Turtle hatching season is here, filling some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches with cute little critters. Here are the top five places to watch the magic take place.
By Dan F. Stapleton
Published: 12 January, 2018
The majestic turtles who swim in the oceans off Australia’s east coast can grow to be two metres (six feet) in length and weigh a staggering 900 kilograms (almost 2000 pounds). But their adorable offspring weigh just a few ounces when they hatch and are small enough to fit inside a teacup.
Each year, from January to March, these babies emerge at a handful beaches along the Queensland coast in northern Australia, burrowing out of sand-covered holes where their mothers laid eggs a couple of months earlier. Once they reach the surface, the tiny turtles scamper towards the ocean to begin a life of swimming and adventure.
See the youngsters in action at these five serene spots along the coast – but don’t delay, in case they all swim away.
Australia's turtle hatching season
Mon Repos Beach
The beach within Mon Repos Conservation Park, on the outskirts of picturesque Bundaberg, is a haven for turtles – in fact, more mothers nest at Mon Repos than anywhere else on the east coast. Specifically, the beach attracts the stately loggerhead turtle, which can live for more than 60 years and weigh an average of 160kg (250lb), with the largest reaching 450kg (1000lb). Despite the size of the mothers, baby loggerheads are tiny, so expect maximum cuteness when you visit. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service runs ranger-guided night-time turtle encounters during hatching season.
Lady Elliot Island
The coral cay of Lady Elliot Island, which lies about 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Bundaberg at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, is within a Marine National Park ‘Green Zone’, meaning the 1200 species of marine life that inhabit its waters are well protected. Visitors who opt to stay overnight at the island’s sole resort can step onto the beach with a resort ranger or watch from the resort’s guestroom balconies as newborn green and loggerhead turtles make their dash towards the water. The ocean surrounding Lady Elliot is also a great place to swim with adult turtles during the daytime (tour operators offer daytrips from Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Bundaberg).
Green and loggerhead turtles love Heron Island, just off the Gladstone coast, because the reef here touches the shoreline, meaning the shallow waters are full of food for nesting season. The coastal reef makes Heron an excellent place for daytime snorkeling, too, but you’ll want to stay overnight during hatching season. The comfortable Heron Island Resort – the only accommodation on the island – has spacious rooms with reef views and an al fresco restaurant worth writing home about.
GREEN ISLAND & FITZROY ISLAND
Farther north, off the Cairns coast, lie two of the Barrier Reef’s lushest destinations, both of which attract nesting turtle mothers. Fittingly, compact Green Island – the only coral cay in the reef system with its own rainforest – attracts green turtles to nest along its 1.5-kilometre (one-mile) beachfront. Book a room at Green Island’s popular eco-resort, which sits among the foliage, to see the tiny turtles up close. Fitzroy Island is much larger – 339 hectares (838 acres) in fact, almost all of which is a designated National Park – and there are several secluded beachfront stretches where sea turtles can nest. The island is also home to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, where visitors can nurse injured adults back to health. Staff at Fitzroy Island Resort will help you plan your turtle-y awesome multi-day stay. Both Green Island and Fitzroy Island are easily accessible via boat from Cairns.
Like turtles? What about sharks, whales and multi-coloured cuttlefish?
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