Sea turtles are among the most magnificent residents of the Caribbean, but they’re also among the most endangered. Overfishing, pollution, and degradation of nesting areas have made life more difficult on the region’s green, loggerhead, leatherback, and hawksbill sea turtles. On the bright side, there are a number of major initiatives underway designed to preserve and protect the sea turtles, and many a Caribbean resort now includes sea turtle oriented activities and education among its guest offerings -- particularly in the summer and fall, which is sea turtle nesting season in the Caribbean.
Bequia, a charming island in the Grenadines, is home to a major sea-turtle rescue and breeding program, the Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. Booming St. Kitts also is building a Sea Turtle Interpretive Center on Key Beach; the facility will serve as a hub for tours and educational activities by the St. Kitts Sea Turtle Monitoring Network.
Some resorts, like the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa in Puerto Rico, simply arrange for guests to witness sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs on nearby beaches, or to view the exciting moment when turtle hatchlings leave their nests and make their way back to the sea, where only one in 1,000 will survive to adulthood. (The Wyndham partners with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources to ensure the safety of both guests and turtles.)
At The Club resort in Barbados, an inexpensive and quick excursion just down the west coast of the island gives guests an opportunity to swim with leatherback turtles in their natural environment, lured by bread and fish scraps tossed in the water. The Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas runs a similar trip on its catamaran Heavenly Days to Turtle Cove on Buck Island.
The GoldenEye Hotel and Resort in Jamaica guarantees guests who stay for five nights or more in the month of September the chance to see sea turtles hatch on Golden Sea Beach, where more than 10,000 turtles emerge from the sand between May and September each year. For $10 per person, hotel guests are led on a hatching excursion by a local sea-turtle expert.
Others, like the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort in Puerto Rico, give guests the option of taking part in conservation efforts. The resort’s leatherback turtle program is led by an on-site marine biologist, helping the property become the Caribbean’s first Audubon International Gold Signature Sanctuary resort.
Even some of the most bustling beaches in Aruba have nesting sea turtle populations; fortunately, the island also is home to one of the most environmentally conscious hotels in the Caribbean, the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts. The resort supports the local sea turtle foundation, Turtugaruba, and runs two educational seminars each year on sea turtle conservation -- one on Earth Day, the other on the first day of turtle nesting season.
Dominica's Rosalie Bay Resort is fortunate enough to have nesting populations of three types of sea turtles (green, hawksbill, and leatherback); the resort founded the island’s sea-turtle conservation program and enlists guests to patrol beaches to protect nesting turtles, help researchers collect data, or aid in relocating nests that are too close to the ocean from the shoreline to the resort’s turtle hatchery.
One of the most comprehensive sea turtle programs in the Caribbean is at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, whose Pinney’s Beach is a major nesting ground for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle as well as other species. The resort has had a longstanding partnership with the Nevis Turtle Group and the Sea Turtle Conservancy to protect these turtles and involve guests in a variety of related initiatives, including:
- educational programs
- turtle adoptions
- beach patrols
- a weekly Sea Turtle Camp for kids that includes “turtle tales,” turtle watch beach walks, arts and crafts, postcard drawing contests, interactive games, puzzles and videos. During turtle nesting season, which runs from June through October, children ages three to nine participating in the Kids for All Seasons turtle education program receive a sea turtle adoption certificate and Sea Turtle Conservancy membership.
In Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the Xcaret eco-park also has a turtle sanctuary that periodically releases hatchlings back to the sea and invites visitors to enjoy the spectacle. The nearby Barcelo Maya Beach Resort also protects its resident sea turtles and invites guests to observe them hatch each year.
Want to do more to help sea turtles in the Caribbean and worldwide? Donate to the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the Sea Turtle Restoration Project, or SEE Turtles' Billion Baby Turtles campaign.