Updated: Oct 23, 2020
Southwest Florida is home to many different kinds of interesting wildlife, including alligators, herons, bears, dolphins, and pelicans. While all of these animals are stars in their own right, our local sea turtles are superstars. We are the home of loggerhead sea turtles, green sea turtles and Kemp's Ridley sea turtles, and even the occasional leatherback sea turtle. We often see sea turtle heads peeking out of the water on a calm day to catch a breath before diving and swimming away gracefully.
But the real reason that sea turtles are local superstars is that we often see them before they are even born. Throughout the summer and into the fall it is not uncommon to see turtle nests on Vanderbilt Beach and on other beaches in Naples and the Paradise Coast. Sea turtles lay their eggs at night by swimming ashore, crawling up the beach and using their flippers to dig a hole before depositing their eggs, covering the hole and retreating back into the sea. Our local turtle patrol helps to protect the nests by marking them and protecting them from predators by covering them with chicken wire. Despite this protection, many of the nests are destroyed by wave action during summer storms or by predators.
While we often see the marked nests, it is very rare to see the turtles hatch because the event usually occurs late at night typically 40-50 days after the eggs were laid. The tiny sea turtle hatchlings then find their way into the sea by the light of the moon, which is why beachfront properties in Naples and on Vanderbilt Beach are required to use special lights so they do not interfere with the Turtles' sense of direction when they hatch.
Shortly after the pandemic lockdown eased in Southwest Florida, our staff at the Vanderbilt Beach Resort and the Turtle Club noticed a sea turtle nest on the beach directly in front of our property. We decided to harness the power of technology to see if we could capture the magical moment when the eggs hatched. Knowing that it was likely that the nest might be destroyed by a storm or a predator, we nevertheless installed an infrared webcam and kept it focused on the nest in an effort to capture the hatch.
Days and weeks went by, until one of our guests notified us upon opening the resort in the morning that the nest had hatched in the middle of the night! We excitedly scrambled to view our camera to see what had transpired. We were rewarded with the video below that establishes that despite the existence of the pandemic - magical moments are all around us if we only stop and look. The video below is a time lapse version of the video - so it is sped up and considerably faster than the actual hatch which took about 5 minutes. If you want to see the hatch in real time, you can click here.
Isn't that incredible! Even more incredible is the fact that one turtle was still stuck in the nest in the morning. He just couldn't quite get out of the nest. So we flagged down the turtle patrol and he gave the little one the help it needed to make it out to see. And we captured that amazing video by Phone. Check it out.
And the most amazing thing is that, like many of our resort and restaurant guests, these sea turtles will likely return to our coast many times during their lives and will likely return to the Vanderbilt Beach Resort and the Turtle Club when its time for them to lay their eggs and start their own families! So during your next visit to the Resort or the Turtle Club, stay watchful and aware. As you look out over the tranquil Gulf Of Mexico, see if you can see any sea turtles come up for air. And if you visit us in the summer, be on the lookout for turtle nests. And if you happen to be up late at night on the right evening in the summer you may even witness the miracle of a turtle hatch!