Spurred by earlier-than-expected sightings of nesting turtles, the coastal Queensland town of Bundaberg is coming out of its shell, preparing to welcome tens of thousands of turtle-tracking visitors for the annual breeding season.
Nature lovers got a front row seat to the action when Australia’s only ranger-guided tours started at the Mon Repos Conservation Park on Saturday 9 November. They run until the end of March. Nightly ranger-guided Turtle Encounters run seven nights a week and cost $10.90 for adults and $5.70 for children (five to 14 years). Tickets that include return bus transfers from local accommodations are also available and cost $38.95 for adults and $28.95 for children.
The local tourism industry and Mon Repos rangers are buoyed by the early arrival of the turtles, particularly after the town – and the rookery – was impacted by ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald earlier this year. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger-in-charge at Mon Repos, Cathy Gatley, said the region had long been home to the largest concentration of nesting sea turtles on Australia’s east coast and one season of bad weather would not change that.
“Threatened loggerhead and flatback turtles have already started returning to nest,” she said. “These incredible mariners have been nesting at the Mon Repos Conservation Park for generations and we are looking forward to welcoming this season’s turtles ashore.”
Mon Repos Conservation Park is the largest and most accessible turtle rookery on the Australian mainland, located just 15 kilometres from Bundaberg. Sea turtles, with their inbuilt GPS, travel tens of thousands of kilometres before returning to the area they were born when they’re ready to nest – a ‘natal homing’ natural phenomenon. Typically they lay around 130 eggs per clutch, returning every two weeks to nest, and laying up to four clutches per season.