How Your Visit Can Help Rescue Turtles in Florida

When you travel on vacation, a visit to the hospital may be the last thing on your mind. But this particular hospital for turtles in Florida is a great place to learn about different kinds of turtles and to see them up close!

The turtle hospital in Marathon, Florida is located halfway between Miami and Key West, on the grounds of the old Hidden Harbor Motel. The old motel rooms serve as living quarters for the rehab staff and storage.

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One of the patients at The Turtle Hospital.

During Your Visit

There are 7 species of sea turtles throughout the entire world. Five of the seven are found in Florida: Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley. Volunteers and student guides give visiting guests a brief history about the location and the work the nonprofit does around rescue, research, rehabilitations and education. They also tell you about different species of sea turtles, their characteristics, and the kinds of illnesses and traumas they face. Most of the turtles that The Turtle Hospital has rescued were victims of boat accidents, entangled in fishing nets, ingested plastics and debris, or acquired skin conditions due to chemicals in the water. Similar to humans, sea turtles get cancers, amputations, tumors, eye infections, and loose their ability to swim.

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You can minimize your impact on sea turtles by following a few basic guidelines.

The most fun part of the tour is seeing the turtles up close! You will get a chance to learn about each one’s life, their names and recovery process. You can also feed them food and watch them come up to the surface, or swim around the pools.

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Guides will pass out special turtle food for you to feed the rescued turtles.

Have you watched turtles lay eggs? Only 1 in 1,000 of these sea turtles actually survive!

Watch a Release

The Turtle Hospital has successfully treated and released over 1500 Sea Turtles since its founding in 1986. Public releases are held in the Florida Keys, some from the shore, others from a boat. Hundreds of people cheer for the turtle returning back home, where it belongs. You can follow The Turtle’s Hospital social media page to learn about release dates and plan to attend it.

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Watch a recovered sea turtle swim back into the ocean.

Ways To Help

Visiting The Turtle Hospital is a small step toward rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles, since all of your ticket price goes toward supporting the nonprofit organization. You can also purchase cute souvenirs, jewelry, t-shirts and bags from the gift shop to remind yourself of these amazing creatures. I purchased this super cute turtle crossbody bag from the gift shop at The Turtle Hospital, but you can order it through Amazon.com too (click on the picture).

Adopt a sea turtle yourself or gift to an animal lover for only $35 a year. Five of the permanent residents (sea turtles that are deemed non-releasable) are currently available for adoption. You can also make a tax deductible donation directly to The Turtle Hospital.

Stay at the Tranquility Bay resort located next door, a proud supported of The Turtle Hospital. The beachfront all-suites resort offers townhome style accommodations with private kitchens, multiple bedrooms and balconies. There are few swimming pools, restaurants, and water sports on site so you can make the most of your Florida Keys vacation. Tranquility Bay also has one of the best sites to see the sunset, so make sure to relax with a key lime martini by the beach!

Watch the best sunset in Florida Keys at Tranquility Bay.

Tranquility Bay encourages their customers to visit The Turtle Hospital, and will make a reservation for you. You can also get a free plush toy during your visit.

If you spot a sick or injured Sea Turtle in Florida, you should immediately contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-888-404-FWCC (*FWC or #FWC on your cell phone).

Wear biodegradable sunscreens when doing any water based activities.

Awareness at Home

Eat sustainable seafood. Make responsible consumer decisions when it comes to the purchase of seafood and know how it was obtained or caught. Visit www.seafoodwatch.org for a free guide on sustainable seafood you can buy at grocery stores or restaurants.

Help keep the beaches and water safe and clean. Do not throw garbage, especially plastic on land and in the sea. Often times, trash blows away with the wind and ends up in the digestive tracks of wildlife. A recent study found that on average our oceans are littered with 47,000 pieces of plastic per square mile!

Reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce your consumption of packaging and one-time use products. Travel with aluminum water bottles, wear washable masks, and recycle what you cannot reuse. 

Buy eco friendly products. Avoid using non biodegradable sunscreens and lotions when swimming in the ocean.

Be a responsible boater. Avoid crossing seagrass beds and be aware of your speed limit. Use a chart or GPS, stay alert and look out for floating sea turtles. A floating sea turtle is often sick and cannot dive down to escape an oncoming boat.

Dispose fishing line properly. If you enjoy fishing at home or on your vacation, make sure to not discard fishing lines in the water, and pick up a fishing line if you see it. Recycling bins are now located on every fishing bridge, beach and marina in the Florida Keys. Instead of tossing your fishing line in the garbage, hold onto it and place it in a recycling bin instead.

Due to social distancing restrictions, The Turtle Hospital is allowing only up to 20 people at a time, so make sure to make a reservation ahead of time. Masks or face coverings are required, and guests are asked to stay 6 feet apart from each other.