Turtle experiences, such as a turtle release on Jekyll Island, create lasting, happy, joyful memories. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (GSTC) is an active hospital with a primary goal of treating turtles and releasing them back into the wild. An injured turtle might be cold-stunned from the Atlantic coastal waters, a boat may have hit it, or it might have so many barnacles covering it that it can no longer move. Visit the Turtle Center to see these animals recovering. You can view turtle surgeries, attend turtle feedings, or watch the turtles swimming in their temporary homes.
Sea turtle releases happen several times a year and have become public events that draw large crowds. Releases take place at Great Dunes Park, where a GSTC truck can drive the turtles right onto the beach. Even though there were many people at my last release, we found folks were patient and always made room for young kids to see. There is a festive atmosphere, with GSTC representatives providing short narratives about each turtle’s story. Larger turtles start on the beach and walk their way to the water. GSTC staff carry smaller turtles into the water just behind the waves. Some of the turtles wear tracking devices which help GSTC further understand their movements. The crowds happily wave good-bye to the turtles and wish them on their way.
GSTC has a booth set up at each release, so you can buy a t-shirt from them or learn more about the Turtle Center. The GSTC mascot, a person dressed up as a large stuffed sea turtle, often wanders through the crowds.
Attending a Release
Attending a turtle release requires a bit of luck. Jekyll Sandpiper will certainly send you a text if you are staying with us and we hear about a release. You might also follow GSTC on Facebook for more information about everything that is happening at the center. I think they plan releases when the water is warm enough and on bright sunny days with a minimum of wind. If you are lucky enough to attend a release, consider arriving early for a good viewing location. Since the process can take awhile to get underway, we recommend that you bring beach chairs.
If you’re looking for a turtle experience but there isn’t a scheduled release, you might consider one of the GSTC programs for viewing turtle nests.
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