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Loggerhead turtles returned to Hilton Head Island when the nesting season began in May. As of mid- June, 79 nests had been laid on the island’s beaches. Many locals and visitors hope for the rare chance to see a female nest on the beach at night and eagerly anticipate the emergence of hatchlings. A few lucky beachgoers will witness the baby turtles’ first crawl into the ocean.

seaturt2While most people who live on or visit Hilton Head will never see these elusive creatures, it’s still possible for everyone to help protect them. For example, if you own or rent a beachfront home, make sure you turn off lights facing the beach during sea turtle nesting season. Light disorients newborn hatchlings and may cause them to crawl away from the ocean instead of toward it. Or you could help protect sea turtles while funding public education about them by adopting a nest.

The Coastal Discovery Museum has run an adopt-anest program for 21 years. For a $25 donation, adopters receive a certificate, a sea turtle souvenir, email updates, pictures of the nest’s progress, and a final report on their nest’s production. For a $50 donation, adopters receive all of the above plus a museum t-shirt.

“The mission of the museum is to inspire people to care for the Lowcountry, and some of the Adopt-A-Nest funds help underwrite programs we run for over 7,000 school children per year,” said Coastal Discover Museum CEO Rex Garniewicz. The museum also uses some of the adoption proceeds to print materials to educate the public about turtles through programs at beachfront hotels and in the museum’s Tom Peeples Discovery Lab.

“Really, the biggest educational asset that we have are our nest adopters who live near or walk on the beach,” Garniewicz said. “They help spread the word to visitors who don’t even know it is sea turtle nesting season. We often find they print out our Adopt-A-Nest emails to share with visitors.”



seaturt5Want to help protect the area's turtles? Here are a few places to start:


  • The Coastal Discovery Museum’s adopt-anest program helps protect loggerhead sea turtles and their eggs. For more information about the program, go to
  • The state Department of Natural Resources also manages an adopt-a-nest program. Proceeds help fund protection projects on Daufuskie and Hunting islands. For more information, go to
  • Donations to the Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project help fund beach patrols that monitor and mark turtle nests.

Garniewicz said the Coastal Discovery Museum also is working on an adopt-a-dolphin program to help fund Dr. Eric Montie’s dolphin research at the University of South Carolina- Beaufort.

seaturt6The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources also runs a nest adoption program. Money raised by the program goes toward sea turtle protection efforts on Daufuskie and Hunting islands. For $25, DNR will send adopters a certificate and details about their nest and add them to the list of adopters at

Other conservation groups need help protecting the area’s turtles, too. The nonprofit Hilton Head Island Sea Turtle Protection Project patrols the island’s beaches, monitoring and marking nests and, when needed, moving them above the high tide line. Donations to the group are used to fuel and maintain its vehicles, as well as supply the paper and iPads volunteers use to collect data about local nesting habits, said project director Amber Kuehn.