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Looking for turtles in Queensland, Australia


monalisa

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monalisa

My husband and I have long wanted to see turtles. We previously had gone to Ningaloo in Western Australia and hoped to see them there. We saw a grand total of one, which while a fantastic experience only fueled the fire to see more.

 

In January we decided to go to Lady Elliot Island (Southern Great Barrier Reef) for a couple of days in February for this very purpose. Given the late booking we missed out on the last available room on the island because we deliberated one evening too long. Very annoying, but we were determined to tick this one off the list so we opted for 2 separate day trips that involved 25 minute flights each way from Bundaberg. The silver lining was that we were able to visit Mon Repos Beach near Bargara/Bundaberg where during the right seasons park rangers offer guided tours to watch mama turtles nest and hatchlings make their mad dash to the ocean.

 

Group numbers are capped at 60, and a maximum of 5 groups are permitted on the beach on a given night. We thought that the group numbers would be chaotic, especially with lots of young children, but everything was strict and tightly controlled i.e. distance to the turtles, when and where photography was permitted. For example, I was prevented from taking a photograph of the ocean (even with flash, auto-focus light and LCD switched off) in case I scared off any incoming turtles looking to nest.

 

We booked to go to Mon Repos twice. On the first night we were lucky to only have to wait 5 minutes before being called down to see a clutch of hatchlings make their way to the sea. I couldn't even count them there were so many. And gosh they are so cute and tiny! Given that only about 1 in 1000 survive to adulthood, watching them make their way into the big wide world was a little bit emotional I have to say!

On the second night we waited 2 hours to see another clutch of hatchlings, and were lucky enough to also see a mother nesting.

 

Each morning we went down to the beach when it opened to the public at 6am hoping to find some straggler hatchlings. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! One morning I spotted a little head poking out of the sand. Upon closer inspection I thought it may have been dead, but then.. a wiggle! Slowly but surely the tiny thing shimmied its way out of its nest and made its way down to the shoreline. Luckily my trusty camera was on hand to capture these incredible magic moments :)

 

The turtles on Lady Elliot Island also exceeded our expectations. We saw 6 individuals within our first hour of snorkeling! They didn't mind us swimming near them as they happily munched on jellyfish. As a bonus we also got manta rays both days.

 

I would recommend Lady Elliot to birders as well as it's a rookery for a variety of birds who have no fear of humans.

All in all, this was an incredible mini-trip that ticked all my proverbial turtle boxes!

 

 

Loggerhead hatchlings

 

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Nasty kookaburra waiting for me to leave so it can dig up hatchlings from the nearby nest (and presumably laugh about it after)

 

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Red tailed black cockatoo

 

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monalisa

Pics from Lady Elliot Island

 

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There is nothing for scale here, but this big boy is at least 50 years old and over a metre long!

You can tell he is a male from his long tail

 

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Trumpetfish

 

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Bridled tern

 

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Black noddy

 

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Lesser frigatebird sunbaking in a tree (we thought it was dead!)

 

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Brown noddy

 

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