Posted on 7/22/2020

A Guide to Safely Viewing Sea Turtles in Hilton Head

Sea Turtles take to the shores of Hilton Head Island for a safe place to nest and lay their eggs. Beginning in early May and ending by November, Sea Turtle season brings hundreds of these protected creatures to the shores of Hilton Head. In particular, Loggerhead Sea Turtles come to the beaches of South Carolina during this time of the year, and they are actually the most common Sea Turtle nester along the shores here. 

While it can be an exciting moment to see Sea Turtles in the wild, there are several keys to keeping these protected species safe. If you're hoping to see these magnificent creatures in the wild during your Hilton Head vacation, here are a few things to keep in mind. 

Best Time to See Sea Turtles Hilton Head

baby loggerhead turtle goes to sea

Between early May and the end of October, Sea Turtles use the shores of Hilton Head to nest. Mother Sea Turtles come to the shores of Hilton Head at night to lay their eggs in nests before returning to the ocean. Eggs take about 45-60 days to hatch before hatchlings make their way back to the water. Last year, according to the Island Packet, Hilton Head had a record number of nests on the island with 463 reported nests. 

One of the best ways to learn about the Sea Turtles of Hilton Head and get a chance to see these creatures from a safe distance is on a Sea Turtle walking tour. 

As Sea Turtles nest along the shores, local volunteers mark the nests to protect them from damage. You'll notice these scattered throughout the beach with do not disturb signs. 

Things to Know About Sea Turtles in Hilton Head

sea turtle tracks

Turn off your lights: Sea Turtles find their way back to the ocean by following the moon's reflection off the ocean's surface. When there are other lights on, such as street lighting or house lighting, the newly hatched Sea Turtles can become disoriented and move inland instead of to the water. Never use your phone or camera light, and turn off the exterior lighting and close your blinds if you are staying in an oceanfront beach home.

Remember: lights out between 10 p.m. - 6 a.m. May through October. 

Remove all debris and trash from the beach: Before you leave the beach, look behind you to make sure you've picked up all of your furniture, belongings, and any trash. Plastic bags and balloons are the most deadly to Sea Turtles.

Fill in holes and flatten sandcastles: While sandcastles may seem harmless, they can confuse hatchlings trying to find the ocean. Also, holes in the sand can trap young Sea Turtles. Be sure to create a hazard-free path for new Sea Turtles to make it to the ocean. 

Keep your distance from nests: While it's tempting to get close to young Sea Turtles to view or take photos, be sure to keep your distance to keep yourself and the turtles safe. 

Don't disturb tracks in the sand: Tracks in the sand help local volunteers find nests and locate eggs. Tracks are most commonly seen early in the morning or late in the evening when the beaches are no longer crowded. If tracks become trampled, it can be a lot more challenging to trace them back to a nest. You may notice a large X through a turtle track, which means it has already been traced. 

To report any issues please call the SC Department of Natural Resources Hotline (1-800-922-5431) anytime the or Town of Hilton Head Island (843-341-4690) on weekdays.

Plan Your Hilton Head Vacation With Us

Hilton Head vacation home on beach

Start planning your Hilton Head Island vacation today. Whether you're traveling with the whole family or just a small group, our Hilton Head rentals can accommodate all types of groups. We have properties in the most sought-after communities on the island, including Palmetto Dunes, Singleton Beach, and Folly Field Beach. Contact our team to help you find the perfect home for your stay, or book your rental with us online.  

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