This time last year I was lucky enough to witness one of the most incredible natural events I have seen on this planet. I’ve been to swim with the enormous Whale Sharks in Mozambique, I’ve seen the billions of tiny silver fish that make up the Sardine Run in South Africa and I’ve watched the seemingly endless lines of migrating Wildebeest in Kenya – but there is something very special about watching a female turtle drag herself up the beach and lay her eggs.
November signals the start of the laying season right along the Queensland coast when Loggerhead, Green, Flatback and Leatherback female turtles return for what can be, their first visit back to the beach they were born on up to 30 years before. Their sense of direction is remarkable using the moon, the magnetic gravitational pull of the earth and some even say their sense of smell to find where exactly that is.
Turtles nest all along the Queensland coastline on sheltered, sandy beaches between November and January, the eggs being laid in clutches of around 100-150 that take around two months to hatch. The beaches become a hive of activity for nesting mothers at the start of the season and then even busier towards the end of January when thousands of tiny baby turtles make the dash down the beach to the relative safety of the ocean.
When I visited Mon Repos turtle rookery near Bundaberg last year, laying was in full swing, the visitor centre there caters for around 25,000 people every year with beach access well managed during the season to ensure that the impact of humans on nesting sea turtles is minimal. Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service rangers operate guided tours nightly during the breeding season.
If you want to find out more information about this year’s event and exactly how the turtle season is progressing why not join the Bundaberg Turtle Facebook page HERE
Reef HQ in Townsville have been looking after injured and stranded turtles in their Turtle Hospital for over a year now and one of their success stories was Torres, a green turtle who was brought to them in 2006 weighing only 366 grams. Four years later he was released back into the wild weighing 45kgs. He was fitted with a tracking device and you can now watch exactly where he’s got to over the last few months…and believe me it’s along way! Click HERE to see Torres’ route along the coast.