Adult loggerhead turtle swimming gracefully in the blue waters near Kiawah Island.

Kiawah Island Loggerhead Turtle Hatching, Explained

Anyone who’s spent significant time on Kiawah Island can tell you how dearly the community holds its Kiawah Island Loggerhead Turtle. There’s a patrol dedicated to them. A restaurant named after them. Along with our dune-frolicking deer, golf-course-wandering alligators, and night-prowling bobcats, they’re one of the island’s beloved natural mascots.

The summer is an especially important time for the island—and not just because it’s the best time to work on your sun tan. May begins the nesting season for loggerheads, and July to October is loggerhead turtle hatching season.

Read on to learn more about why Kiawah loves loggerheads and how you can see nesting and hatching season in action.

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Read about Kiawah Island's six most extraordinary species!

Why is the Kiawah Island Loggerhead turtle so special?

Loggerhead turtles are an endangered species. They’re one of just seven marine turtle species still on earth today. And they’re considerable creatures—an adult loggerhead can grow to three feet long, 350 pounds in weight, and 65 years old. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to spot a grown loggerhead mama on the sand, chances are she’s already spent over 30 years out at sea. Plus, they’re epic adventurers. Once they make their way to the tide, the loggerhead turtles that hatch on Kiawah Island may travel all the way across the world. Loggerheads often hitch a ride on floating sargassum mats all the way to the Azores or Mediterranean.

Newly hatched baby turtles making their way across the sandy beach of Kiawah Island towards the ocean.
Kiawah Island Loggerhead turtles returning to the sea.

When does the Kiawah Island Loggerhead turtle hatch?

From mid-May to mid-August, adult female loggerheads climb ashore at night to lay their eggs near the dunes. They use their hind flippers to dig a nest, deposit usually somewhere around 120 eggs, and cover it back up to hide it from predators. The eggs incubate here for about 90 days before hatching. Once they’re ready, all of the tiny baby loggerheads work together to dig up through the sand and out into the world. Then, they make their very first journey: the one across Kiawah Island’s beach to the ocean.

Loggerhead turtle hatchlings huddled in a nest on a Kiawah Island beach.

What can I do to help the loggerhead turtles?

Protecting our beach and ocean and being respectful of nesting habits are the most important ways you can protect Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles. Here’s what you can do to help:

  1. Keep the beach clean. Garbage ends up in the oceans, and, sadly, often in the bellies of loggerhead turtles where it can cause serious damage.
  2. Don’t dig. Playing in the sand is fun, but digging large holes is not allowed on the Kiawah Island beach during nesting season. They can make the journey from tideline to dunes difficult for loggerhead mamas and especially for loggerhead turtle hatchlings.
  3. Give loggerhead turtles space. Let them do their thing—they’ve been doing it for millions of years! And never, ever pick up a loggerhead turtle hatchling—no matter how cute it is.
  4. Turn off your lights. Artificial lights can disorient turtles and derail them from their journey back to the ocean. If you’re in an oceanfront home during nesting season, keep your beach-facing lights turned off. And if you’re exploring the beaches by night, special filters are available for your flashlights and cell phones at the Nature Center. Please avoid ever shining lights directly at a sea turtle.
  5. Volunteer with the Turtle Patrol. The survival of Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles and hatchlings relies on a dedicated group of trained volunteers. With their support, about 75% of hatchlings reach the Atlantic Ocean. To learn more about how you can help, visit the Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol volunteer page.

How can I see the loggerhead turtle hatching and nests on Kiawah Island?

Kiawah Island’s beaches host an average of 150 nests each season. To witness this miraculous event, join the hatching patrol—look for patrol members in purple turtle patrol shirts. Patrollers will begin walking their zones anywhere from 6:00-6:30 AM every day. Just go out to the beach and shadow them. Ask questions and observe what they are doing. All are happy to share their knowledge! Spotting hatchlings as they journey from their nests to the ocean is a matter of timing and luck. To increase your chances, consider staying at a beachfront rental, where you can watch the beach throughout the day.

View of the beach from a balcony of a vacation rental on Kiawah Island.
Our Oceanfront Vista Villa offers the ideal location for observing Loggerhead turtles.

Where can I stay when I’m visiting to see the loggerhead turtles?

Getting ready to book your trip to Kiawah Island? Kiawah Island Getaways offers a great selection of scenic view and oceanfront rentals that immerse you in the island’s natural beauty. Spend whole afternoons feeling the ocean breeze out on your balcony or watching marsh birds swoop from a private deck. Learn more about our accommodations and see what’s available for your stay.

See Also

Explore our oceanfront rentals that offer prime viewing opportunities to observe and learn more about the loggerhead turtles.

Elegant bedroom in a Kiawah Island vacation rental featuring a large bed and ocean view windows.
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Jeanette and Shawn

Founders of Kiawah Island Getaways, a luxury vacation rental company with over 20 years of experience serving guests on Kiawah. See our 5 star reviews here and our availability here. Book your rental today!

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Each of our properties have been vetted and are top-of-the line in decor, comfort and cleanliness to meet our high standards and yours.

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