Where to Vacation with Hatching Baby Turtles
Sea turtles know how to choose the friendliest beaches. These nine hotels around the world help guests participate in conservation efforts.
Sea turtles have great tastes in beaches. All seven species need sandy, wide, and warm beaches not for relaxing, but for laying their clutches that typically number one hundred eggs.
As more beachfront properties open around the world, nesting sea turtles are increasingly forced to share the strand with vacationing humans. Lights, development, and even poaching greatly impact nesting turtles, but fortunately many resorts are learning to be good neighbors and are even improving the odds for these threatened species.
These nine resorts have gone above and beyond to protect nesting and hatchling turtles, and their guests can help save sea turtles while enjoying a slice of paradise.
Surfing Turtle Lodge & Leon, Nicaragua
This solar-powered beach lodge on Isla Los Brasiles has an on-site turtle hatchery that protects olive ridley, leatherback, and hawksbill turtles from poachers and predators. Eggs are moved to the hatchery after they are laid on the remote beach, and gloved guests can help release the babies into the surf. With the three species of sea turtles laying here, activity can be seen from September through July.
Four Seasons Resort Nevis West Indies
Four Seasons Resort Nevis West Indies partners with the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the local Nevis Turtle Group to help track the migration patterns of the hawksbill turtles that nest on its beach. The resort also sponsors annually two GPS satellite transmitters that are affixed to adults after they are done laying. Guests can help find and tag adult turtles during July’s annual Sea Turtle Conservation Weekend, and from July through October guests are welcome to assist the Nevis Turtle Group in locating and marking sea turtle nests for protection.
Treasure Island, Fiji
Treasure Island Fiji employs a full-time environmental officer to manage the resort’s Bounty Island Hawksbill Hatchling Headstart Programme. Hawksbill turtle nests are identified and protected, and the hatchings are moved to a series of pools approved by the local Department of Fisheries to allow them to grow and strengthen before being released. Guests may help feed the on-site turtles. In addition, the resort provides turtle DNA information to the University of the South Pacific in Fiji to help monitor Fiji’s hawksbill turtle population’s health.
Rosalie Bay, Dominica
A National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, this 28-room, solar, and wind-powered eco-boutique and wellness resort welcomes the turtles that nest and hatch on its black-sand beaches from March through October. Working with the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network, nests for the 1,000-pound leatherbacks alone have increased from seven in 2003 to 95 nests in 2016. Visitors may walk the beaches with turtle experts looking for nests and conducting research, receive a late-night wake-up call to witness turtles laying, and participate in the nursery’s hatchling releases. When the trip ends, guests can stay involved by adopting and naming sea turtles met during their stay. The turtles are tagged, and guests are notified when they return to the beach and how many hatchlings they produce. Rosalie Bay’s spa, Zamaan restaurant, and the surrounding hiking trails and snorkeling complete this luxury eco-vacation experience.
Hilton Los Cabos, Mexico
Hilton Los Cabos Director of Operations Phil Sanders and his staff protect the olive ridley sea turtles that nest on a 10-mile stretch of beach that includes the resort’s property. From July through November, freshly laid eggs are moved to a corral that can hold up to 300 eggs, protecting them from beach traffic and poachers. When the eggs hatch, trained staff gather the babies and release them into the surf to the delight of resort guests, greatly increasing a hatchling's odds of surviving to adulthood in nature.
Heron Island, Australia
Surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is now a haven for green and loggerhead turtles that were hunted for turtle soup here in the 1920s. Turtles begin laying in November, and hatchings race for the water in February. The island’s only other occupant is the University of Queensland Heron Island Research Station that’s open for tours. Heron Island partners with the non-profit Sea Turtle Foundation to promote conservation and to help carry out research, and guided turtle walks are offered during turtle season November through March. Snorkelers and divers can always see turtles lounging on the reef just offshore.
Blue Osa Yoga Retreat and Spa, Costa Rica
Guests at this 12-room eco-resort can participate in the Save the Sea Turtles program in conjunction with Osa Conservation. Guests help patrol two critical olive ridley and green turtle nesting beaches, measure adult turtles and release hatchlings from the turtle nursery April through November.
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North Island, Seychelles
Wilderness Safaris purchased North Island in 1997 with the intent of restoring the island as much as possible to conditions pre-European contact by eradicating rats and restoring native vegetation. Through the resort’s Noah’s Ark Project, the giant aldabran tortoise has been reintroduced, and green and hawksbill turtle nests are protected. Guest can help with a variety of tasks, including helping to tag adult turtles for research.
Harbour Village Bonaire
This scuba-centric luxury property partners with Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire to protect the hawksbill turtles that nest on its beach, and donates all proceeds from turtle-related items in its gift shop to the organization. The November hatchling release is live-streamed on the resort’s Turtle Cam if you can’t make it in person, and guests can help with the Harbour Village Reef Foundation that helps the surrounding reef. Coral is transplanted onto low-voltage electrified metal structures that promote coral reef growth, and create food and homes for sea turtles.
Steve Larese is a New Mexico-based travel journalist and photographer who covers a variety of topics for National Geographic Traveler. Follow him on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.