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The turtle retreat

Sometimes cruising the EAC can be a hairy ride – in peak traffic during November to March when thousands of lovable sea turtles arrive on the Queensland coast to breed and lay eggs, accidents can occur.

Boat propellers and fishing nets cause immediate problems but one of the biggest killers is the everyday plastic bag. To a turtle who loves eating jellyfish, plastic bags can seem like an easy meal with often fatal consequences. The plastic blocks the intestines, stops the turtle from feeding and ultimately causes a slow, painful death.

More than 100,000 turtles and marine mammals are killed by plastic bags and marine debris every year, making it a significant threat to the species survival.

Luckily, help is on hand along the Queensland coast when our flippered friends hit hard times, with organisations like the Reef HQ turtle hospital in Townsville taking in the sick and injured and nursing them back to good health.

It’s just like any other hospital, but with rehabilitation tanks in place of beds and not a plate of mushy potato and peas in sight.

Releasing Fin at Magnetic Island

The crowd is cheering as Fin checks out of Reef HQ Turtle hospital.

Nick Baker and his team at the hospital have cared for 125 turtles since 2009 and released one of their patients, Fin, back into the waters of Magnetic Island last week.

Fin was found by marine rangers in April this year, injured and undernourished in one of the bays on the island. After five months of care, rest and rehabilitation at the turtle hospital he was released back into his watery home, ready to find a mate and continue the turtle life-cycle once again.

Six months of rehabilitation and he's back in the water

Don’t touch the shell dude, just waxed it. 

Reef HQ is a fascinating place to learn about life in the Coral Sea. Peering into the world’s largest living coral reef aquarium is one thing, walking through the predators tank is another, but they’ve also got loads of small stuff – tiny little seahorses, microscopic octopus and infinitesimally small shrimps that you have to strain your eyes to see.

You can join a tour of the turtle hospital to learn more about the plight of our sea turtles and see them being nursed back to health by passionate experts from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA).

If you  don’t have time to squeeze in a reef trip, your kids aren’t quite old enough to snorkel or dive, or you just don’t like getting wet, then a trip to Reef HQ will bring the reef to life right in front of your eyes – no wetsuit required!

Ben :)