Seeing sea turtles nest is one of the most amazing things to witness. Watching a process that has happened for millions of years and the majestic animal laying the eggs was truly awe-inspiring.
Gumbo Limbo Center sea turtle walks are a wonderful way to see these beautiful creatures in action and learn about the species for a memorable evening in Boca Raton, Florida.
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❇️ Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Sea Turtle Walks and Turtle Hatchling Release Experience Overview
The evening is educational and awe-inspiring if you're lucky and get to see a turtle. The low cost of the ticket and the limited time you spend during one night for the chance to see this incredible natural process is quite a good trade-off!
The volunteers and Gumbo Limbo Nature Center staff were friendly and knowledgeable. We learned a lot and had a fabulous night doing something completely different in Boca Raton, on the east coast of South Florida.
❇️ How to Buy Tickets for Gumbo Limbo Center Sea Turtle Walks and Turtle Hatchling Releases
It seems like it's tricky to do, but if you follow our step-by-step instructions, you'll be fine!
The website you buy the tickets on is the City of Boca Raton website, which feels like it’s 15 years behind the times in terms of ticket checkouts. But we managed to buy tickets online, and it wasn’t difficult after we spoke to someone on the phone to set up our Webtrac account.
★ The key is that – first and foremost – you need a Webtrac account with the City of Boca Raton. You do not have to be a county resident to create an account. Non-residents simply pay slightly more for event and tour tickets.
As per Webtrac, you have to go in person to create the account. However, we called to create an account over the phone, and it worked out just fine! Especially because we were calling from Spain at the time, trying to make reservations for four weeks later.
Note that the turtle walks are incredibly popular, so you want to book well in advance if you have specific dates that you want to sign up for. Turtle hatchling releases are popular as well but may have more available dates.
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Tickets for Turtle Walks to See Turtles Nesting and Sea Turtle Hatchling Releases
For residents of Boca Raton (with ID proof of address), it is $15 per person. For non-residents, it is $20 per person.
How to Purchase Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Turtle Walks and Hatchling Release Tickets After You Have a Webtrac Account
After you are set up with an account, here are the steps to purchase Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Turtle Walk tickets:
- Go to the website and navigate to the “Gumbo Limbo Family Programs.” The option is located under the Adult/Family Programs heading.
- On the next page, scroll down to the heading “Sea Turtle Walks” and find the date you wish to purchase tickets.
- Add the activities to your shopping cart. The system will not allow you to add the activity if it is full. If the activity is available, hover over the shopping cart icon in the lefthand column and hit “Add to Cart.” Make sure you're under the right heading, whether you want to purchase Sea Turtle Walks tickets or the Hatchling Release tickets.
- Press “Enroll Now” on the bottom left or right hand of the screen (there are two buttons that appear that do the same thing) in the red area that appears after you add the item/activity to your shopping cart.
- The next screen shows a list of names that you added when you signed up for your account. Select who you want to purchase tickets for here.
- Press “Proceed to Checkout” and select your payment method. If you prefer to add more things to your cart, hit “Continue Shopping” and check out later.
You'll receive an email confirmation with your tickets from Webtrac, with the subject line, “Message from the City of Boca Raton.” This has your PDF enclosed with the ticket information for what you purchased.
But, again, you do not need to print this and bring it with you; the team at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center has a list of who signed up for the class and you simply give them your name upon arrival.
❇️ What to Bring with You the Night of Your Gumbo Limbo Sea Turtles Nesting Walk
Bring your curiosity and “listening ears”! We’re being a little funny with those two things, but it’s really all you need.
Otherwise, here is our recommendation for how to dress and what else to bring:
- Dress in shoes that you won’t mind getting sandy or choose to leave your shoes in the car and walk barefoot. We’re glad we wore shoes/sandals because some parts of the path/beach were rocky. But we saw other people barefoot.
- We wore pants because we were worried about bug bites. But pants or shorts are fine. Same with long sleeves or short. We always bring a Bug Bite Thing with us!
- We wore dark colors because when we went sea turtle watching in Costa Rica, they said to wear dark colors to not distract the turtles. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center did not tell us to wear dark colors, but we did it anyway. Why not, right?
- The guided sea turtle walks, and sea turtle hatchling releases happen rain or shine. So if the weather forecast calls for rain, bring an umbrella (we love travel-size umbrellas that fit in our pockets or a purse) and a lightweight raincoat.
- A refillable bottle of water. They have a water filling station at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where you meet.
- If you really want, you can bring a red-light flashlight. It's completely unnecessary, but it's the only color light you're allowed to use. This is because sea turtles cannot see red light, but they can see white light.
What to Bring to the Turtle Walks (suggested Idea List)
Travel-size umbrellas are the best for tours like this, whether you're near home or travel further away. If it might rain it's the perfect purse-size or pocket-size rain solution to bring on the turtle walk.
➜ Do You Have to Print Your Tickets and Bring Them With You?
No. The staff and volunteers have a sheet with everyone’s names who signed up. When you arrive, you give them your name, and they cross it off the list.
❇️ What to Expect the Night of Your Sea Turtle Nesting Walk
➤ Jump ahead to see the sea turtle hatchling release experience if you're not going on a sea turtle nesting walk.
The only reason sea turtles come to the shore – if they’re healthy animals – is to nest. Female sea turtles are coming ashore; males never come to shore to lay eggs because they don’t do such a thing!
We arrived at Gumbo Limbo Center in Boca Raton at 8:30 pm, 15 minutes earlier than the ticket time called for, so we had time to park and walk up to the classroom where everyone meets.
There is free parking on-site, and the location is easy to find with GPS directions.
You walk up to the center and follow the “program” signs to the classroom, which is up a ramp. The volunteers help guide you to where it is.
You check in with someone sitting at a table with a list of names of attendees and find a seat that faces the projector.
When the program begins, a staff member welcomes everyone and explains what’s going to happen, which is this: a volunteer gives a presentation about sea turtles. The staff member (a paid employee of Gumbo Limbo who is likely studying sea turtles) explains that she has a radio on her that we may hear someone radio her occasionally.
There is a person on an ATV riding up and down the five miles of beach they monitor while we’re in the classroom. That person, who we met later in the night and is presumed to be a scientist, will call the person in the classroom should he or she find a Loggerhead sea turtle nesting on the beach.
❇️ When a Loggerhead Sea Turtle is Found Nesting on the Beach the Evening of Your Turtle Walk
If the person monitoring the beach on an ATV finds a sea turtle, you get into your car and are led to the nearest parking lot next to the beach where the turtle is. You’re simply in a line of people in their cars, all part of the group, following the lead vehicle. The lead car is the Gumbo Limbo team.
You park and gather around in the parking lot and do some test photos on your phone to ensure that the flash is off for photos and videos.
We loved that the Gumbo Limbo team did this because the light harms the turtles. And we’re guessing no one in the group wanted to harm the turtles in any way, but we can guess that it often happens where a person doesn’t mean to have their flash turned on but does. So this was a necessary and responsible step of the evening.
Then you walk on the beach at night to see the sea turtle. One spot we walked to had a brick pathway that led to the beach from the parking lot. In another area, the parking lot was right next to the stairs that led to the beach.
The Gumbo Limbo team has red flashlights to show you the turtle nesting when you’re on the beach in front of her. (“Her” is the sea turtle, which is always female.) Red light is a wavelength that does not hurt the turtle. They’re not special sea turtle flashlights or anything – they’re simply a flashlight with a red cover over the bulb instead of clear, which shines red light.
❇️ Seeing a Loggerhead Sea Turtle Nesting
The whole process of Loggerhead nesting lasts around an hour, but it’s likely you’ll get to the turtle when the process has already begun. We got to her and she was already laying her eggs, so we watched the rest of the process, which lasted around thirty minutes or so.
It’s truly incredible to watch the turtle laying eggs and see the Gumbo Limbo team help out and protect the nest. It’s incredibly captivating and a true moment of gratitude.
We saw the turtle mist the sand after she laid her eggs and covered them up with her back fins, take breaks between exerting energy from the sheer exhaustion of the process, and make her way back into the ocean. It will leave you speechless!
You CANNOT touch the turtle! Leave her be, as the staff does too. It’s a federal offense to mess with the turtles and their eggs.
❇️ Sea Turtle Hatchling Release Experience
You meet in the classroom for sea turtle hatchling releases. After a short presentation on sea turtles, everyone goes to the beach to release the sea turtles.
They do not dump a bucket of sea turtles into the water or on the sand. Instead, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center workers carefully take a baby sea turtle and gently place it on the sand one by one. They want the sea turtle to find its way to the water naturally.
They watch the sea turtle to help ensure its survival as they make sure it reaches the water. The little hatchlings often get picked up by a current or wave and are right back to square one after a few minutes of trying to navigate to the water! But they find their way back.
It's amazing to see the baby sea turtles navigate on the sand and then speed up in velocity as they grow closer to the water. Their instinct is truly to be in the sea!
Scientists estimate that one in 1,000 sea turtles reach adulthood. See more fun facts about sea turtles here.
❇️ Why Sea Turtles Nest at Night and Baby Sea Turtle Hatchling releases are in the Dark
Turtles nest in the evening. Though it’s not impossible to find a turtle nesting during the day, it’s extremely rare. However, it’s common at night when there are fewer risks on the beach, including fewer people, fewer predators, and less heat!
South Florida gets hot, and the sand retains a lot of heat. Have you ever tried to walk on the sand with bare feet during a hot summer day? It’s really hurts! At night, however, the sand is many degrees cooler and doesn’t burn. It’s the same for the turtles’ skin, which is called “scales.”
❇️ Gumbo Limbo Sea Turtle Walks and Baby Sea Turtles Hatchling releases FAQs Answered
➜ Is this activity good for kids?
Yes and no. It depends on how old the child is. There are a few things to consider before deciding if you want to buy a ticket for your child, aside from the minimum age requirement of 8 years or older for sea turtle walks (there is not an age minimum for sea turtle hatchling releases):
1) Your child’s attention span and interest in sea turtles
You could potentially sit in a classroom watching a presentation for two hours (with breaks) before the team gets a call that a sea turtle has been spotted nesting on the beach. Even for some adults, that’s a long time to sit there and not do anything else.
The amount of time you sit in the classroom varies. The team is simply filling the time wisely before they get a call that the scientist out on the beach has spotted a sea turtle out of the water. For us, it was a full 2.5 hours. On other nights, it could be less time.
2) How comfortable are you bringing your child to the beach at Night?
The only thing illuminating the beach when you walk to see the turtles at night is the moon, stars, and ambient light from artificial lights. You cannot use the flashlight on your phone, for example, because it disturbs and disorients the turtles. If have a rambunctious child who is going to run off on their own, you may not want to sign up for this.
All this being said, if you have a child that can sit through a slideshow and loves nature, it’s truly a singular experience if you get to see a sea turtle nest.
➜ Is this activity suited for senior citizens?
Yes and no. You should decide for yourself based on the following:
- If you have to use a cane or walker and cannot use it on the beach, it may not be for you.
- If you’re perfectly willing and physically able to walk on the beach, it’s a great time! My parents needed to walk more slowly and hold onto me to walk in the sand, which is, of course, more difficult than walking on pavement. We made it to the turtle, we just took a little more time to reach it.
The classroom portion of the evening was very educational and a lovely part of the program. However, that portion of the night could last 30 minutes, less than 30 minutes, one hour, or two hours, etc.
It’s unknown because you’re sitting there learning while also waiting to get a call a Loggerhead turtle has been found nesting.
➜ Where do you meet for Gumbo Limbo Nature Center sea turtle nesting walks and hatching releases?
It’s very unclear where you meet when you look at the email you receive from the city after you buy the tickets. So if you’re frustrated or confused and cannot find a clear address, we understand.
You meet at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. The classroom, to be exact, which is attached to the main building.
There’s a parking lot off the road that’s easy to find. When you park, follow the signs staked in the ground that says “program.” The signs and volunteers stationed outside will direct you up the ramp to the classroom.
Gumbo Limbo Center Classroom
Rows of padded folding bridge chairs are lined up in rows in the classroom, facing a screen with the presentation projected on it. There are also some skeletons and sea turtle shells in the classroom.
A table at the front of the classroom had two artificial sea turtle skull replicas, a glass jar so guests could see the preserved papillae keratin spikes that Leatherbacks have inside their jaws, which allow them to eat jellyfish, and three sea turtle hatchlings (babies) encased in resin for educational purposes.
Outside the classroom were restrooms, a water-filling station, and educational displays of things like how to lessen light pollution at your home.
➜ Are you guaranteed to see a sea turtle or hatchlings released?
No, you are not. However, the odds are in your favor because there are hundreds of nests made by Loggerhead turtles each nesting season.
If you signed up for a hatchling release, it's not a guarantee they'll have baby sea turtles to release, either.
However, you may get lucky and see both! One night during a turtle walk event to see nesting turtles, we learned that we'd see hatchlings being released no matter the outcome of finding a nesting turtle. This was because Florida Atlantic University, where sea turtle research takes place nearby, had given the center 90 baby sea turtles, less than 24 hours old, to release.
➜ What happens if it rains?
Yes. As indicated on the Gumbo Limbo site, when you buy the tickets, the walk happens rain or shine. The only time it might be canceled is due to lightning.
➜ Does Gumbo Limbo offer ticket refunds?
No. They only offer refunds if Gumbo Limbo Nature Center cancels the program.
➜ Is there a minimum age requirement for the turtle events with Gumbo Limbo Nature Center?
The minimum age requirement for Sea Turtle Walks is eight years old. There is no age requirement for sea turtle hatchling releases.
For either tour option, children under the age of 18 have to be accompanied by an adult.
➜ What kind of sea turtles can you see during the Gumbo Limbo Nesting Sea Turtles Walk?
Though three kinds of sea turtles come ashore to nest in the Boca Raton and South Florida area, legally, they can only do a walk for one kind of turtle: Loggerheads.
The other two kinds of turtles are Green Turtles and Leatherback Turtles. Green and Leatherbacks are endangered species. Loggerheads are a threatened species, which is one threat level beneath endangered.
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is only allowed to do turtle walks for Loggerheads, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) laws and regulations.
➜ What kind of sea turtles are released during the sea turtle hatchling releases?
➜ When do sea turtles nest?
Sea turtles in South Florida nest between March and October. Of course, it's nature, so it's an approximation, not an exact timeframe.
However, Loggerheads, which are the kinds of turtles that you see during Gumbo Limbo Center’s guided turtle nesting season walks, nest from May to August. That’s why the walks and hatchling release events happen during these months.
➜ Are there bathrooms at Gumbo Limbo Center?
Yes. If you have to use the restroom, use it at the nature center before you leave the classroom area because there are no restrooms available to use on the beach at night.
➜ What time does a Gumbo Limbo Nature Center Sea Turtle walk end?
It depends on how quickly a sea turtle comes ashore to nest, is found, and the group goes to the beach to see it. Then it depends on how long the turtle takes to lay her eggs and complete the nesting process (including covering up the nest, misting, and going back to the sea).
It can happen within an hour or take several hours.
When we attended the sea turtle walk, we arrived just before 8:45 pm, the ticket start time, and got in our vehicle to drive home at 12:30 am. This is because a sea turtle wasn't located until after 11:00 pm while we were watching the Gumbo Limbo staff release baby sea turtles into the water.
After our guide, Emma got the call that a Loggerhead had been found, they paused the hatchling release so we could travel to the area of the beach where the Loggerhead was nesting.
It's safe to say that your evening may end any time after 9:30 or 10:00 pm. We went as late as 12:30 am, and we could have stayed longer if we wanted to see the rest of the hatchlings being released.
Sea turtle hatching release evenings that do not include sea turtle nesting walks are shorter.
❇️ 12 Fun Facts About Sea Turtles
We learned SO much about sea turtles that evening as the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center volunteer spent time educating us. Here are some fun facts about sea turtles: