Kiawah Island Loggerhead Turtles Hatching, Explained 

Anyone who’s spent significant time on Kiawah Island can tell you how dearly the community holds its loggerhead turtles. 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.

loggerhead turtle swimming

Why are loggerhead turtles 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.

loggerhead turtles hatching

When do Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles 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.

baby loggerhead turtle

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. Support the turtle patrol. Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles and hatchlings depend on a group of trained volunteers to help them survive from egg to ocean. With their help, about 75% of hatchlings make it to the Atlantic. Contact jjordan@kiawahisland.org to learn more.

Beachfront Kiawah Island villa

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

Kiawah Island’s beach is home to an average of 150 nests per season. To see one up close, tag along with the hatching patrol—just look for the patrol members in purple turtle patrol shirts.

Visitors are also invited to observe a nest inventory, which take place from July through October three days after each nest hatches. Check here for the latest schedule.

During the summer, take a nighttime beach walk with a naturalist to learn all about Kiawah Island’s loggerhead turtles and their nesting habits. Tours depart from West Beach.

Catching the moment when hatchlings make the trip from their nests to the ocean requires a bit of luck. Increase your chances by staying at a beachfront rental. At Kiawah Island Getaways ocean-view villas and penthouses, you can keep an eye on the beach all day long.

Kiawah Island rental

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.