There’s a proper turtle etiquette you ask? Who knew turtles have manners? You might have guessed we are actually talking about human behavior that impacts turtles and other creatures on your visit to Destin beaches.
On the first morning of your beach vacation, you spot a section of sand near the dunes staked off with yellow caution tape. Did someone spill a caustic substance on the sand? There are also some strange tracks leading away from that area. At the end of a long day of relaxing at the beach, you spot a group of teenagers filling in the hole they spent all day digging. Why do they bother, they’ll probably be back at it digging another hole tomorrow.
As you head in for the evening, you wonder why all the curtains are closed, and there are pale amber lights on the porches. Those dim lights make it very difficult to see if you drop something when you’re enjoying a drink on the balcony after dinner. As you head to bed, you might notice red lights moving along the shoreline.
For years your friends told you what an awesome place Destin is, and you’ve finally made the trip to the beautiful Emerald Coast. But What is it with this place? You saw some strange things today, like no other place you have been.
For the Turtles
The following morning, the mystery begins to unravel. You spot several more areas staked with caution tape, and decide to check it out. Upon closer look, you discover a sign that explains what you see is a protected turtle nest. You ask the teenagers why they fill in their holes and they say “it’s for the turtles.” When you ask a maintenance guy about the curtains and the special lights on the porch, you get the same response; “it’s for the turtles”. And those red flashlights, you guessed it; they’re for the turtles too!
As you may or may not realize, sea turtles are a protected species. It is our responsibility to make sure we don’t hinder their chance of survival. Since the gulf coast is prime turtle nesting ground, people are making an effort to do their part. Volunteers walk the beach in the early morning hours to identify new nests and stake them before someone accidentally disturbs them.
Every year in late spring adult female turtles come ashore to lay their eggs in shallow nests usually near the dunes. When the hatchlings emerge from their shells in late summer, they make their perilous journey to the ocean. Sometimes this happens during the day, but often it occurs at night. In this case, they return to the ocean, using the reflection of the moonlight on the ocean to guide them.
What Can You Do?
Both Adult and hatchlings can get confused by white flashlights or white lights in homes and buildings along the beach. This is why you see people walking along the beach with red flashlights. It’s also why you should fill in holes and knock down sand castles at the end of the day. Do anything to make their journey to the ocean easier. That’s proper turtle etiquette!
In short, proper etiquette means follow the motto “Leave no trace.” Do it for the turtles! Follow these tips and you just might find one of these guys swimming along as you paddleboard or kayak!