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A Tale of Turtles and Travels

By Lisa Gonsalez, Magical Moments Vacations Agent

Photo credits: L. Gonsalez except as noted

Photo copyright Disney

Did you know you can visit Disney’s Vero Beach Resort and Walt Disney World Resort all in one trip? Would you like to travel AND help support a good cause at the same time? Would you like to combine a beach vacation with your theme park vacation? Well, Disney allows you to do just that! Find out more about the conservation connection between these resorts in this educational and fun blog post by MMV Agent Lisa Gonzalez.

I recently traveled to 2 different Disney resorts and had wonderful experiences learning about sea turtles…and there’s even a magical connection between the two!

First Stop is Disney’s Vero Beach Resort! Just 2 hours southeast of Walt Disney World Resort, this elegant old-fashioned hideaway is located on Florida’s scenic Atlantic coast near the charming community of Vero Beach.

Photo copyright Disney

Here you can get away from it all in spacious lodgings that provide the comforts of home with an idyllic beach practically at your doorstep.

MMV Agent Lisa Gonzalez
Pool at Disney's Vero Beach Resort

From late spring through fall, guests can observe the nesting of sea turtles here along the shores of Florida’s famous Treasure Coast. The area beaches are among the most important turtle-nesting habitats and are frequented by 3 species of threatened or endangered sea turtles: loggerheads, greens and leatherbacks.

Walking along the beach reveals numerous marked nesting sites.

Some sites are marked for green turtles, some for loggerheads and some are marked for research studies.

Normally guests are able to join sea turtle conservation excursions by registering for and attending a Sea Turtle Night Walk. It’s usually offered on select nights and lasts for a few hours. 100% of the registration fee goes toward Disney sea turtle monitoring, public education and scientific study at Disney's Vero Beach Resort. However, in lieu of the walk being offered this year, it’s possible instead to rise early and observe the Disney Conservation Team researching, monitoring, and protecting sea turtles right on the beach at the resort.

On a recent visit, over the course of two mornings, I was thrilled to be able to observe the team in action.

They check on the status of turtle nests: mark newly dug nests, check nests that had hatchlings emerge overnight and return to dig up nests 3 days post-emergence. They were very knowledgeable about sea turtles and took some time to patiently answer visitor questions and share news about the current happenings in the world of sea turtles on this beach.

The first morning I awoke about an hour before sunrise and spotted the team in the distance from the deck over the beach.

After enjoying the sunrise, I headed down to the sand toward their jeep on the beach. I watched as they carefully marked and dated a new nest that had been dug overnight.

We could see the tell-tale tracks left behind by the female as she crawled up the beach to the nesting spot she selected and then the tracks as she returned to the ocean.

It was very exciting to see! They also pointed out a nest where hatchlings emerged overnight. Numerous tracks were a sure sign of nocturnal activities. The tiny tracks are SO cute!

The team shared that they would be digging up at least 2 nests the next day as a post-hatching check (the turtles had emerged 2 nights prior). I already couldn’t wait to get up early the next morning to return and see what awaited.

The next morning I got up a little later and headed straight for the deck again, pausing briefly to apply complimentary insect repellent this time. I had learned the morning before that the no see-ums were plentiful in these parts. I spotted a crowd in the distance up the beach. I hustled there as quick as I could and found the Conservation Team in action. They had just dug up one nest and I arrived in time to see the second salvaged sea turtle hatchling reach the edge of the ocean and disappear into the waves. I excitedly followed the team to the next nest.

This nest had hatched 3 nights prior and the team was returning to dig into the nest, count egg shells and release any surviving sea turtle hatchlings that were still buried in the sand.

Here they counted 91 eggs that had already hatched, a couple unhatched eggs...

and (drum roll please! )...1 sea turtle hatchling who required some assistance to get to the ocean.

They took measurements, recorded data and then finally we got to watch as the hatchling was released to head into the waves. Pause for applause! The members of this team are truly heroes and it was an incredible feeling to see them in action and see several turtle hatchlings make it to the ocean, all thanks to their efforts.

Now, if you recall, I mentioned 2 destinations. Well, my next stop on my vacation journey was The Walt Disney World Resort. Two of the parks I visited were Disney's Animal Kingdom and EPCOT.

While at Rafiki’s Planet Watch Conservation Station in Animal Kingdom I happened to learn about the story of Little Crush.

He was a green sea turtle found on a beach in poor health years before. Guess what beach? Yep, Disney’s Vero Beach.

Disney staff brought him to Epcot. While there, the animal care experts at the Seas with Nemo & Friends nursed him back to health, including successfully removing 71 pieces of trash from his stomach (seen in this x-ray before and upon removal after).

This trash included plastic bags (he likely mistook it for jellyfish prey), fishing line (which looked like seaweed to eat), balloons and much more.

When he was up to it, Little Crush was tagged, released and has been monitored and doing well for the past 15-16 years in the wild. Yay!

Disney has contributed about $1.26 million to sea turtle conservation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.

If you would like to give to the fund, your contribution would be welcome in the gift shop at Vero Beach.

Guests at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park can also join Disney in supporting conservation by adding a contribution to their purchase at the shops. ALL donations are MATCHED by Disney dollar for dollar and the money goes directly and entirely to worthy conservation efforts. See…feel good about visiting, observing, and supporting these noble activities. Then when you get home and are cutting down on the use of your plastic bags, or picking up litter, you will remember how it helps or connects to the animals you saw on that great last vacation of yours to a Disney Destination. For more information visit their website!

The agents here at Magical Moments Vacations can help you plan your next exciting vacation to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, Walt Disney World or BOTH – these resorts are less than 2 hours from each other!! Your family could have a peaceful beach vacation and a magical theme park vacation all in one trip! You can request more information about these destinations or request a quote HERE.

Lisa Gonsalez is an agent/independent contractor with Magical Moments Vacations. When not at home in Minnesota she can be seen traveling around the U.S. and beyond to stay current on the travel experience. Her clients benefit from this personal experience and destination and product knowledge to get the most value out of the money they are spending. She provides complimentary concierge-level planning services and specializes in personalized vacation packages with Disney, Universal, all-inclusive resorts, land tours and cruises. Lisa truly cares about your vacation as if it were her own and will customize your vacation to be amazing and magical for you. Contact Lisa today to get started!!

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