Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Take one green sea turtle. Add a loggerhead turtle. Season with a hawksbill turtle and a dollop of leatherback turtle. Top off with a Kemp’s ridley. Then, add a measure of excited, rambunctious, eager-to-learn kids.

Dump the whole mess into a great big brick crockpot of a building and simmer nicely.

What do you get? Some of the best turtle soup you’ve ever experienced!

Of course, this turtle soup ain’t edible. It will, however, feed the souls of entire families.

It’s the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, home to the green sea turtle, his pals, and a host of dedicated staff who go all out to rehabilitate sick turtles while educating the public on turtle rehabilitation and conservation of turtle habitat.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a marine turtle rehabilitation, research and education facility. It was opened in 2007 to promote the health, safety and welfare of our shelled friends, both sea turtles and their land-based brethren.

The Center operates (sometimes literally, in the attached Turtle Hospital) out of the historic brick Power Plant building, which was renovated just for the purpose of providing emergency care and long term treatment to sick or injured turtles.

Arriving at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center –

Drive up to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Take the Walkway to Wonder, a brick walk leading to the center’s entrance. You’ll walk right over their beautifully crafted centerpiece sea turtle logo.

Just inside the front door is the gift shop, where you’ll be greeted by the reconstructed skeleton of a giant prehistoric sea turtle suspended on wires high above the floor, seemingly floating over the visitors below.

Public education and sea turtle rehabilitation is at the forefront of the Georgia Sea Turtle’s mission. To get where the action is, buy your tickets at the gift shop counter. Inside the center proper, you’ll find several interactive stations that teach you about turtle life cycles, from laying their eggs to hatching time to their eventual return to the sea, and more.

Many of the exhibits detail man-made hazards to turtle health, and what we can do to make life easier for them.

Become a Sea Turtle for a Day!

A green sea turtle – or any sea turtle, for that matter – lives an adventurous life.

What’s it like to be a green sea turtle? One of my favorite exhibits at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the “Live Like a Sea Turtle” display. It’s an interactive exhibit where kids and adults can experience the thrill of life as a sea turtle – without the danger.

It works like this. When you pay your admission fee, you get a cardboard handout with the 5 stations of the exhibit depicted on it. Each station represents a moment in a sea turtle’s life.

As you travel from station to station, imagine you’re a hatchling sea turtle, just starting out on life’s journey.

You’re mission is to get as far as you can from hatchling to old age, along the turtle’s life cycle path. Along the way, you learn about critical moments in the life of a green sea turtle (or one of his pals), how the turtle will grow and live in its environment, and what hazards it might face along the way.

At each station their are several compression stamps. Pick a stamp at random (their faces are hidden, so you can’t tell what you’re choosing), and use it to mark the spot on your card corresponding to that station. Whatever stamp you chose tells you what happened to your turtle “persona” at that stage in it’s life cycle.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get all the way through and live to a ripe old age (for sea turtles, that can be decades). Or you might run into environmental or health problems and wind up “dying” young. It’s a game of chance, basically – just like a real sea turtle’s life.

First time I did it, I was a green sea turtle, and I “died” young. Martha, bless her, lived to be an old-lady loggerhead turtle.

Sea Turtle Hospital

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center also has an operating room where they administer to sick or injured turtles.

The cool thing about this facility is that it’s behind glass. Visitors can watch as Dr. Terry Norton (the Center’s director and veterinarian) works. Along with his assistants, Dr. Norton might diagnose a green sea turtle or a loggerhead turtle, give them medicine, and run tests. At times during the day, staff members narrate as the procedures are carried out.

A vital part of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the attached hospital wing, where the turtles are sent for long-term care and rehabilitation. The hospital is set up to encourage visitors to walk through and observe the “patients” undergoing treatment.

For example, you might see a green sea turtle in a tank,

read the turtle’s chart, find out what happened to it, and what’s being done to help it.

The turtles are held in big holding tanks. These tanks are managed and tested weekly for critical pH levels, as well as concentrates of ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, salinity, and ozone.

Public Education Programs

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center runs several educational programs during the year.

Year-Round Programs –

  • The popular “Behind the Scenes” tours
  • Day programs like “Feeding Time” & “Patient Status Updates”
  • “Talking About Treatments”.
  • “Scute’s Ocean Adventures”.
  • Monthly Lecture Series – conservation talks for adults

Summer Programs –

  • Airibaba Adventures
  • Turtle Walks – along the beach, from June 1st to July 31st
  • Turtle-Tastic Sea Turtle Camps, for kids 6-12; $280.00/kid
  • Nest Walks – get a look at and examine green sea turtle, loggerhead turtle, hawksbill turtle, leatherback turtle, or Kemp’s ridley hatchling nests
  • Ride Along Programs

Group Programs –

  • School Groups – on-site and outreach programs
  • Scout Programs
  • Community Groups

Special Events –

On-going special events throughout the year are a Georgia Sea Turtle Center specialty. Call 912-635-4444 for dates and times.

  • Shell-e-brate Earth Day
  • Turtle Crawl Triathlon and Nest Fest
  • Kids can vote on the turtle Patient of the Year from June 1st through the 30th
  • Also, Sea Turtle Camps kick off in June & July
  • October, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center gives us Turtleween, their take on Halloween. Dress up like a green sea turtle and enjoy the fun
  • The entire month of November is slated as Scout Month
  • In December, come for Sea-sons Greetings. Santa visits the Center!

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is great fun for kids and parents alike, and serves to protect the health of sea turtles and their habitat. Come see the green sea turtle and his friends. It’s a must-see attraction during your Jekyll Island Family Adventure!

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is located on Jekyll Island at 214 Stable Road. You can contact them at 912-635-4444.

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