Where to see turtles on the Southern Great Barrier Reef (guaranteed!)
If Crush is your favorite character from Finding Nemo then you are not alone. That chilled out dude of a turtle is one of many turtles who righteously ride the currents to make it to the Southern Great Barrier Reef each year.
This is how and where you can meet up and see all the turtles on the Southern Great Barrier Reef for a bit of “Fin’ Noggin’”, guaranteed!
Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles
Green turtles get their name from the colour of their shell and skin (surprise!). They can weigh over 300kgs and lay almost 200 eggs at a time. That means when it’s time for them to hatch it looks like the London marathon to get to the water.
The coolest thing about Queensland’s green turtles is that instead of warming themselves by swimming near the top of the water (like their boring Atlantic cousins), in true Queenslander fashion they find the best beach and set up for a good old sun bake. Slip, slop and slap doesn’t apply when you have a shell.
Loggerhead turtles are smaller but just as amazing. Like the green turtle they remember the beach they were born on and will return to lay their own eggs on it as well. Some of the Southern Great Barrier Reef’s beaches are like the family home to these little guys!
(PS. Here are some more turtle-y awesome facts about turtles we prepared earlier.)
So which beaches you ask?
Great Keppel Island
Great Keppel Island and the islands that surround it, is one of the most important breeding rookeries for the Flatback turtles that migrate from the Torres Strait to nest here. The turtles often prefer Monkey Beach to nest and this makes it one of the best spots for turtle viewing.
Daily cruises to the island are available from the Capricorn Coast which includes the chance to snorkel the fringing reefs and tick off the 17 pristine beaches on Great Keppel.
On Heron Island you can literally walk straight off the beach and into a reef. This is a turtle’s idea of paradise and green turtles, as well as loggerhead turtles, call it home.
Located just off the Gladstone coast, you can catch the Heron Islander out here and spend the night in some flash accommodation. While you’re there, be sure to visit the island’s research station to find out more about the conservation work being done.
In the morning there are 20 scuba diving sites around Heron Island to explore and swim with the turtles, but during nesting season (from November to January) the turtles are right there on the beach so you don’t even need to get wet.
Lady Musgrave Island
There is a giant lagoon near Lady Musgrave Island filled with fish, manta rays, turtles and more beautiful coral than you can fill a GoPro with.
Green turtles have a good sized rookery on this island as well as a smaller loggerhead one and each play an important role in the ecosystem around the island.
You can take a day trip from 1770 or from Bundaberg, with Lady Musgrave Experience, which makes getting here really easy. Or take the adventurous option of camping on the island and turtle spotting to your heart’s content.
Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot Island is regarded as one of the best dive sites in Australia. So, you’re off to a good start.
You can get fly here for a day trip or you can also spend the night in the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort to make the most of the sunrise the next day and keep your eyes peeled for turtles nesting and hatching on the shores of this picturesque coral cay.
Fifteen minutes out of Bundaberg, Mon Repos might as well be called “the place to see baby turtles”. Over half of the entire concentration of nesting loggerhead turtles in the Southern Hemisphere come here to lay their eggs. That’s a lot of flippers.
The Mon Repos Turtle Centre is a great place to join a park ranger to see this first hand. You can witness turtles laying their eggs between November and January, and return between January and March to help the little hatchlings make their way back into the great big ocean they call home!