Tour de Turtles kicks off on Florida's East Coast beaches this weekend
Disney’s Vero Beach will help kick off Tour de Turtles next weekend on the East Coast of Florida, and the state's visitors and locals alike have several opportunities to join in the fun surrounding the marine marathon.
Started in 2008 by the Sea Turtle Conservancy, Tour de Turtles is an interesting way to learn about the long migration of sea turtles from their nesting beaches to their foraging grounds. Tracking is done through satellite telemetry, with transmitters sending signals each time a turtle surfaces to breathe. Those who follow along at tourdeturtles.org will be exposed to the science and geography of sea-turtle migration. At the same time, researchers hope to gain more knowledge about the migratory practices of the endangered species because so much still is unknown.
This is the eighth year for Tour de Turtles, and there will be 15 sea turtles representing four different species. The turtles leave from various nesting beaches around the world, including one in front of Disney's Vero Beach Resort, and will be tracked for three months. The turtle that swims the farthest during that time will be declared the winner.
As in past years, two Loggerhead turtles – named Tinker Bell and Marina this year -- will begin their marathon in front of the Disney hotel. Resort guests are invited to watch, beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 1.
Disney’s turtles that participated last year were named Anna and Elsa. At the end of May, the Disney Parks Blog gave us an update on the pair’s travels:
“For about a week, Anna swam and drifted within Florida’s coastal waters and then headed south along the coast of eastern Florida. This means that the nest she made in late July was her last of the season. If Anna was like most loggerheads, this would have been her fifth nest! Anna’s travels south took her to Key West, where she looped around the island and settled into a beautiful shallow seagrass pasture just north of the popular tourist destination. (Perhaps it reminded her of Arendelle?) Anna’s journey has totaled 661 miles!”
“After Elsa left Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, she drifted for a few weeks within Florida’s offshore waters and eventually headed south. Like Anna, Elsa also swam toward Key West, but soon found her own path. She turned south to cross the Florida current toward Cuba. The strong, Gulf Stream current must have diverted her to the east, which put her on course for the Cay Sal Bank, a rich area of shallow seagrass between the United States and Cuba. This is where Elsa stayed for several months, until just recently when she looped closer to Cuba and back toward Cay Sal. Elsa’s journey has totaled 1,929 miles!”
From 6 to 10 p.m. Aug. 1, the Sea Turtle Conservancy is hosting a party to benefit the animals and their habitat in Brevard County. The party takes place at the Barrier Island Center, located at 8385 S. Highway A1A, Melbourne Beach. It will include heavy hors d’oeuvres, refreshments, live music and a silent auction. Tickets are $20 online when purchased in advance or they will be available at the door for $35. Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged. Questions? Call 321-723-3556.
On Sunday, Aug. 2, there is an opportunity for the public to watch more turtles begin the race. This group will be leaving from the beach start gate near the Barrier Island Center at 8 a.m. Spectators are asked to arrive 30 minutes early. From 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., there will be fun family-friendly activities. This event is free and open to the public, and T-shirts will be available for $20. Parking is limited here, too.
In addition to the education and research components, Tour de Turtles also raises money for additional research and conservancy efforts through sponsorships of each turtle. Several branches of The Walt Disney Company have been annual sponsors of Tour de Turtles: Disney's Animal Program, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and Disney's Vero Beach Resort.