It’s always turtle time along the Jupiter Coast, but there are certain months that see a significant increase to our local sea turtle population. The beaches along Jupiter, Florida host one of the densest sea turtle nesting populations in the nation. That means chances are good that divers will encounter sea turtles whenever they dive, but between March and October, the likelihood of seeing one or more of these fabulous marine creatures skyrockets!
Five species of sea turtles can be found in our area, but if you don’t know the difference between a loggerhead and a hawksbill you can’t fully appreciate one of this area’s wonders. The three most abundant species are the loggerhead, green and hawksbill. Less abundant are the leatherbacks and the Kemps’ Ridleys. All are considered endangered.
Let’s break them down.
Loggerhead sea turtles have massive heads, strong jaws, and a reddish-brown shell, or carapace. Adult males reach about three feet in shell length and weigh about 250 pounds.
Green sea turtles, as their name suggests, are green. They are typically 3-4 feet in length, have small heads and have four scutes (the keratin shell plates) on each side of their shells.
Named for their narrow heads and bird-like beaks, hawksbill sea turtles have the most colorful shells of the marine turtles.
Leatherback sea turtles are pelagic by nature, so their return to their nesting area is often the only time divers can see them. The largest of the marine turtles, they typically weigh between 700 and 1500 pounds at maturity and can reach lengths from 4 to 8 feet. Unlike other sea turtles, the leatherback has a soft shell that resembles leather. As pressure increases on their deep dives, the shell compresses.
Kemps’ Ridley sea turtles are the smallest of the sea turtles, weighing between 75-100 pounds and rarely topping 2 feet. They have triangular heads and hooked beaks. These are the only sea turtles that nest during the day.
So now that you know the basics about how to identify the species, where can you go to see them?
First up, Loggerhead. As its name suggests, Loggerhead is a great place to look for, well, loggerhead sea turtles. The relatively shallow reef offers plenty of prominent ledges under which the sea turtles can be caught napping or feeding. But in addition to loggerheads, also look for Hawksbills and greens.
Lighthouse and Bonnies are two other reefs that are popular with sea turtles (and the divers who love them!).
Want to learn more?
Because of their love of the ocean, divers often become some of the staunchest marine advocates. Our friends over at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center share our enthusiasm, and are dedicated to promoting the conservation of ocean ecosystems and focus their attention on threatened and endangered sea turtles. Together, we provide an in-depth Sea Turtle Awareness program that will help ensure that the magnificent turtles we see today will continue to delight divers well into the future.