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Small baby turtles on a beach.

5 Fascinating Facts About Sea Turtles on Hilton Head Island

By Hilton Head Insider

With its sun-kissed beaches, vibrant coastal landscapes, and a commitment to conservation, Hilton Head Island is a paradise teeming with extraordinary wildlife. Every year, locals and visitors have the incredible opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring sight of sea turtles returning to our shores to nest, as well as the heartwarming adventure of their hatchlings making their way to the water for the first time. If you’re interested in learning more about these fascinating creatures, you’ve come to the right place! Today, we’re sharing five exciting sea turtle facts with you. Get ready to be swept away by their ancient rituals, mesmerizing nests, and epic ocean adventures. Let’s jump in and discover the secrets of these beachside celebrities on America’s Favorite Island®!

#1 Nesting Season is from May-October

Hilton Head Island’s pristine beaches serve as a sanctuary for sea turtles during their nesting season. Every year, between May and October, these remarkable animals return to the shores, driven by their instincts to lay their precious eggs. The collaborative efforts of organizations like the Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island ensure the protection of nesting sites and create a safe environment for the baby turtles to make their impressive expedition back to the sea.

#2. The Loggerhead Turtle is a descendant of the Archelon

Did you know that loggerhead sea turtles and their marine relatives, including leatherbacks, green sea turtles, hawksbills, Olive Ridley turtles, and Kemp’s Ridley turtles, trace their ancestry back to the Archelon, an ancient shelled reptile that inhabited the prehistoric seas during the time of dinosaurs? Fossil records of these colossal reptiles have been discovered as far as South Dakota, with some specimens measuring up to a staggering 16 feet in length.

While the Archelon’s immense size may be a thing of the past, its influence can still be seen in its descendants. The loggerhead sea turtle, for instance, earned its name from its distinctive feature — a large head covered in scales that resemble the texture of a pine log. In fact, some speculate that the term “loggerhead” might even translate to “larger head.”

#3. The Incubation period for Nests is Around 60 Days

Turtle nests on Hilton Head Island hold the promise of new life and serve as a testament to the island’s commitment to conservation. The incubation period is around 60 days, depending on the sand temperature in the nest. But here’s the truly exceptional part: the nest temperature determines whether the newborn turtles are male or female. Eggs nesting at temperatures above 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit will result in female turtles, while cooler temperatures will produce males. 

#4. You can Help Protect the Turtles!

Preserving the safety of turtles is a tradition on Hilton Head Island, and you, too, can contribute during your next visit, especially during nesting season. Sea turtle hatchlings rely on the moonlight to find their way to the ocean, which means that artificial lighting visible from the beaches can cause confusion and hinder their adventure to their marine home.

To ensure the well-being of the sea turtles nesting on Hilton Head Island, it’s crucial to take the following steps:

  1. Turn off lights at night to minimize distractions.
  2. Close window shades to prevent light pollution.
  3. Fill in any holes on the beach that could obstruct their path.
  4. Refrain from disturbing any nests you may come across.

Sea turtles, with an estimated lifespan of about 100 years, can live long and fulfilling lives. However, they heavily depend on our assistance to do so. Among the seven species of sea turtles, six are currently classified as threatened or endangered. From the moment they hatch, these gentle reptiles face numerous perils on their way to the sea and back. Predators both on land and in the sea, accidental capture and entanglement in fishing gear, loss of nesting and feeding sites, and the pervasive threat of ocean pollution all pose significant challenges for sea turtles.

#5 You can Dedicate a Nest!

By participating in the Nest Dedication program, you can contribute to protecting and preserving sea turtles while offering a meaningful way to honor a loved one, celebrate a special occasion, or show your support for sea turtle conservation. Your dedication helps cover essential expenses for the Sea Turtle Patrol, such as vehicle maintenance, fuel, poles, tape, digging tools, mallets, and insurance. These resources are vital for the daily monitoring 12 miles of Hilton Head Island’s beachfront. Here’s how it works:

  1. Fill out the form and make a donation of your chosen amount. You will receive an email confirmation of your nest dedication.
  2. From here, you (or the person you’re honoring) will receive a special packet in the mail. It includes a certificate announcing the nest dedication, the assigned nest number, and a commemorative sticker! Please note that nest locations will be disclosed after hatching. Throughout the season, you and the recipient are then informed about the thrilling discovery of the actual nest and the hatch results!

From their ancient history to their challenging voyage from nest to the ocean and back again, the sea turtles are put against incredible odds yet live extraordinary lives. Hilton Head Island is lucky to have such a diverse set of wildlife that returns to its beaches yearly. By embracing our responsibility to protect and conserve these breathtaking creatures, we can positively impact their survival. Let’s help and do our part to protect these amazing creatures for years to come. Together, we can ensure a future where these exquisite sea turtles continue to thrive and inspire us with their resilience. For more information about sea turtles and their nesting season, visit here and learn about conservation efforts and discover how you can contribute more to their well-being. 


Want to see the sea turtles for yourself? Start planning your next vacation to Hilton Head Island and experience the wonders of nature firsthand. Visit the Hilton Head Island website to explore our stunning beaches, captivating landscapes, and an array of activities for all. Immerse yourself in the beauty of this coastal paradise and create memories that will last a lifetime!

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