TOPSAIL ISLAND, N.C. — Turtles are known for moving very slowly, but this year in North Carolina, turtles are coming to the beach in record numbers.
Topsail Island has already seen more than 130 sea turtle nests on the beach. The turtles usually nest from May through August. This year volunteers are finding nests at a rapid pace along the 26 miles of beaches in the popular vacation area.
One of the most exciting places to visit is the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City. The rescue center released 20 turtles back into the ocean in June alone. Now is a great time to visit the area and tour the rescue center.
Injured or sick turtles are brought to the hospital for rehabilitation. An army of volunteers is always ready to help.
The calm and graceful sea turtles face danger every day. One of the most common issues is turtles being hit by boat propellers. The trash that humans leave on the beaches is detrimental to the turtles: They don’t know not to eat it.
The Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center is one of the leading tourist destinations in North Carolina, and visitors can expect to wait in line — so make sure to arrive early.
During a tour, visitors might see three species of endangered turtles: loggerheads, which are the largest, Kemp’s ridleys and greens, in various stages of recuperation.
If you are lucky enough to visit during a turtle release, you will witness an emotional time for the volunteers of the center. It is a not-to-be-missed event.
Strolling along a Topsail Island beach in the late evening, walkers could spot sea turtle tracks in the sand. It can become quite an experience as the turtle is most likely close by, possibly making a nest or laying her eggs.
A loggerhead turtle nests three to five times during the season, laying an average of 120 eggs per nest. It takes about 60 days for the little ones to hatch. Weighing in at about 2 ounces, the little turtles make their challenging escape to the water from the beach. About 1 in 1,000 survives the first year. Visitors often spot the little hatchlings making a run for the sea.
The Beasley center offers public tours daily from noon-4 p.m., except for Sundays and Wednesdays. The cost is $3 for 12 and younger, $4 for seniors and military, and $5 for 13 and older.
Keep up to date on the activities of the center on its Facebook page, at seaturtlehospital.org or at (910) 329-0222.
Topsail beaches offer a relaxing and fun vacation spot for visitors each year. For information on rental homes, hotels, restaurants and fun things to do, go to visitpender.com, Pender County Tourism’s Facebook page or Topsail’s Facebook page.
Before setting out to view the turtles, know the respectful way to do so. Here are a few general tips:
♦ Visitors should not use flashlights to look at nests or disturb them in any way;
♦ Do not disrupt the turtles returning to sea;
♦ Do not touch the turtles or their eggs; and
♦ Maintain a respectful distance.