As everyone knows, we are still stuck in Marathon, Florida, waiting for our weather window before jumping to the Bahamas. The Gulf Stream can be extremely difficult, challenging, and nearly impossible to cross if the wind is not in your favor. Luckily, it looks like we have a small weather window and will be able to leave the Florida Keys on Tuesday afternoon and head to South Riding Rocks – BAHAMAS – approximately 112 nm (nautical miles) away. Yippee!!!
While waiting a couple of days for our weather window to open, we found a turtle hospital that was located pretty close to our anchorage. After making reservations, we decided to drop the dinghy into the water and cruise on over to the hospital for a tour.
The Turtle Hospital in Marathon (website: http://www.turtlehospital.org) was pretty spectacular. The hospital opened in the mid 1980s to rehabilitate and release injured turtles back into the wild and to educate the public. Inside the facility, there are 23 individual tanks, ranging in size from 150-800 gallons, in addition to the largest tank of all: the 100,000 gallon salt water pool.
Of the five different species of turtles (Hawksbill, Green Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley, Leatherback, Loggerhead) found in Florida, we were able to see all of them except for the Leatherback turtle. Since the Leatherback turtle can travel over a mile below sea level targeting large jellyfish and squid, they do not do well in captivity.
Most of the turtles at the hospital only stay approximately 1 month to 1 year depending their illness and condition. Some of the turtles like the one below (Frumpy) will remain much longer due to the severity of his injury. As you can see below, his shell has been cut extremely deep and broken apart by a boat propeller.
In addition to the rehabilitation, the hospital works with a lot of different turtle rehab facilities all over the world. They study their migratory patterns, habitat, and birthing behaviors. Recently, they have been putting trackers on several of the turtles allowing researchers to track migratory behavior.
This particular Loggerhead turtle, traveled over 5,752 miles from Panama to the Gulf of Mexico – amazing!
If you are ever in the Florida Keys and want to learn more about sea turtles, we would strongly recommend The Turtle Hospital in Marathon. The 90 minute tour was extremely educational and were able to see, feed, and learn about the rehabilitation of these amazing creatures.