Join the war on waste and save sea turtles the Queensland way
If you’re already a Keep Cup coffee-addict, an enviro-bag grocery shopper or maniacal recycler, did you know you’re not just fighting the #waronwaste, but saving our Queensland turtles, one small change at a time?
We give a flip(per) about their welfare because Queensland’s coast turns into turtle-town between November to March each year, when these gentle giants make their way ashore for nesting and hatching like a David Attenborough documentary that’s streamed live to a shore near you.
If you don’t know much about the turtle life cycle, it can be summarised as damn hard.
The survival odds are stacked against them from the minute mamma-turtle drops her eggs in the sand, which signals Mother Nature to throw down her worst; and hot sun, snakes and swooping birds are only but a few.
Since Queensland’s home to six of the seven types of sea turtles, this summer season, don’t just take a holiday to see them, take a holiday that saves them.
1. Get a holiday and an education
Forget your usual luxury hot spots and holiday with heart at one of Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef Islands, which run educational tours about our flippered-friends.
In the Southern Great Barrier Reef, set your sights on Heron Island (pssst – long weekend guide here) who have partnered with the Sea Turtle Foundation to save the turtles and educate guests at the same time.
Aside from hearing turtle-y interesting research updates, you can participate in guided walks led by foundation or resort staff.
Even the little ones can lend a flipper at Heron Island’s Junior Rangers program, which runs in school holidays.
To ensure there are ‘turtles for tomorrow’ you can also add a $10 donation to the Foundation when fixing up your room bill on departure.
2. Turn off the lights
You officially have a new excuse to turn off the lights and it’s got nothing to do with the power bill – it might just save a life.
Did you know turtles find their way from their nest to the sea using their internal GPS which navigates them towards the brightest light they see, natural or otherwise? In built-up areas, it’s not uncommon for the hatchlings to become disorientated and move towards streetlights rather than the moon they were supposed to chase.
If you’re holidaying beachside, cut the glow by switching off unnecessary lights and only use a small torch (less than 3 volts) if you’re nature spotting on the beach at night.
Mon Repos champions the ‘Cut the Glow to help Turtles Go’ campaign and encourages beachgoers and residents to help turtles get to the water safely. Join them for a nightly turtle encounter from November to March to witness one of nature’s greatest shows with interpretation from a ranger.
3. Go to turtle rehab
In case you’re curious, turtle rehab resembles nothing of your average vet surgery with temperature controlled swimming tanks, plenty of seagrass and marine biologists on tap.
If you’re in Townsville or Cairns, pay a visit to the shelly patients at Great Barrier Reef Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and the Turtle Hospital at Reef HQ Aquarium.
Starving, sick and injured turtles are nursed back to health and visitors can assist through donations and volunteering, which can take the form of cleaning tanks right through to assisting the release of recovered turtles into the wild, Bondi Vet-style.
Aside from being able to rehabilitate turtles in these hospitals without beds, scientists are able to understand the species even further by attaching turtle tracking satellites to reveal just how far they travel after their release.
Camp with a conscious, by taking up the role of campground host at North West and Lady Musgrave islands in the Southern Great Barrier Reef in return for spruiking Queensland Parks and Wildlife’s conservation message.
Tasks aren’t limited to turtles either – you might find yourself planting native trees, controlling weeds and taking guided walks in the name of a few nights free accommodation.
If this tickles your voluntouring pickle, you might be keen to jump over here for more ideas.
5. Make your annual holiday a turtle-y good time
Say ‘see you on the flip side’ to your regular holiday destination and book a holiday at one of these places on the Southern Great Barrier Reef you’re guaranteed to see turtles.
You might meet like-minded environmental citizens like Nev and Bev McLachlan, who are the poster couple for voluntourism in Queensland and chief Turtle Trackers.
This couple have made the same trek each December to Deepwater National Park, near the twin towns of Agnes Water and 1770, for the past 40 years all in the name of turtle conservation and recording vital information about turtle migration and nesting patterns.
To join them you don’t need any special qualifications just a can-usher-newborns-to-the-water attitude to help hatchlings scramble to the shoreline.
6. Combine good will with good times
It might seem incongruous that a beer can protect a species, but Good Beer Co’s Great Barrier Beer gives 50% of its profits back to the Australian Marine Conservation Society.
Available at most major retailers across Australia, this is one way you can protect the marine turtle population without stepping foot outside your postcode.
Bottoms up – just don’t forget to recycle your bottles!
7. Go plastic free and choose an eco-island
While supermarkets might only be new to banning the bag, some Queensland holiday spots were doing it long before the hashtag #waronwaste was in high rotation.
Lady Elliot Island was the first island to ban plastic water bottles on its premises and as a result, you won’t find any bottled water on the island.
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Lady Elliot Island is also completely carbon-neutral even using water from its own desalination plant.
It also happens to be the place for the ultimate turtle selfie and we know you’ll want proof you’re an eco-warrior.
8. Adopt a turtle
Not allowed a pet in your apartment? Adopt a turtle with WWF and feel virtuous for having saved the life of an endangered species instead.
Not only will you help out the Great Barrier Reef turtle population, you’ll receive a snazzy certificate you can put on your fridge to remind everyone you have a low maintenance pet with a natty name like Hector.
Forget kennel fees, picking up poop or remembering to feed your pet, this is a long distance relationship with a cool-dude likely surfing the East Australian Current (aka the EAC) while you’re reading this.
Looking for more life-saving tips? Check out how to keep the Great Barrier Reef great.