Animal-lovers of all ages who are headed to Georgia’s Golden Isles MUST find time during their trip to visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. I was lucky enough to go with my mom when I visited she and my dad on St. Simons Island, where they spent the month of March – and what a memorable experience it was!
-> Photo courtesy of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. All others via moi. <-
(Disclaimer: Much of the center is geared toward youngsters. With that said, if you’re an animal-lover, you’ll definitely enjoy it.)
The center, which is Georgia’s first sea turtle rehabilitation, research, and education facility, is basically separated into two facilities – the main center, which also offers a glimpse into the operating room, and the rehabilitation pavilion.
We started in the main center where we learned about a turtle’s growth process, the biggest threats to turtles, the most dangerous invasive species and more. I was really surprised by some of the information – like the fact that female sea turtles aren’t of reproductive age until their thirties. (Think about all the danger they face leading up to that age – many baby turtles don’t even make it into the sea after hatching… no wonder the sea turtle population is in danger!)
And watching the operating room was very interesting. Spectators can’t hear what’s going on inside the room, but there is a white board that explains (in very simple terms) what they’re doing. While we were there we watched a turtle have his vitals tested, blood drawn and his shell cleaned. The poor little guy (or gal!) sure was a trooper!
As you might expect, the best part of all was the rehabilitation center. While it’s open to visitors during normal business hours, we were able to catch one of their feedings, which take place every morning and afternoon.
Guests are welcomed to walk around and observe the turtles, all of whom are housed in water tanks. My mom and I were immediately tickled by the names of some; Rocky Road, Butter Pecan, Moose Tracks. How silly, we thought, those are ice cream flavors!
Later during the feeding demonstration we learned that the sea turtles who had been “cold stunned,” i.e. those who somehow got off track and ended up in cold waters, like the waters off the coast of Massachusetts, were named after ice cream flavors. Aha!
Cold stunned turtles’ temperatures are slowly elevated in a heavily monitored environment.
Those who had suffered other ailments, such as a car accident or a bacterial infection were given other names, like “Superman” and “Nurdle.”
I know their tanks look quite small, but as one of the veterinary technicians said in response to a child’s question about the seemingly small tanks, “the sea turtles are in the hospital, they’re recovering because they’re sick, so they need to be in a small space.” Makes sense!
Feeding time was fun to watch, as techs placed bundled-up lettuce, peppers and possibly other veggies into the tanks. The sea turtles were quick to head-butt the bundles, thus breaking them up and leaving some pieces floating while others sunk to the bottom.
We were only at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for about an hour and a half, but it was an incredibly interesting, educational and awe-inducing experience. The center does a wonderful job of communicating important lessons – like refraining from littering, not disturbing a sea turtle’s nest and reporting the presence of invasive species – in an engaging and fun environment.
If you’re headed to the Golden Isles, make sure you add a trip to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to your list! Find out more about the Georgia Sea Turtle Center via their website, here.
And visit their Facebook page for updates about the turtles & more… like this way cool photo. Yes, those are turtle eggs in this gal’s belly!
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is located at 214 Stable Road, corner of Hopkins & Stable Rd., in Jekyll Island. Hours are as follows:
March-October: Monday-Sunday (9:00am-5:00pm)
November-February: Mondays (Closed), Tuesday-Sunday (9:00am-5:00pm)
Holidays: Thanksgiving (10:00am-2:00pm), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day (Closed)
Admission proceeds help to offset operational costs, including the rehabilitation of the sea turtles. Admission rates are as follows; $7 for adults (13+ years), $6 for Seniors (65+ years), $5 for children (4-12 years) and children 3 years old or younger are FREE.