Lonely Planet Writer

Get up close and personal with endangered sea turtles at this South Carolina rescue centre

An incredible new state-of-the-art facility in the South Carolina Aquarium is providing a temporary home for injured and stranded sea turtles and it’s now open for people to take a closer look.

A rescued sea turtle enjoys his tank
Visitors can get to know the sea turtle patients in the hospital. Image by South Carolina Aquarium

The Sea Turtle Care Center has been attracting an increasing number of visitors as people flock to see their rehabilitation work and the new space is designed to accommodate more animals and visitors.

The centre is both a working hospital and a visitor centre full of interactive experiences. There is a special emphasis on fun education for children who can practice diagnosing a turtle patient with the help of augmented reality technology. They can follow the steps of the centre’s experts, taking vital signs and offering a diagnosis, all while learning about the ailments that can affect the sea creatures.

Visitors can diagnose a sea turtle using augmented reality technology. Image by South Carolina Aquarium
Visitors can diagnose a sea turtle using augmented reality technology. Image by South Carolina Aquarium

Visitors will also learn what causes sea turtles to get stranded in the first place. Afterwards, they can visit all the patients, read their stories and learn about their next steps on the road to recovery. The new upgraded tanks mean kids can get as close a look as they want; the glass is designed that people can see in but turtles can’t see out, meaning they don’t get distressed or disturbed.

Some visitors will also get a chance to see a medical operation in progress in the operating room. Other improved facilities include a CT scanner and a special pool that helps turtles build up their strength through exercise.

The tanks are specially designed to provide a calming atmosphere to the seat turtles. Image by South Carolina Aquarium
The tanks are specially designed to provide a calming atmosphere to the sea turtles. Image by South Carolina Aquarium

The aquarium has had a sea turtle hospital for 17 years but it happened completely by accident. In 2000, a huge loggerhead turtle was rushed to the aquarium after being found ill and dehydrated. After kitting out the aquarium basement with children’s plastic swimming pools, they nursed ‘Stinky’ the turtle back to full health and released him back to the sea.

Their rescue efforts started gaining more and more attention and eventually every release back into the sea was accompanied by cheering crowds of local animal lovers. Now the aquarium’s new facility means it can treat more turtles than ever with groundbreaking technology.

South Carolina Aquarium is open daily from 9am to 4pm. Children’s tickets are $22.95 and adults are $29.95.