Sea Turtle Facts & Information

Each year, sea turtles flock to the shores of the Golden Isles for nesting season. Many visitors are eager to get a glimpse of these magnificent creatures as they make their way from the sea to the shore, and back again. But before you start your trek to the Golden Isles to spot a sea turtle in Georgia, take some time to learn all about our shell-backed inhabitants.

Sea Turtle Facts

1. There are different types of sea turtles throughout the world.

That’s right. There are actually seven different species of sea turtle found throughout the world—Leatherback, Loggerhead, Green, Flatback, Hawksbill, Kemp’s Ridley and Olive Ridley. On the shores of Georgia, Loggerhead sea turtles are the most common species you’ll find. Loggerhead sea turtles account for 95% of all nests in the area.

2. A sea turtle nest resides inside a “body pit.”

When females come ashore for nesting season, they nestle down in the sand to create indents called a "body pit." Then, they dig holes inside this pit in dry patches above the high tide line to protect their eggs. The temperature of the sand and air surrounding the body pit can actually determine the gender of the baby hatchlings. Warmer portions of the nests produce female hatchlings and cooler portions produce males.

3. Sea turtles return to the same beaches for nesting every year.

Most female sea turtles return to the same beach each time they are ready to nest—they may even construct their new body pit and nest just a few yards away from the location of their last body pit! Sea turtle migration habits are a truly remarkable phenomenon in the animal kingdom.

4. In a single nesting season, sea turtles can lay hundreds of eggs.

During nesting season, females lay groups of eggs called “clutches” every two weeks. Each one of these clutches can contain between 60-180 eggs. That’s a lot of eggs!

5. Sea turtles travel thousands of miles throughout their lifetime.

Both male and female sea turtles migrate thousands of miles between foraging grounds to nesting beaches and back again.

6. Sea turtles can live to be 50 years old (or older!).

It’s hard to pinpoint how old any sea turtle is exactly, but it’s safe to say that some can live up to 50 years or more. Loggerheads can even live into their 90s!

7. Male sea turtles spend their entire lives at sea.

During nesting season, only female sea turtles come to the shore to lay eggs. Male sea turtles stay at sea for their entire lives. So if you spot a sea turtle on the beach in Georgia—it’s likely a female!

8. Sea turtles can weigh up to 2,000 pounds!

The leatherback is the largest living sea turtle in the world. Leatherback sea turtles can weigh between 550 to 2,000 pounds and grow to be six feet long! Unlike other turtles, the leatherback doesn’t have a hard shell or scales. Like their name suggests, leatherbacks are covered with a firm, leathery skin that enables them to withstand the pressure of diving hundreds of feet into the ocean where jellies, their main food source, reside! 

9. Sea turtles are endangered.

Unfortunately, most species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered. Their habitats are vulnerable to destruction, climate change threatens their survival, and they are prone to accidental capture or injury from boats and fisherman. Luckily, there are a variety of conservation efforts in place to protect the well-being of these beautiful creatures. You can do your part by clearing beach debris, filling in holes and collapsing sandcastles when you leave the beach, and using turtle-friendly lighting at night—these lights help prevent confusion among baby hatchlings as they follow the horizon line out to sea in their early days. Also remember NEVER to touch a sea turtle. They should only be observed from a distance.

10. You can search for sea turtle nests in the Golden Isles!

During nesting season, there are plenty of ways to learn more about sea turtles and even spot a nest for yourself! Head to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island to learn all about sea turtles and how the center is rehabilitating turtles who are sick or injured. You can also participate in a Turtle Walk, a guided tour of sea turtle nesting grounds.