Recently, MJ and I checked-in to Disney's Vero Beach Resort for our annual long weekend at one of my all-time favorite hotels. My morning routine while at the resort usually consists of waking before the sun rises, and enjoying a peaceful stroll down to the deserted lobby for the first cup of coffee. On one such morning, however, the elevator doors opened to reveal a very different lobby; one that was swarming with guests and employees all heading to the Tour de Turtles sea turtle release taking place on the beach. Apparently, I didn't get the memo on this event - it pays to read the resort guide each day - but thankfully my need for fresh java saved the day.
The Tour de Turtles was founded by the Sea Turtle Conservancy as a way to raise awareness and education for preserving the species, as well as providing valuable data on their migration. This is the sixth year of the Tour de Turtles, and the event is set to track the migration of 11 different sea turtles, released from various partner sites around the Atlantic. Each of the 11 turtles is swimming for a particular "cause," ranging from the threat of plastics in the ocean, to the illegal adult sea turtle shell trade.
It is only fitting that Disney's Vero Beach Resort - along with the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund - is a sponsoring participant in the event, because here the sea turtle is pretty much king. Every year when we visit, the beach is littered with caution stakes marking the location of nests, and guests are encouraged to close their curtains at night so that the light doesn't confuse any possible hatchlings. We've even seen one come ashore to lay eggs while on a late night stroll on the beach.
|Loggerhead nest in front of the resort.|
The night before Tour de Turtles, the team detained two sea turtles after they laid their eggs and outfitted each with a transmitter which will track their location. Once the turtles are back at sea, visitors can track their progress on the Tour de Turtles website. But first, the turtles had to stick around a while to be the star of the Tour de Turtles event the next morning.
Disney, ever the king of marketing, named the turtles Claire and Carrie, after two characters in the movie Monsters University. It seemed that on this day, sea turtles were even more popular than Mickey Mouse, drawing quite possibly every guest out of bed for the early morning festivities. The event was much larger than I expected, with several booths explaining to kids - and kids at heart - various facts about sea turtles.
|They aren't used to dealing with paparazzi.|
Finally, it was time for the Tour de Turtles to begin, and the track was cleared for Claire and Carrie. It was hard not to laugh at the drama that was built for the start of the "race," given that turtles don't get anywhere fast. But when the door to Carrie's crate was opened, I'll admit that it was hard not to shed a tear too. She labored down the beach, pausing every two or three feet, before finally making it to the cool waters of her home.
|Go Carrie Go!|
Next up was Claire, who got off to an even slower start to the "race." She hung out in her crate for a minute or two, before deciding that she didn't want to disappoint the crowd. With all the finesse of a linebacker in ballet, she tumbled down the beach - taking out a camera or two in the process - and, without ever looking back, she disappeared into the first cresting wave.
|Hey buddy...do you mind?|
When I woke up for the sunrise on this morning, I was groggy and coffee deprived. A few hours later I was fully inspired. The Tour de Turtles is a remarkable event, and is succeeding in its goal of providing both education for children, and valuable information for researchers. I'm confident that with the help of Disney's Vero Beach Resort, and other partners like the Four Seasons Nevis, Atlantis Resort, and the Aquarium at Mandalay Bay, the Tour de Turtles will race on for many more years to come.
To learn more about the Tour de Turtles or to get involved, visit their website. There's a wealth of valuable information for teachers, and you can track the progress of Claire, Carrie, and the other racing turtles.
Enjoy Your Stay