T is for The Turtle Hospital (a field trip to a sea turtle hospital)

(This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosure policy.)

On a recent trip to the Florida Keys, our family spent the morning at the very first sea turtle hospital in the U.S. When we visited the Keys last year, Ben was heartbroken that we were not able to fit in a trip to see the sea turtles. So I knew this was the one place we needed to visit this trip. My animal-loving veterinarian wannabe can never get enough of trips to places like this! 

sea turtle hospital

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL provides a 90-minute guided educational tour. The Turtle Hospital opened its doors 1986 with four main goals:

  1. rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat
  2.  educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools,
  3. conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and
  4. work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.

While we waited for our guided educational tour to begin, we were able to spend some in the education center where the walls are filled with colorful, informative posters and presentations about sea turtles, as well as examples of all of their shells. 

sea turtle hospital

We were greeted by the lively Rachel as our tour guide. We started in a classroom area, where guided by a very nice PowerPoint presentation, Rachel introduced us to the sea turtles of Florida. She shared information about which turtles can be found in the waters near Florida, which ones were threatened or endangered (and why), prey and predators, what the most common illnesses and injuries were, and how we can help. She had a few turtle shells for us to handle up close as well. They are so beautiful. It’s easy to see why so many have been endangered through poaching. 

sea turtle hospital


sea turtle hospital

After the presentation, Rachel led us through a quick tour of the hospital, showing us the x-ray room and the operating room. She shared about the most common illness they see in the green sea turtle, a virus called fibropapilloma that causes huge cauliflower-like tumors on the turtles.

sea turtle hospital


sea turtle hospital

It was interesting to learn that many turtles have trouble with gas, usually caused by impactions when they consume the trash with which we humans litter the ocean. This causes their backsides to float atop the water, making it impossible to dive deep down where their food source is. The condition is called “bubble butt.” They even have a resident turtle named for it. They literally treat these turtles with Metamucil and Beano and (hopefully) are able to release them back into the ocean. Until they can, they use weights on their shells to help.

sea turtle hospital

Hanging in the OR is a picture of the largest sea turtle the hospital has ever treated. I can’t remember how much this Leatherback weighed, but it’s obvious that he was HUGE!

sea turtle hospital

Rachel also took us on a tour of the areas outdoors where the sick and injured turtles are kept for rehabilitation and treatment, and the larger pool where their permanent residents live. Sometimes the turtles are just too injured  to safely return to the ocean. As sad as that is, it’s wonderful that they have a home where they are well taken care of. Here you can see one of their permanent residents is missing a front flipper.

sea turtle hospital

While we were learning about the turtles currently cared for, we observed one of the rehab specialists taking pictures of the eyes of several turtles. These turtles all had eye surgery previously, so she was taking pictures to send to the veterinarian ophthalmologist to give updates.

sea turtle hospital


Being this close up also gave us a view of the scars left from the removal of some fibropapilloma tumors.

sea turtle hospital

Interestingly, the Turtle hospital is housed in what used to be a 1950’s seaside motel. Many of the rehab specialists are able to live onsite because of the rooms available, allowing 24 hour care of the turtles who need it. 

sea turtle hospital

What would a hospital be without an ambulance, right? The Turtle hospital uses this one to transport patients. Most of the turtles are saved by boaters out on the water. The ambulance goes to wherever on shore the turtles are brought.

sea turtle hospital

As you can see, a field trip to The Turtle Hospital is both educational and fun! We had such a great time, but this opportunity has also sparked interest in learning more about sea turtles and conservation for Ben. I’ve put together some resources for him to learn more in the coming weeks and listed those below.

We highly recommend a visit there if you are ever in south Florida, near the Keys. It’s worth a drive from Miami and surrounding areas as well. Usual cost is $18 for adults and $9 for children age 4-12. Space is limited, so be sure to call for your reservation. Ben is already counting the days (all 365 of them) until our next trip down!

Visit The Turtle Hospital Facebook page for updates on the patients and resident turtles there.

To learn more about sea turtles, check out these resources:

Sea Turtles Unit Studies

Sea Turtles Unit Study from Homeschool Share (free)

Learning About Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles (this site has a printable PDF for each type of sea turtle– amazing!)

Sea Turtles Book Basket

{affiiliate links are used}

National Geographic Readers: Sea Turtles 

Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation

Sea Turtles

I’ll Follow the Moon

Sea Turtle Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series)

Sea Turtle Hospital DVD (right now, if you purchase this DVD, they will donate $10 of the cost to The Turtle Hospital. In fact some of it was filmed there!)


Disclaimer: The Turtle Hospital invited our family to visit at no cost to us. We are grateful they did. Our opinions of the hospital are honest and true, as is our recommendation to visit. Thank you Rachel, Liz, and all the wonderful staff at The Turtle Hospital for having us. We’ll be back next time we visit the Florida Keys!


blogging through the alphabet sm.

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  • leahrc

    This looks like a very cool field trip.

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      it as a cool field trip. what was really cool is that all 3 of us really enjoy ourselves. truly one for the whole family!

  • Shelly

    I wish we had places like that near us! The kids would go crazy!

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      we always look for great field trip opportunities when we travel. there is nothing like this near us either!

  • http://www.moms-heart.blogspot.com/ Brittney

    This looks like an awesome field trip!

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      we really, really enjoyed it!

  • http://anetintimeschooling.weebly.com/a-net-in-time-blog.html annette from A Net in Time

    what a very neat field trip Marcy. So wish I could go to a place like that. :)

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      you need to head south, my friend!

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  • http://www.livingmyportion.wordpress.com/ Robin

    I LOVE sea turtles and would love to go to the Turtle Hospital. :)

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      let’s go!

      • http://www.livingmyportion.wordpress.com/ Robin


        • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

          can’t wait to see you! just 2 more weeks!

          • http://www.livingmyportion.wordpress.com/ Robin

            We are literally counting the days.

  • http://mommyhoodinholland.blogspot.com/ Yuliya Fruman

    It looks like you guys had a wonderful time! My family is pretty environmentally conscious, but we never knew that litter could cause such serious problems for turtles.

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      It’s terrible. These turtles swallow so much garbage. It’s so, so sad.

  • School Time Snippets

    Wow! What an experience; something that will sure be remembered for a long time! Wish we could do something like that.

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      I think you’re right. We will likely remember it for a very long time.

  • http://www.sonotorganized.com/ Jean

    That looks lke such a fun trip and great experience. I would love to go there. I’ll have to remember this if we ever get that far south.

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      Oh, I hope you get to go! I think you would love it!

  • There’s Just One Mommy

    Looks like a wonderful place to visit and learn! Going to look into it next time we head down to Florida.

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      I hope you get the opportunity. It really was a wonderful day!

  • http://selfbindingretrospect.alannarusnak.com/ Alanna Rusnak

    What a great place to visit. My kids would LOVE it! We have a science center relatively close (3 hrs) that has a great nature section but nothing so focused on one species. A great learning opportunity!

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      Where is your science center? We’re always looking for new and great places to visit!

      • http://selfbindingretrospect.alannarusnak.com/ Alanna Rusnak
        • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

          Awesome! We’re actually planning a trip to Ontario!

  • Meeghan

    Looks like you had a great day. What a great place to visit -so educational, and…a hands-on learning opportunity to see rehab happen!

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      My favorite part was getting to see the rehab-ers working with the turtles. Amazing.

  • Emma Craig

    Wow, I would love to visit this place! I love turtles and I love animal rescue, so this would be the perfect destination as far as I’m concerned. Looks like you guys learned lots during your visit!

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      I hope you get to visit some day!

  • TaMara

    What a fabulous field trip! My small people would thoroughly enjoy that.

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      I think most kids would love it! Big kids (parents) too!

  • Scarlett Wonder

    Sounds like a great & informative trip for the animal lover! Will have to make note of it if we ever go to the FL Keys! Love the additional resources linkef at the bottom! We don’t plan on homeschooling, but great to have books and videos to accompany a trip lije this. We learn everywhere! Will be following!

    • http://www.benandme.com/ Marcy @ Ben and Me

      Thanks for stopping by. Every parent is a “homeschooler” is some sense of the word! I’m glad you found the resources useful for your family :)

  • Misty Nordyke

    I LOVE turtles!! Sounds like a fun time. I missed the deadline, but here is my link: http://nordykeacademy101.blogspot.com/2014/02/blogging-through-alphabet-t.html

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