on Location at Juno Beach

Turtle NestingHundreds of sea turtles come ashore in Juno Beach, Florida each summer on a journey mapped before they were born. These loggerheads, leatherbacks and green sea turtles come onto the beach and lay eggs by the hundred, then return to the sea. Thousands of hatchlings emerge a couple of months later and follow their instincts across miles of vast ocean, and possibly back to the same beach to lay eggs of their own. Juno Beach is now recognized as one of the most active nesting beaches in the world!

Florida is blessed to have five out of the seven sea turtle species that are found worldwide.  The most common turtle in Florida is the Loggerhead, Green and Leatherback.  The Loggerhead is the most common in Juno Beach, where on a 9 ½ mile stretch of beach, 16,000 nests were laid in 2016! The Green and Leatherbacks are much less common with only a few hundred nests last year.

Loggerhead Marinelife CenterIf you want to learn more about these threatened turtles and get up closer and personal with them, spend an afternoon at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. This is a one of a kind turtle rehabilitation and educational center located on Juno Beach in Palm Beach County.  The state of the art center, which is supported solely by donations, is the result of a small dream paired with a grand vision. It began over 30 years ago when long-time Juno Beach resident Eleanor Fletcher started what is now the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. Eleanor and her husband Robert had a real estate business in Juno Beach. Eleanor began to notice the abundance of sea turtles nesting on the shore in spring and summer. She was curious about why so many hatchlings headed landward after hatching, rather than back to sea, and as a result, began some of the earliest research on sea turtles in the area. Eleanor became known as “The Turtle Lady” throughout the area and the Loggerhead Marinelife Center now attracts more than 300,000 visitors each year.

Loggerhead Marinelife Center TanksThe Center typically has between fifteen to twenty sick or injured turtles at any one time which visitors can see up close. The Center houses a museum and aquarium, as well as daily educational programs, tours and experiences that give guests the opportunity to see and learn about the turtles.

We recently participated in a tour called “A Turtle Walk,” which is a unique program that allows visitors to learn about, and observe, the nesting and egg-laying process of sea turtles. We met at the Center a few hours after it had closed for the day and took an exclusive, behind-the-gate tour to meet some of the turtles.  We then enjoyed an informative presentation on the plight of sea turtles.  About an hour into our presentation, the staff received a call that a loggerhead sea turtle had just come up on the beach across the street from the Center to lay her eggs.  The group was then led down to the beach to witness this unforgettable experience. We quietly watched as the Loggerhead turtle laid approximately 100 eggs that were the size of a ping pong ball. The egg laying process took approximately 45 minutes. When the turtle was done laying her eggs, she covered up the two foot deep hole she had dug in the sand.  She then proceeded to camouflage the nest and then return to the sea. This was a truly awesome and special memory for us.

The Loggerhead females are amazing creatures. From the age of 25 to 80, they can lay up to five nests with 80-120 eggs per nest every other year. The turtles generally return to the beach where they were born, or within a couple of miles of the beach to nest.  GPS is nothing new, as turtles have had it for millions of years.

While entrance to the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is free, there is a small charge for the tours. Plan on spending a couple of hours at the center.  For more information, visit www.marinelife.org or call (561) 627-8280.

While you are in town, we suggest you stay at the Holiday Inn Express located at 13950 U.S. Highway 1, Juno Beach, FL 33408.  The resort is located within walking distance of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center.  All rooms include a patio or balcony and a complimentary breakfast is included. For more information visit https://www.ihg.com or call (561) 622-4366.

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