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8 places to see exotic marine animals on dry land

Jan. 29, 2014, 4:39 p.m.
leatherback sea turtle baby

Photo: IrinaK/Shutterstock

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St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands are a haven for sea turtles. The island of St. Croix is home to nesting areas for three species of these amazing shelled creatures. Hawksbills, leatherbacks and green turtles all lay their eggs on the sandy shores at different times of the year. Leatherbacks, which can weigh up to 800 pounds, lay their eggs early in the springtime. Unfortunately, these turtles are critically endangered, so there are tight restrictions on visiting nesting areas. The smaller green and hawksbill turtles nest later in the year. At some point between March and November, at least one of these species of turtle nests on virtually every beach on St. Croix.

Both the Buck Island Reef National Monument and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge are protected areas where all the turtle species nest. Strict regulations about everything from noise levels to digging holes on the beach make certain that the turtles' needs are balanced with those of human visitors.