I actually had no idea that there was such a thing as Sea Turtle Night Walk until about a week before we were to arrive. I received an email from the resort that invited me to do online check-in. I scrolled down, and saw a section that read:
“Reserve Your Fun! Did you know you can pre-reserve excursions, dining and even a spa treatment by calling 772-234-2000? Guests can also pre-reserve Sea Turtle Night Walks by calling 407-WDW-TOUR (407-939-8687).”
I was intrigued. I called the number indicated, and said that I wanted to reserve the Sea Turtle Night Walk. The cast member I spoke with told me that I needed to call the resort to arrange it. I told her about the email I had received. She checked again, and found it, and I was able to make the reservation for the 3 of us for the Saturday night that we were going to be at the resort. The cost was $35.00 per person, and there was a requirement that kids be at least 8 years old. Also, be aware that the walk begins at 9:00 p.m. and may go as late as 1:00 a.m.!
A quick aside: The resort is very turtle conscious and proactive about their conservation. There was a message waiting on our phone when we checked in that asked us to pull down all of the shades in the villa by 9:00 p.m. each night so the light from the rooms wouldn’t affect the turtles. There was also a card on the tables in each room that said the same thing. Turtles use the reflection of the moon on the water to guide them to and from the beach – and if they see other lights they can get confused. Fortunately, the turtles are not affected by amber or red light, so the night-time lights around the resort are all amber. Pictures and video were prohibited on the walk as well because of the bright lights, so I do not have any photos or video of the turtle, her tracks, or her eggs. I do, however, have a picture of one of the turtle nests that had been marked and roped off on the beach:
Here is a close up of the sign that is on the red post:
We met at Community Hall near the pool to begin our evening. We were a small group; there were only 7 of us. Before we began, we were given a short survey to fill out about our expectations of the Sea Turtle Night Walk. We were told that we would have another short survey to fill out at the end of the evening.
Our guide, Emily, was fantastic. She introduced her team, and then the three of them left to go out looking for turtles emerging from the sea. Emily then gave a very informative talk and slideshow presentation all about the different types of turtles that nest on this beach (loggerhead and leatherback), what Disney is doing to help with the conservation of the turtles, and general information and tips on how we could do our part. It was sad to learn that only one in one thousand turtles make it back to nest, and they always return to the beach where they were born. I also learned that the sex of the eggs is determined by the temperature of the sand, and all of the eggs from any given nest will be the same sex. Emily said they have a saying: “hot chicks and cool dudes”.
During the presentation, Emily was contacted via radio by one of the scouts who told her that there was a turtle coming up the beach and she would let us know if the turtle was going to lay eggs. Unfortunately for us, the turtle did what they call a “false crawl” – meaning that she either got spooked by something or couldn’t find a place that she liked to dig the hole for her eggs.
While we were listening to Emily and talking with her, her scouts reported in again about a turtle emerging, but she also did a false crawl. Emily decided that we should get ready in case another turtle emerged, so we each were given either a night vision scopes or night-vision goggles (each person got one or the other) and a device to put in our ears so Emily could talk quietly and we could hear her. As we were walking out to the beach, Emily got word of a third turtle that had emerged. We waited to see what was going to happen. Unfortunately, she false-crawled too. Emily said we should try to get to see her, so we went down to the beach and headed that way, but by the time we arrived she had already gone back in the water.
Luckily, there was a fourth turtle close by that had also started back to the ocean, so we walked a short way and were able to see her. I don’t think any of us were actually expecting her to be so big! There was a collective gasp as we all caught sight of her. We watched her make her way back into the ocean, and we walked back up to the resort beach entrance. It was about 11:45 p.m. by this point. Emily said that they had just spotted another turtle emerging, and we discussed whether or not we wanted to wait to see if she was going to lay eggs. The consensus was to wait. After all, we were up anyway, and we didn’t want to miss an opportunity.
After about 30 minutes, we got word that she had indeed started laying eggs, so we headed out to her location. Just as we were about halfway there, we got word that another turtle had come up on the beach right in front of us – directly in the path to the first turtle! We stood quietly until the second turtle was far enough away that we could cross, and proceeded to the location of the laying turtle.
The crew had a red flashlight right next to her so we could see well in the dark, and they told us that we would form a U-shape around her back end. I didn’t realize until they positioned us that meant we would be inches away from her! Turtles, once they begin laying eggs, do not stop, so there was no danger of us spooking her. We watched as she laid her eggs – the average is 115 – and then covered them up. The entire process took about 40 minutes, and while the turtle was laying, Emily’s partner was taking the measurement of her shell and putting a device in the sand near her to mark the location of the eggs. They also turned off the flashlight for a moment and ran their hands over her shell – and we were surprised to see it light up. Apparently there are very tiny bioluminescent creatures that live on the shell and they react to touch!
When our turtle was finished, we walked behind her as she went back into the ocean, and then headed back to Community Hall to return our night vision goggles/scopes and earpieces and fill out the brief survey. It was around 1:00 a.m., and we were tired, but we were thrilled that we had finally been able to see a turtle lay eggs.
It turns out that the turtle that crossed our path on the way to our laying turtle also laid eggs that night, but there is a rule that groups can only observe one turtle per evening, so we didn’t stop to watch her.
- The Sea Turtle Night Walk is only offered from April through October, and advance reservations are highly recommended.
- Every morning at 7:00 a.m. from April through October, you can go down to the beach and talk with a sea turtle specialist. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
- If you’re not interested in the Sea Turtle Night Walk, or if you have littles that are too young to go, there is a Sea Turtle Presentation scheduled at 7:00 p.m. at Community Hall.
I have to say, the Sea Turtle Night Walk was the highlight of our vacation, and even though we were far from Walt Disney World Resort, it was one of the most magical experiences of my life. My son is still talking about it. It was absolutely incredible to be that close to a nesting turtle, and I learned a lot of things about sea turtles that I didn’t know. If you get to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort between April and October, I highly recommend reserving your spot on one of the Sea Turtle Night Walks.
Have you experienced the Sea Turtle Night Walk? What were your thoughts? Come by the Magical DIStractions Facebook group and let me know! Magical DIStractions can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+ so please take a moment to follow us. You can also sign up for the Magical DIStractions newsletter and watch videos on our YouTube channel. We will keep you up-to-date on all of the latest news!