Of all the wild and splendid down under explorations in Queensland, swimming with a turtle for the first time is perhaps the most incredible one. The marine turtles have dwelled in the Queensland waters for thousands of years. Out of the seven species of turtle found worldwide, six inhabit the Great Barrier Reef. Hence, apart from being the most solicited natural wonders on the planet, the Great Coral Reefs are the most significant spots for turtle sightings. This explains the huge popularity of Great Barrier Reef snorkeling and diving tours in Queensland.
Turtles are one of the most intriguing and playful ectotherms or cold-blooded animals, implying that their internal temperature varies according to their surrounding environment.
The average lifespan of turtles is 60-80 years. They are classified as amniotes along with other reptiles, birds and mammals – breathing air and not laying their slightly leathery and soft eggs underwater. Instead, sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy, dry beaches and don’t care for their young ones through their lives.
Where to see the turtles?
- Mon Repos, a colony on the Bundaberg coast, encompasses the highest density of sea turtles in eastern Australia.
- Amid December and March, a host of turtle species throng the waters of the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia’s Coral Coast. You may spot loggerhead, green, hawksbill and flatback turtles as they set for their annual journey.
- For those who’re visiting Queensland between May and October with a dream of sighting a turtle in its natural habitat, Bare Sand Island in the Northern Territory located 60 kilometres from Darwin is the place for you. Hundreds of sea turtles arrive each year at this island.
What’s the best time to sight the turtles?
- November to January: With mother turtles coming ashore to nest at Mon Repos, this is the perfect time to sight the curious creatures.
- January to late March: The tiny footprints beginning at the Mon Repos beach linking to the sea are tell-tale signs of turtle hatchlings marking the beginning of their lives during this period.
- All year round: Lady Eliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island are home to the turtles and can be conveniently found here.
How to spot the nesting turtles?
Marine turtles are timid and prefer staying underwater. Easily startled by light, noise and movement, turtles are highly receptive during their nesting process.
Nevertheless, you may follow these simple steps to enhance your chances of spotting them:
- Carry a rain jacket and wear beach footwear to walk beachside at night.
- Patience is the key. Turtles may try to travel several times ashore in one night.
- When you spot her digging the large body pit with all her four flippers, hold back and don’t shine your torch. Her crawl to the shore and further to the beach may take up to an hour.
- While she digs out a pear-shaped egg chamber about 60 cm deep using only her hind flippers, don’t attempt to touch or switch on your torches as this may intimidate her.
- Once she settles into laying and covers her nest with flippers; you can use your torches and even take pictures in the mild light.
If you wish to swim along with the turtles in their natural habitat glaring at you curiously, a trip down under will surely make it possible!