Forget David Attenborough and his over-edited TV documentaries, there’s a real-life National Geographic scene taking place off the east coast of Queensland.
Thousands of baby turtles have started muscling their way out of their sandy nests and making a nightly dash for the warm waters off Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg.
It’s one of Australia’s greatest conservation and educational experiences and definitely a must do on any nature-lover’s bucket list. The shelled stars of the show are performing from now until March, so don’t miss your chance to get a front row seat to all the turtle-y awesome action!
Instagram star Lauren Bath recently ventured to Mon Repos and captured some of the little dudes’ first steps.
Cut the glow
Artificial lights can distract hatchlings so Mon Repos beach is closed between 6pm-6am during turtle season and local lighting is kept to a minimum.
Hatch yourself some turtle time
Australia’s only ranger-guided tours start at the Mon Repos Conservation Park from November and run until the end of March.
Baby turtles spend 20-30 years riding the ocean currents before returning to their birthplace to nest.
How would you like your eggs?
Baby turtles take 6-8 weeks to hatch. In early January the first hatchlings start to appear and make their way to the ocean.
Eat my dust!
This little guys leaves Bundaberg behind and scurries down to the great ocean unknown.
Follow the leader
Only one in a thousand hatchlings will survive to adulthood. Talk about survival of the fittest!
What's in a name?
Four types of turtle lay at Mon Repos. These guys are flatbacks, named after their flat carapace and distinctive shell markings.
Go towards the light
Baby turtles have a natural instinct to head towards the lowest natural light – out to the horizon and the open ocean.
Napping on the job
Nests laid in warmer sand produce more females and while cooler sand produces more boys. The dark, gritty sand at Mon Repos means they get lots of girls.
Good things come in twos
On the second day of Christmas my true love sent to me… two turtle hatchlings!
Just keep swimming
Once they hit the water, the hatchings swim non-stop for several days to reach the EAC (the turtle superhighway made famous in Finding Nemo!).
On the move
Rangers relocate any clutches laid too low on the beach within two hours of being laid, to a safer nesting site.
Spot the turtle
Sea turtles use colour and pattern to camouflage on sand, rocks and the ocean floor.
The estimated lifespan of sea turtles ranges from 60-80 years.
This guy looks like something out of Jurassic Park. Did you know turtles have outlasted dinosaurs and lived in the world’s oceans for 200 million years?
This is just one of the first hurdles this tiny loggerhead will face. Others include predators like foxes and ghost crabs.
Turtle hatchlings weigh only 15-30 grams at birth and measure 5-7 centimetres on average. Compared to my feet, they look a lot smaller than that!
Wait for me, dude!
Sea turtle hatchlings usually emerge at night from underground nests on sandy beaches and crawl directly to the moonlit ocean.