It’s Sea Turtle season on Sanibel Island; and for all of us at the Island Inn, this brings to mind another example of how we choose to balance our responsibility to the island’s ecosystem with our responsibility to our guests.
From May through October each year, female sea turtles crawl onto our shores, seeking a warm sandy spot for their nursery. Although they seem graceful and powerful in the water, these massive animals can weigh hundreds of pounds, which becomes apparent as they labor to cross the beach – using their flippers to paddle through the soft sand. It’s an epic journey, even though it only amounts to a few yards. Once she selects a spot, digs a hole, lays her dozens and dozens of potential offspring and makes her return trip to the water’s edge, her work is done; but the drama is just starting to unfold!
During the six to eight weeks the eggs are in the nest, they face a variety of dangers from insects and microorganisms to raccoons and other land predators. Once they hatch and tumble toward the water, the baby turtles become easy targets for shorebirds, then for predators of all kinds once they get there. By some estimates, only one in 1,000 sea turtles lives to maturity.
The bottom line is that the sea turtles nesting on the Gulf coast only have so many safe choices. We are proud to participate in many of the efforts taking place on Sanibel and Captiva to provide a welcome shoreline for these beautiful animals. The Ding Darling Society dingdarlingsociety.org leads efforts across the islands to provide shore watch and nest monitoring, and has produced fantastic educational materials
Far from an inconvenience, Island Inn guests see the turtles as a fascinating if unexpected part of their vacation. Besides, even though the Island Inn has been here for a long time, the sea turtles were here long before us!