Everything you need to know about baby turtles and the turtle-hatching season
Forget David Attenborough and his TV documentaries, there’s a real-life National Geographic scene that takes place off the east coast of Queensland every year.
It’s one of Australia’s greatest conservation and educational experiences and a must-do on any nature lover’s bucket list.
Discover all you need to know about the turtle-hatching season with this snappy guide.
When is the hatching season?
The shelled stars of the hatching show perform from January until March to make the most of the Queensland summer heat as an incubator for the eggs.
Mother turtles find sunny spots just off the shore to lay their young between November and January, which hatch approximately 45-70 days (about 6-8 weeks) after.
Where are the best hatching spots?
Sea turtles prefer secluded, sandy beaches to lay their eggs, which is why the isolated islands at the very north and southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef are popular turtle nesting spots.
For a spectacular show, head to the Southern Great Barrier Reef turtle hubs of Mon Repos and Lady Elliot Island. There are daily tours that give visitors the opportunity to get up close with the baby turtles as they make their way from the nest to sea.
Turtle-y awesome hatching facts
- Sand temperature determines the sex of the turtles, with the cooler nests producing more males and the warmers nests hatching more females.
- Baby turtles hatch at approximately 15-30g with a length of 5-7cm #adorable
- While in the nest, hatchlings create an internal GPS using the Earth’s magnetic field. They then use this GPS to find their way back to their birthplace when it is time for them to nest.
- Only one out of 1000 hatchlings survive to the mature age of 30, with the average lifespan for a turtle being 60-80 years.
- The best time of day to spot turtles hatching is at night when the temperature is cooler and there is less chance of being caught as prey by other animals.
- When they hatch at night, the baby turtles instinctively head towards to lowest natural light, which is the horizon over the open ocean – their ultimate destination.
Keen for more info on baby turtles? Check out these flippin’ awesome guides:
- Witness baby turtles hatch before your eyes at these Southern Great Barrier Reef turtle hot spots.
- Find out more on the chilled-out species with this list of turtle facts.
- Discover why Lady Elliot Island is a sanctuary for turtles and 1200 other species of marine life.
- Learn about the turtle magic that takes place at Mon Repos Conservation Park and Turtle Centre off Bundaberg
- Swim all year round with grown turtles with this guide to finding the great eight marine animals of the Great Barrier Reef.
Watch these baby turtles scurrying to the surf:
Have you seen a turtle hatch before? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
*This post was originally published in 2014 and updated in January 2018.