Sea Turtle Center
At the Turtle Center, it is all about the turtles. You can find one of the most impressive sights just inside the gift store. You will see a replica of Archelon, a skeleton of a pre-historic extinct sea turtle, hanging from the ceiling. She makes an impressive sight. When Archelons roamed the earth, these turtles would have weighed in at over 11,000 pounds with a length over 16 feet.
The center is an active working turtle hospital, with two distinct public sections. The first is an interactive museum, with information about Georgia’s sea turtles and the challenges they face. The second area holds tanks of recovering turtles. The turtle feeding includes a very informative talk about turtles currently at the center, so note the time of the next feeding (typically 10 AM, 11 AM, 3 PM, and 4 PM). If you are close to a feeding time, head to the turtle pavilion before you tour the museum section.
At the museum you will learn details about five types of turtles: loggerhead, green, leatherback, Kemp’s ridley, and hawksbill. The loggerhead sea turtle nests regularly on Jekyll Island. One wall of the museum is a window into the turtle surgery area. Here you can watch the center’s veterinarian or his assistants in action. One common treatment involves the removal of barnacles from a turtle’s shell.
Next it is on to the sea turtle pavilion. Head out the side door and follow the cement walkway. You might want to look for box turtles in their outdoor pen on the way. Inside the next building you will find turtles in what look like swimming pools. Mirrors above the pools make for easy viewing, and signs in front of the tanks document each turtle’s story.
Although the center focuses on sea turtles, the staff also treat the diamondback terrapin, a turtle species that inhabits the marshy lands all around Jekyll Island. The terrapin is threatened by habit destruction. The causeway coming onto the island, for example, runs right through terrapin terrain, and each year cars hit terrapins as they try to cross the road. You may see the turtle van patrolling the road in an effort to keep turtles safe. During the summer and fall months you are likely to see terrapins, their eggs, and babies at the turtle center.
The turtle center coordinates opportunities to visit turtles out in the wild. You can schedule a sunrise walk or a ride with a sea turtle patrol. They also hold several sea turtle releases each year, where they release rehabilitated turtles back into the wild. These events take place at the Great Dunes Pavilion and are open to the public.
The turtle center is located in the Historic District off Stable Road. Open seven days a week 9 AM – 5 PM. Cost adults: $8, seniors $7, children $6, and under 3 free. For the best experience, you may want to arrive at 9 AM, as it is generally less crowded. This is especially true for Saturdays, their busiest day.
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