Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.

(A.K.A. - The Turtle Hospital)


Built in 1948-49, the Hidden Harbor Motel was constructed at the time when, due to the cost of fresh water, salt water pools were common. For the convenience of motel guests, one was included in the original construction. 

This salt water pool was functional until 1983, when the Motel's current owner purchased and renovated the property, putting in a conventional fresh water pool, though in a different location than the original. The salt water pool was retired from guest services, and though temporarily in danger of being cleared to make space for tennis courts, was soon to find another career as an aquarium. 

One of the owner's friends caught a tarpon under the nearby Seven Mile Bridge, and wished to keep it alive, so the fish was released into the pool. With water circulation from Florida Bay, and daily doses of bait squid, it thrived and was soon joined by dozens of other varieties of fish, even some lobster and conch. 

With a schools of snapper and grunts, several silvery tarpon, even a 150lb goliath grouper, the pool began to get notoriety as second only to the Key West aquarium for viewing fish. The lobster even came up on the sandy beach at one end of the pool for feeding, eating out of the hands of guests. Teachers started scheduling trips for their classes to the pool for educational purposes. 

Some trips to the hospital are complimentary and provided by BHI Insurance Agency.
One day a student asked why there weren't any sea turtles in the pool with the fish. When the state was contacted to see if the pool could house turtles too, Hidden Harbor management was told that the only way to get a license to keep turtles was to provide rehabilitation for them. With that goal originally in mind, sea turtle rehab facilities were added and the pool it became the Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, known as the Turtle Hospital. 

Link to turtlehospital.org 

Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project turtle swimming in the large saltwater pool

Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project - large turtle getting an x-ray

Sea turtle rehabilitation soon began to consume more and more resources, and it became apparent the dwindling wild population of turtles needed help. For expansion, the hospital purchased a building next to the motel ( it used to be an exotic dance bar...) and began to equip it with medical equipment and a meeting area. Classes continued to come and learn about the environment, with the learning now focused more on the sea turtles.  

Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project student facilities

Here's a .mpg movie of a turtle swimming in the shallow section of the pool - turtle_in_shallows.mpg

Today the Turtle Hospital has an average of 45 patients in its care at any one time. In 2004 the hospital released 19 turtles back into the wild, and has released over 750 since its inception. Research is ongoing in to turtle diseases cooperatively with the University of Florida, and the hospital hosts an annual symposium to share knowledge with sea turtle experts from all over the world.

The Hidden Harbor offers guests of the hotel a complimentary program at 4:00PM. The Hospital is open to the public. Programs are at 10:00AM, 1:00PM and can standby for the 4:00PM ( contingent on space available ). Program cost is $15 per adult and $7.50 per child. 

Home - Rooms&Rates - Facility

Hidden Harbor Motel & Efficiencies
2396 Overseas Highway
Marathon, Florida 33050
(305)743-5376 or 1-800-362-3495