Baby Boom In Bundaberg: Turtle Season Has Hatched

10 November 2014

There's something magical happening on the sands of Mon Repos near Bundaberg this week. The tracks on the beach gave it away, and it wasn't long before local park rangers and volunteers unearthed the jackpot: a clutch of 77 turtle eggs.

The laid-back Queensland town may be synonymous with sugar cane fields and an iconic tipple, but at this time of year, Bundaberg is all about the little miracles on Mon Repos.

"Bundaberg really does 'turn the town turtle'," says Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism spokesperson Donna Kramer. We're talking turtle-topped cupcakes at the local bakery, green gelato in tribute of the shelled sightseers, and a collective effort to 'cut the glow' after dark, helping the little turtles make their way to the deep blue.

[embed]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGGEY4_8tLQ&list=PLwsOom-PMbdXg-aa_wWmcul...

Today marks the start of the turtle nesting and hatching season in Mon Repos, located just east of Bundaberg, with nightly guided tours running from now until March. As the southern gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Bundaberg lays out the welcome mat for the migrating mariners each summer.

Under the glow of moonlight, the mama sea turtles heave their way onto shore and dig a safe nest for their offspring (up to 110 of them at a time!). If the soon-to-be parents lay their eggs too close to the water's edge, visitors may be asked to lend a hand (literally), relocating the precious cargo to a safer position.

 A night time Turtle Encounter at Mon Repos

The experience of seeing the nesting and hatching firsthand has been described as a 'real life National Geographic moment'. It's thought that only one in 1,000 turtles survive to maturity, so catching a glimpse of these gentle giants is truly a spectacle of nature.

"It's eerily quiet," says Donna. "You make your way down to a dark beach lit only by moonlight, and get to be a part of something that has happened for thousands of years."

The Mon Repos research team pioneered the use of satellite tracking the turtles, so these days when a mother turtle comes ashore, visitors learn exactly who she is and where she has come from - often travelling from as far as Peru. During Donna's own turtle encounter, her group learned the nesting turtle that evening was 50 years old and hadn't been back to Bundy for two decades.

 The baby turtles will arrive in January - March

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.

January is the best (and busiest) time for Turtle Encounters, with mother turtles still arriving to lay their clutches and baby turtles starting to burst through their fragile cocoons.

Conservation, research and tourism work hand-in-hand in Mon Repos, which sits an easy 14 kilometres from Bundaberg. Mon Repos (pronounced "mon ree-poh") is the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific; a safe haven for loggerheads, greens, leatherbacks and flatbacks.

 A little turtle begins his journey

The small stretch of sand at Mon Repos welcomes these slow and steady visitors back on an annual basis, hosting the only ranger-guided turtle encounters in Australia. At four-and-a-half hours drive away from Brisbane, a weekend spent witnessing this natural phenomenon is well within reach and well worth the effort.

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, so now is the time to lock it in.

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Turtle Facts Infographic

 Turtle Facts Infographic

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Ashton Rigg

When I'm not at home in Brisbane, you’ll find me wanderlusting around hipster bars, eclectic boutiques and arty nooks. From bagels in Brooklyn to strudel in Salzburg, I believe the best way to experience a destination is by taking a bite! Tweets & 'grams at @AshtonRigg