If you ever have the opportunity to watch sea turtles being released into the wild, be sure not to miss it. My children and I attended a sea turtle release recently at Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island, and it was really wonderful to see these turtles swim back home into the ocean after their stay at the South Carolina Aquarium's Sea Turtle Hospital. If you can, by all means try to go with your kids. They (and you) will never forget the experience.
Here are some tips we learned when we went:
1. Stand in the water, or as close to the water as you can. The aquarium staff carried the turtles down to the edge of the ocean and set them in the surf, where they then began their swim. Standing in the water allows you to see all the drama, from the walk down the beach to the turtles swimming out to sea to the staff waving goodbye. If you have toddlers, standing in the water might not be feasible, so stand as close to the edge of the ocean as you can.
2. Let your kids bring a small sand toy to play with, or a book to read while you wait. You'll want to get there early to get a good spot to see because it can get crowded. You might be waiting as long as an hour, or even more. As all parents know, it's easier for a child to wait if they are distracted by a good book or a favorite toy.
3. Bring your water bottle or something else to drink. Standing in the sun waiting can get really hot. We left our drinks over by the beach blanket and were parched by the time the release was over.
4. Get there early! We arrived at the Beachwalker State Park 45 minutes before the release was scheduled to start and got one of the very last parking spaces. Not in the lot, mind you, but on the road leading to the park! Just behind us, they had to start turning cars away. It would be a shame to drive all that way and miss out for lack of parking, so carpooling with another family would be a great idea, as well.
5. Bring your camera. But don't drop it in the water. Luckily, I didn't drop mine, but we did witness a dropped phone and a dropped camera.
The Sea Turtle Hospital releases rehabilitated turtles pretty often, so keep watch here and on the S.C. Aquarium's website for news of future releases.