The Sea Turtle Hatchling Releases on Padre Island are so incredible! It’s truly something that should be on everyone’s bucket list, and we are so fortunate to be able to get to see something so incredible right here in Texas!
The turtle hatchlings that are released are from eggs that were collected about 2 months prior from a sea turtle who came ashore to lay her eggs. Volunteers are constantly canvassing the beach for turtle mommies, who bury their eggs and quickly return back to the water! If left alone, most of the eggs would fall victim to scavengers like coyotes and raccoons. The eggs are incubated there on Padre Island, but unfortunantly the center is not open to the public. The only chance you get to see these little survivors is during a turtle release!
I’ve made a list of My Mommy Tips for making the most of your visit, but the best tip I can offer is to just plan a trip and GO!
Know Before You Go
Most of the turtle releases happen from late June to mid-August.
The releases are scheduled less than 24 hours, depending on when the turtles hatch. You can check their facebook page (link at the bottom) for next day releases. Weather will also play a factor, and they will update their facebook page at 2am each morning for cancellations.
Parking is at the Malaquite Beach Visitors Center, which has a large parking lot.
Allow at least 20 minutes from Park Rd. 22 and Whitecap Blvd. On weekends it may take even longer because of traffic.
Don’t wear white, it can confuse the hatchlings, which are drawn to the white caps on the beach.
Flash photography is also not allowed.
No food or drinks are allowed on the beach during a release to keep from attracting the seagulls, a natural predator of the turtles.
Spray insect repellent at your car, they can be bad in the mornings.
Wear shoes that are easy to take off. The soft, deep sand is hard to walk on in shoes, and everyone ditches their shoes about two steps in. As you’re leaving, there is a nice shower to rinse off, but I like to also carry extra water in my car for a quick rinse.
It’s still dark when we arrive at the Malaquite Beach Visitors Center at 6:20am. At 6:30am, one of the park rangers will begin an educational program that last about 15 minutes, before we follow him out to down the boardwalk to the beach where the turtles will be released.
The Malaquite Beach Visitors Center has restrooms that will be open to the public during a turtle release. After the release, the gift shop and interpretive center are open.
Once you get down to the beach, the area where the turtles will be released has been roped off. The overhead net is there to keep away the hungry seagulls who fly above and would love a quick turtle snack.
Although there is plenty of room to see the turtles, don’t delay coming down and getting a good spot, especially the first week of releases or on weekends.
The turtle hatchlings are released up on the beach, and must crawl there way down to the water. This is because they actually NEED to crawl across this sand to mark their internal GPS on where to return when they are ready to lay their eggs.
Some of the turtles take off at a run, while others are very slow.
Although you don’t get to hold or touch the little turtles, one of the rangers will bring one of the slower ones around for a quick photo shoot, allowing the hatchling to warm up in their hands.
If the crowds aren’t too large, the rangers will also come around and take your camera down to get a better picture of the turtles as they are crawling along the beach!
Both Kemps-Ridley and Green Sea Turtles are released, depending on the hatchings. We’ve attended when they had several hatchings of both, over 250 turtles, and just a release of 85 green sea turtles. It just depends on what hatches.
Make a Day of It
Take advantage of already being on the beach and stay and play! I love the Padre Island National Seashore! Did you know it’s the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world? This early in the morning, you’ll be able to find some nice seashells brought in overnight! Pack your breakfast, or lunch or even for a week and head down the sand to places unknown to most people! Don’t just have a vacation this summer, have an adventure!
For more information on North Padre Island National Seashore, click HERE.
Padre Island NS Division of Sea Turtle Science & Recovery
North Padre Island National Seashore
Click HERE to visit their facebook page
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