By Allison Tibaldi, Taking The Kids Correspondent
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center is located in Palm Beach County, Florida. It’s nestled in the cozy seaside town of Juno Beach, just steps from where legions of loggerhead, green and leatherback turtles nest each season from March 1-October 31. During a recent visit, I was surprised to learn that it’s one of the most actively nested sea turtle areas in the world.
More than just a place to observe, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is a working hospital with the goal of rehabilitating its animal patients. In fact, it’s the preeminent sea turtle hospital in the United States and animals in need of treatment are carefully transported here from around the country.
The hospital was founded by local resident Eleanor Fletcher some 30 years ago. Nature stacks the deck against the hatchlings survival and Fletcher’s deep concern for the plight of these vulnerable reptiles prompted the creation of the center. It has grown into a popular tourist attraction while it forges ahead with its dual rehabilitative and educational missions.
Visitors will observe and learn about the meticulous care the turtle in-patients receive, as well as the broader message of the importance of protecting these fragile gems of the ocean and the delicate aquatic eco-systems that they live in. The dedicated staff and cadre of passionate volunteers are available to answer any questions curious children (or their parents and grandparents) may have. They will introduce you to the adorable temporary turtle patients, like feisty Susan and playful Betty White, and explain their specific injuries and illnesses.
Though the live turtles are a magnetic attraction, there are interactive exhibits and educational displays that will impress kids of all ages.
All ages are welcome to visit and admission is always free. Donations are gladly accepted and for a small fee, you may adopt a sea turtle and track his progress via satellite when you return home.
The Loggerhead Marinelife Center offers an array of thoughtful educational programming that will enrich the visitor experience. Each summer, weeklong interactive camps give young animal lovers a first-hand look into sea turtle conservation and ecology. Camp runs Monday-Friday from 9-4, with extended hours available. Campers age 6-17 may attend age-specific sessions in June, July and early August.
Consider reserving a spot for the popular Hatchling Release program, each Tuesday-Saturday at 8 pm during nesting season. You’ll witness newly hatched baby turtles dramatically making their way out to sea.
Guided Evening Turtle Walks are equally stimulating. You’ll have the opportunity to observe turtles methodically digging holes with their hind flippers and depositing their precious eggs, before stoically heading back out into the ocean.
As a Certified Florida Green Commercial Building, the building itself is a model of environmental stewardship and further enhances the clear, eco-aware message that the center seeks to spread.
Whether you are on vacation in Palm Beach County, looking for a day trip during a Walt Disney World getaway or visiting grandparents who live in South Florida, don’t miss this informative and inspiring turtle experience.
For additional information on visiting the area, head to http://www.Palmbeachfl.com
Photo credits: Discover The Palm Beaches and the author