Under the glow of moonlight in Mon Repos, 14 kilometres east of Bundaberg on Queensland’s sub-tropical central coast, there’s a group of people quietly looking out to see little dudes making their precarious way to the sea.
For expectant mothers of the loggerhead sea turtle species, giving birth involves a 2500 km ultra marathon to their birth suite! These amazing creatures are born with with an inbuilt GPS, which is tuned into nature’s magnetic field. Once they reach 30 years they’ll migrate from wherever they are back where they were born to nest.
Mon Repos also hosts green and flatback turtles who also return each year between November and March to produce their next generation. The old girls hauling themselves up the beach to dig a pit and lay their eggs. The curious thing about where a turtle lays her eggs is that the temperature of the sand affects the gender of the hatchling – cooler sand produces boys, while warmer sand produces girls.
Fast forward six to eight weeks and the tiny hatchlings crack their way out of the eggs in a team effort, scurrying down to the water and floating away on the gentle swell. While nature is unpredictable, most visitors between January and March are lucky enough to witness the tiny turtles’ first moments as they venture out into the world.
The experience of seeing the nesting and hatching firsthand is a real life National Geographic moment. With only one in 1,000 turtles survive to maturity, catching a glimpse of these giants is truly a spectacle of nature. You make your way down to a dark beach lit only by moonlight, and get to be part of something that has happened for thousands of years.
Ranger-guided turtle encounters operate at Mon Repos seven nights a week from November to March, excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve. The tours (and accommodation) are known to book out a few weeks in advance. Make sure you book it before you head to Mon Repos.
Quick note: While you are on the visit there are no lights allowed or the use of flash. The ranger uses a ‘special’ light to not harm the turtles. Please respect all Ranger instructions!