Turtles nest all along the coast, and there's no predicting when or where they will be. They usually come in at night, lay eggs, then return to the ocean. Volunteers go out early, locate nests, and move them to the dunes. It's not really an event. Here's a link that keeps statistics:
If you want to see turtles, there's a rescue program for injured turtles at the aquarium:
We also have a program called "Lights out for Turtles" ~ which means that no lights (flash lights, flood lights on homes, etc) are allowed to be on along the beach at night. The light confuses hatching turtles and prevents them from reaching the ocean.
Shankle's right, you just have to be in the right place at the right time (it's not like that place in South American where thousands come onto the beach at once) and it's very early in the morning when they do hatch (which won't be for several months). We've been lucky enough to be there.
As of Friday, there were 7 nests on Kiawah, saw the tracks for one of those that had come in during the night while I was out on my bike on Friday morning.
We've also had a leatherback turtle nest here, first turtle of the season, came ashore about 3 weeks ago. Leatherback is very rare on our beaches.
Even the Ravenal Bridge was designed with the turtles in mind for the lights. The beaches are about 20 - 45 minutes from Charleston but there is no one place to go to see them and the nests are protected.
Is the lights on the beach rule year round or just certain months? This would rule out looking for sand crabs at night.
The Lights Out Program is during turtle nesting and hatching season, which will last throughout the summer into early fall. You can see ghost crabs in the dunes during the day.
The reason for the "Lights Out" is because the little turtles get their co-ordinants from the sky the minute they hatch and run to the ocean. That's how they know how to come back to lay eggs. I get a tear in my eye every time I think about how that works, *sniff*
Thanks everyone for the great info. I may go to a turtle talk on Tybee Island if I have time. Last summer I was in Costa Rica. Tried like crazy to get to Tortuguero (sp?) to see the turtles but never made it. When I saw that they were on your coast I was so excited. Oh well I just have to keep trying.
If you are lucky enough, you might be here when there is a turtle release! I'll check now to see if there are any planned at the moment. They did just release about 6 of them a couple of weeks ago.
I would recommend the Tybee Island facility - small, but nice.
There is a release tomorrow, in fact (May 18). Seems like they're pretty frequent.
Check out this blog - you'll see great photos and learn of releases from the source!