No one should be awake at 1am in the morning unless they’re a) deep in (boozy) conversation solving the problems of the world, b) scouring the fridge for a midnight snack or c) witnessing a natural miracle at Mon Repos Turtle Centre near Bundaberg Queensland. TURTLES! Cute baby turtles yayaya!!
It’s the wee hours of Saturday morning and I’m observing something pretty amazing at Mon Repos Turtle Centre in Bargara. A giant loggerhead turtle presses its olive-grey shell firmly into the sand while laying hundreds of tiny white eggs into a burrow she has meticulously dug with her flippers.
Watching a hefty 135kg endangered turtle awkwardly giving birth isn’t something you get to witness everyday, but what makes this particular scenario even more special is that, according to the vet currently giving the mother an ultrasound in the pitch black dead of night, a “nesting” rarely happens this late in the season. After a little bit of wonderment we find out it’s her very first nesting. She’s fifty, and her birthing period will go for the next five decades. Lucky her, the lady’s got a long way to go…
Suddenly, the Ranger in charge of our group hears a muffle on the radio… There’s a “hatching” going on just a few hundred metres down the beach. Now we’re talking! Hundreds of little bubba turtles half the size of my palm precociously popping open their shells and scurrying down the beach! I will get to witness their first walk of life. I quickly forget the fact that it’s past midnight, and that we had been waiting in the amphitheatre since 7pm (can’t rush Mother Nature I guess) and gingerly follow the Ranger’s headlight back up the beach anxious not to miss out on this once in a lifetime event. Finally our group arrives at the some piles of dishevelled-looking sand about 50 metres away from the water. We’re informed that we need to stand in single file a couple of metres away from the nest, and to make a tunnel or pathway with our legs for the turtles to scurry through to lead them down to water. And then we wait. And then…
This is all in a days (or should I say evenings) work at Mon Repos Turtle Centre, one of Australia’s only conservation parks for turtles. And considering only one in a thousand baby turtles live past their first couple of days, supporting these conservation parks means you’ll get to experience something rare and unique as well as doing your bit for the environment too.
Where: Mon Repos Conservation Park is located at 141 Mon Repos Rd, Bargara, a 5.5 hours drive from Brisbane QLD and 20 mins east of Bundaberg.
When: Nesting Turtles between Nov. – Jan. (from 7pm until 2am) and Hatching Turtles between Jan. – March (from 7pm to 2am)
Cost: $10.90 AUD per adult
Stay: Bargara Beach Holiday Park is a relaxed way to experience the local township of Bundaberg. The staff are fantastic and friendly and the basic but cute air-conditioned cabins set along the beach offer a comfortable respite after a long night of turtle-watching. FYI – the odd turtles hatch on this beach also! If Mon Repos wasn’t enough, take a torch and go turtle-hunting around the park.
Tips for Mon Repos Turtle Centre – Nightly Turtle Hatching Experience
- Bring a pillow and blanket for the waiting time as you may want to have a nap.
- Bring food and water (only a food van on site), head torch and insect repellant.
- Taking a spray jacket won’t hurt either as it gets windy on the beach.
- Try to go during the week as there will be less crowds and therefore less time waiting around for a tour. As the nightly capacity is 300, you may be split into groups if the nights are busy (and they usually are, especially on weekends and school holidays).
Feature Image via Herald Sun