Florida Keys – Post #5 Turtles

Let me prepare you………….this post is going to talk and look at turtles in very diverse ways.

Let’s start with the Turtle Hospital.

Doing some internet research before leaving home, I came across this facility, having daily tours. After our few challenges with finding hotel accommodations, reservations became a priority (for anything) so we pre-booked this tour – glad we did, otherwise we would have missed out.

Before going I knew more education was needed to get me grounded. Here’s a few fun facts:

  • they have inhabited the oceans over 200 million years.
  • adults are believed to live longer than 75 years.
  • they can sail/swim through oceans up to 25 mph.
  • turtles spend most of their time in the ocean while migrating thousands of miles in their lifetime.

It was the first state-certified veterinary hospital in the world for sea turtles, opening in 1986. The site was originally a hotel that has now been turned into the turtle hospital. Those working on site or on internships can stay in the small (former) hotel rooms. The Turtle Hospital has been equipped with up-to-date medical equipment, donated by hospitals and doctors.

But it hasn’t all been easy.

Let’s get started. The 90 minute tour includes an educational presentation………..talking about the seven species.

After a short walk by their operating rooms, we headed outside for a walking tour behind the scenes. We first came upon these large tanks and these turtles.

And this guy who came up for a few breaths of air. OR, maybe he was checking us out!

An example of their work was this turtle. There was damage to his shell and subsequent buoyancy. He’s being rehabbed with these weights (green blobs) on his shell.

They have four major goals at the Turtle Hospital.

  • Rehabilitate sick and injured sea turtles before returning them to the wild.
  • Educate the public.
  • Conduct and assist research with a variety of universities and research facilities.
  • Work and support Environmental legislation for sea turtles.

We walked to the back of their property to this large sea pool, kind of an in between transition space before being released.

And also got the opportunity to feed the turtles.

Since this was a hospital they didn’t really talk about ‘nesting’ so here you go.

The females come to shore after mating and most amazingly go relative to where she was hatched years ago. Her hind flippers dig a hole in the sand, where she deposits 100-150 soft, rubbery ping-pong ball shaped eggs. The female turtle goes back into the water and may nest up to 6 times in a season.

The eggs are left to hatch on their own. After about two months, all the clutch of eggs hatch within 2-5 days and then burst through the sand and scamper towards the ocean with the sun reflecting the water as a beacon. They are in a frenzy to get into the water and a safer haven as nearby animals and birds are quick to pick up their presence. Only 1 in 1000 hatchlings make it to adulthood.

Before leaving the Turtle Hospital we found these on the nearby docks – iguanas.

A bit further up the Keys, we honored a pre-vacation request from Eric – lunch at the Green Turtle Inn.

In 1947 Sid & Roxie Siderious purchased a roadside establishment along the roadway to Key West. It has been designated as a heritage monument.

It gained wide-spread reputation for great food, a comfortable night’s rest and a location to eat something harvested from the local waters – turtles.

Hurricane Wilma (2005, at one time a category 5 hurricane) created the latest metamorphosis and while still casual dining, it has a more sophisticated and innovative menu serving modern Keys classics and southern staples. On a side note it one of the few Islamorada restaurants that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Started with smoked fish dip – of course.

I had an a.w.e.s.o.m.e mahi fish sandwich and fries. Hard to see the fish, but it was cooked to perfection. I forgo eating the bun and stuck with the fish, bacon and tomato. Fries were mighty tasty also. I had plenty to share.

No surprise that Eric ordered the turtle chowder but got a beet salad to round out his meal.

Since the ‘theme’ of this post is about turtles, let’s end on a note for their preservation. What can we do?

Ginny