Summer in Queensland is the season to witness the birth of new marine life. See newly-hatched turtles take their very first swim on Mon Repos beach, near Bundaberg. Or witness the hyper-colour production of a mass coral spawning across the Great Barrier Reef. You can see this dazzling natural phenomenon, nicknamed by marine biologists as ‘sex on the reef’, from a glass-bottomed boat or live-aboard dive tour.
It’s a 15 minute drive east to from Bundaberg to Mon Repos Conservation Park, where green, flatback and loggerhead turtles nest on the accessible mainland beach. After dark between November and March, see female turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs, or their newly-hatched babies crawling to shore for their first swim. Mid-November to February is the best time to see turtles laying eggs, while hatchlings usually begin to leave their nests from mid-January. Visit in January and you might get a fascinating glimpse of both nesting adults and little brown hatchlings. Join a guided tour or learn about the turtles at the information centre, then follow the walking track to the turtle rockery. You can also experience the turtles nesting on nearby Lady Elliot, Lady Musgrave and Heron Islands.
You can see an altogether different miracle of life on the Great Barrier Reef in October, November and sometimes December, when the water has reached the right temperature. On certain nights following the full moon, egg-engorged corals spawn across the reefs in spectacular sync. The rush of pink eggs and sperm to the surface of the night sea has been likened to both an upside-down storm and millions of exploding champagne bubbles. Whatever your analogy, it’s visually breathtaking. The tiny cells form a thick, pink spawning slick across the water’s surface, which can stretch metres wide and kilometres long. Slicks have even been seen from space by satellite imagery.
See this visual spectacular for yourself from a glass-bottomed boat or immerse yourself in the experience on a night dive. You can see the phenomenon all across the southern Great Barrier Reef, on a tour from Brisbane, Gladstone or Bundaberg, also the base for the Mon Repos turtles. Townsville and Mackay are good gateways to the central reef. From Cairns or Port Douglas, live-aboard tours leave for the Local, Ribbon, Far Northern, Osprey and Coral Sea Reefs.
Dive tours are organised around predicted spawning dates, which are one to six nights after the first full moon in October for inshore reefs and similar times in November and December for coral in outer reefs. During the spawning you might also see marine worms breeding en-masse and blue bioluminescent flashes from small prawn-like crustaceans spawning near the surface.
Don’t miss the chance to get up close and personal to Queensland’s marine miracles this summer.