Georgia presented one of the true highlights of our two years on the road...the Golden Isle, and more specifically, Jekyll Island! We have wanted to visit the island since we hit the road, and this time the logistics were perfect! The big attraction for us on Jekyll Island was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Why? Well, we developed a love for sea turtles while living on Cape Cod in MA, when we volunteered for Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (and where I worked for our last four years on Cape). During the summer, adult and juvenile sea turtles (primarily loggerheads, greens, and Kemp's Ridleys, the rarest and most endangered of all sea turtles) born in the south, migrate north to the Cape Cod Bay to feed on an abundance of food. As the water temperature starts to dip, the instinct to migrate back to the south for the winter kicks in. Putting it simply, the juveniles don't quite get it and end up stranded in the bay. As water temperatures continue to decrease into the 60's and 50's, these remaining turtles get stunned by the cold temps. Their metabolism severely slows down and they begin to float on the water, unable to fend for themselves. November and December are the peak months for stranding so the wildlife sanctuary forms a large corps of volunteers to walk bayside beaches looking for these stunned turtles. The turtles are typically brought onto shore by the incoming high tide and then as the tide goes out, they are left on the beach.
Volunteers are trained how to handle these stunned turtles, who look dead. But in many cases they are actually alive, but so severely stunned they do not move. Sanctuary staff gathers the turtles off the beach and take them back to the center where initial assessments are made as to the condition of the turtles. Then additional volunteers drive the turtles to the New England Aquarium for rehab. If the number rescued is very high, the aquarium will ship the turtles out to other turtle rehab centers for care. Which brings us to the Georgia turtle center!
We were thrilled to visit the hospital area and see 3 Cape Cod turtles that were saved this past winter! Be prepared for lots of following photos!
The above two photos show the tanks used to rehab the sea turtles. The above turtles are loggerheads. They are tended to by veterinarians, vet techs, and volunteers. See below.
The above two photos are of diamondback Terrapins, a salt marsh turtle, not a sea turtle.
The above are box turtles! These turtles are superficially related to tortoises in their terrestrial habits and appearance, but are actually members of the American pond turtle family.
The center had a very impressive education center and gift shop, too!
Lots of island history to check out, too.
We look forward to returning to the Golden Isle to visit other islands in the chain. Meanwhile, stay tuned for South Carolina! See you in a few days!