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1 Aug 2023
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Seasonal Events

Hilton Head Island is not just a paradise for beachgoers and golf enthusiasts, but it also attracts beautiful creatures. One such animal that has an exceptionally high opinion of the island is the Atlantic Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Every year, from May to October, the island becomes a sanctuary for endangered sea turtles as they return to their ancestral nesting grounds to lay their eggs. 

As a visitor to Hilton Head Island, it's essential to be aware of this incredible event and understand the rules and guidelines that ensure the safety and preservation of these magnificent creatures. The team at Beach Properties of Hilton Head is here to help; we've put together a guide of what you need to know about turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island. 

When is Hilton Head Island's Sea Turtle Nesting Season?

Turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island typically spans from May to October. However, nesting first starts when water temperatures reach 70 degrees, which can be in late April. During this period, female sea turtles emerge from the ocean at night to lay their eggs in the sandy dunes. Interestingly, females return to the same general area where they hatched, and nesting is the only time when they ever go back to land. 

Information on Sea Turtle Nesting Season

Turtle nesting is an awe-inspiring sight. Here's how it works. Once returning to land, typically at night, females dig a deep hole in the dunes with their back flippers. They typically lay about 120 eggs in the hole, which they then cover with sand. The nest incubation period lasts approximately 60 days. 

Turtle Hatchlings

After that incubation period, the eggs are ready to hatch! When baby turtles, also known as hatchlings, emerge from their eggs, it can take up to three days to fully break out of the shell. Once out, they wait for a dip in temperature before making their journey across the beach into the ocean. There, the hatchlings will complete a 70-mile swim over three days to the Gulf Stream. 

Turtle Nesting Season Safety Tips

While it is thrilling to witness sea turtles during their nesting season, it is crucial to remember that they are highly sensitive and easily disturbed. With these tips in mind, you can help keep the hatchlings safe.

  1. No Flashlights: Artificial lighting can disorient and confuse the turtles, leading them away from their intended nesting sites or causing them to become disoriented upon returning to the water. If you're visiting the beach at night and need a light, use a red beam light.

  2. No Disturbance: Visitors are advised to keep a respectful distance from the nesting turtles and avoid touching or interfering with their nesting process. It is important to maintain a quiet and calm environment to avoid causing stress or distress to the turtles.

  3. No Beach Obstructions: Chairs, umbrellas, and other beach equipment should be set up in designated areas to ensure that turtle nesting sites are not obstructed or damaged. Always be mindful of the marked-off areas and follow any instructions or signs posted by local authorities.

It is worth noting that Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island monitors the beaches during nesting and hatching season. This group helps ensure these endangered creatures are safe during this delicate time period. As of this writing, Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island has counted 300 sea turtle nests on the island in 2023.

Witness Nesting Season

Turtle nesting season on Hilton Head Island offers a rare opportunity to witness one of nature's most incredible events. You can observe this amazing natural phenomenon when you stay on Hilton Head Island from May through October. 

If you need a place to stay, Beach Properties of Hilton Head Island has you covered. We offer a wide range of vacation rentals on Hilton Head Island, including properties near the beach. Browse our Hilton Head lodging options online, or call 800-671-5155 for help from one of our reservationists.