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It turns out that endangered sea turtles like to travel to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. They’ve even been known to show up at resorts as luxurious as the Four Seasons. And now, in the name of conservation, you can track (and even visit!) these same tropical locales through a program called Tour de Turtles. Here is my story of how I tracked sea turtles in the Caribbean and how you can too:

Related: 6 incredible places to swim with animals in nature

underwater photography nevis west indies

Photo of Sel Cisneros at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis by Mario Cisneros, @zeroeye

Have you ever been snorkeling or diving and spotted a sea turtle darting past you? It’s truly a majestic sight to behold. Since sea turtles spend nearly 99 percent of their lives in the water, that’s the most likely place you’ll find them. But during nesting season, which is June to October, adult female sea turtles swim ashore to certain beaches where they lay their eggsin the middle of the night.

Having recently witnessed this phenomenon in the Caribbean as a volunteer with the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), I’ve become aware of the challenges that these stunning creatures face.

In the West Indies, I trekked the beaches on the island of Nevis in search of nesting hawksbill sea turtles with David Godfrey, executive director of the STC. And after coming up empty handed the first night, we found three nesting the next night. One of the turtles had yet to lay her eggs, so she was quickly released. Asdawn neared,Dan Evans, a senior biologist for the STC, outfitted the other two turtles with GPS satellite transmitters.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video of the biologist prepping the turtles for their big release:

Then, with much fanfare and speeches from local dignitaries the next morning, Sylvia and Sundrop were released on the beach at the Four Seasons Resort Nevis, a sponsor of the STC.The two turtles moved faster than I expected down the beach and into the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. So much for the notion that turtles are slow.

One of the best parts of the experience is that now we could track online where Sylvia and Sundrop travel next as part of the Tour de Turtles over the next three months. And if you’re interested, you could head to Nevis next year to volunteer and have the same experience.

The Four Seasons invites all guests to participate in what they’ve dubbed, Sea Turtle Conservation Weekend, a program they’ve hosted with the STC for the past 10 years.

Here’s more behind-the-scenes footage from the day of the release:

Save the Sea Turtles

So why is it important to track where sea turtles nest and travel? According to the STC, only an estimated one in 1,000 to 10,000 hatchling sea turtles will survive to become adults. And unfortunately, the increasing threats caused by humans are driving them into extinction.

In fact, four of the sea turtles found in the Western Hemisphere (green, leatherback, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley) are on the U.S. Federal Endangered Species List. The loggerhead sea turtle is listed as threatened. Sadly, the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle is in the most trouble and in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future.

Since the launch of Tour de Turtles in 2008, the STC has released more than 100 sea turtles from nesting sites in Florida, Costa Rica, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the West Indies. And these turtles have provided invaluable data on migratory routes and foraging grounds.

The more scientists learn about sea turtles, the better able they are to recommend ways to save them.

underwater photography sea turtle nevis west indies

Photo of Sylvia, a Hawksbill sea turtle in Nevis, by Mario Cisneros, @zeroeye

What You Can Do to Help

The Sea Turtle Conservancy offers plenty of ways to get involved: become a member, adopt a turtle or volunteer.

Tour de Turtles is a fun way to get involved in the fight to save sea turtles from disappearing from our oceans. This year, scientists will follow a total of 14 sea turtles (including Sylvia and Sundrop from Nevis) to discover more about their habits at sea and identify migratory patterns that may hold the key to their survival.

Tour de Turtles events have been hosted over the past few months in the following vacation destinations: Sandpearl Resort in Clearwater Beach, Tortuguero Conservation Area in Costa Rica, Four Seasons Resort Nevis in the West Indies, The Turtle Hospital in The Florida Keys, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort in Vero Beach and Barrier Island Center in Melbourne Beach.

For example, after Sylvia was released on July 18 in Nevis, she already traveled more than 90 miles in a week and a half to the nearby island ofBarbuda. Where will she head next? You can track all of the sea turtles online at tourdeturtles.org.

sea turtle tracking

Plan for Next Year’s Tour de Turtles

As you track this year’s sea turtles online, it’s a great time to decide where you might want to book a trip for next year’s edition. Florida? Costa Rica? Or maybe Nevis in the Caribbean! Connect with the Sea Turtle Conservancy for volunteer opportunities and to be the first to know about upcoming sea turtle releases.

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Tagged: Caribbean, Florida

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Kara Franker
A purveyor of the coastal life and a self-admitted beach addict, Kara is a travel writer based in Miami. Follow her on Instagram @KaraOnTheCoast and check out her blog karaonthecoast.com.

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