BundabergMarch 18, 2019 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 28 °C
We have travelled northwards on the Bruce Highway and Pacific Coast Way to Bundaberg, a largish town set back from the coast on the Burnett River. On the coast here, at Mon Repos, leatherback and loggerhead turtles come in to lay eggs in the sand having already mated out at sea. This happens from November to February. We have booked a night time visit for a guided walk along the beach and hope to see the hatchlings making for the sea, which happens eight weeks after laying generally through to end of March.
In the morning we drove to Bargara the adjacent settlement to Mon Repos, and walked along the Turtle Trail which takes in the Mon Repos beach where all the Turtle action takes place. We are now in Sugar Cane country, and the beach is named after a house which was built by a sugar cane pioneer in the 1800s as a summer residence. The house is now gone leaving a lovely secluded beach. Behind the beach lies the research centre for the Wildlife Conservation people - a new visitor centre is currently under construction.
The day was baking hot and we curtailed our walk along the coastal walkway which joins onto the turtle track in the interests of self preservation. By this point our clothes were clinging to us due to the heat and we had almost run out of water (when will we ever learn!!!). We were delighted to find a campsite shop on our return walk where we downed ice cold drinks.
The evening visit was an absolute delight! We drove to the makeshift car park (as the main car park was undergoing major renovations) and were then taken to the Mon Repos centre by shuttle bus. There were almost 200 people there, all anxious to see the newly hatched turtles. As we had booked the visit a week in advance we got into the first group of about 60 people who were called out to see an event. The rangers were out on the moonlit beach, and as soon as they noticed action in one of the nests out there they called to the staff in the centre to send people out.
Brilliantly organised we strolled along the beach under the light of a three quarter moon to where some hatchlings were known to be about to break surface. What we saw was amazing - in the space of about ten minutes a mass of hatchlings came out onto the sand and commenced their journey to the sea. The rangers collected them all into a little pen so they could explain more about their research and Turtle activity. They also picked a couple out of the pen to give us a closer look. Photography was limited as the turtles rely on the moon light to guide them to the sea and other light confuses them. These turtles were all loggerhead turtle hatchlings and they were all female. The sex of the turtles hatching on this beach are all female as the sand is darker and the temperature of the nest is above 28.6 deg C. The white sandy beaches elsewhere produce male turtles as the nest is cooler.
After a short while the turtles were let loose collectively and all scurried down to the surf where they set out on their life adventure - an enchanting sight.
We then stayed to see the Ranger examine the remnants of the nest. All the remains of the nest were exhumed and counted. Of the whole batch of 151 eggs we had seen 126 make it to the sea, the remainder did not develop.
There are 1600 nests on this 1.5 k long beach. 126 is apparently the average success rate of each nest so approx 200,000 hatchlings per annum. 1 in 1000 will make it to sexual maturity so in 30 years time 200 of them may return to this area to lay their first nest.
A brilliant insight into the wonders of nature, and one of the highlights of our travels so far.Read more