Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Turtle Hospital

When I researched things to do in the Florida Keys, I came across the Turtle Hospital, a facility that rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea turtles. I was thrilled about the chance to see my favorite animal up close, so I made reservations for a tour of the hospital in Marathon, Florida, during our stay on Islamorada in the Keys. (Islamorada is about an hour and forty minutes from Key West, in case you're wondering.)

From our hotel in Islamorada, the hospital was about a 45-minute drive to Mile Marker 48.5. We made it to the hospital at 8:45 for our 9 a.m. tour. We had been asked to arrive 15 minutes early to fill out our waivers and pay our admission fee, which was $22 per person for adults. (Children 4-11 pay half the price.)

Our tour had eight adults and three kids, which we were told was a small group. The tour began with a presentation that included passing around skulls and other items. We saw video and photos of the turtles the hospital has helped and learned about some of the stories. Then we walked into the surgery center before walking to the first tanks. 

The hospital, from what we were told, has four of the five turtle species that reside in Florida: loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley. Many of the turtles they've helped have been hit by boats or became stuck in nets. Turtles also come in if they have tumors caused by water pollution, or if they swallow trash that causes them harm, such as balloons, plastic bags and hooks. The released turtles are microchipped, according to the tour guide, and she shared that a recently released turtle is currently in Cuba. On the turtle shells you'll see then names of the turtles, who are named by the people who found them.

At one of the larger tanks outside, we were able to feed the turtles (by throwing food in; we were cautioned to never put our hands in the tanks). Afterward, we returned to the gift shop to pick up an ornament. 

The 90-minute or so program is well worth the admission price. I highly recommend a visit to the Turtle Hospital. 

Have you been to the Turtle Hospital or the Florida Keys?