Mon Repos Turtle Rookery
Contributed by SeannaC
by Seanna Cronin & Kieren Curry
Just 15km east of Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia one of nature’s
great events takes place.
Each year, Loggerhead, Green and Flat-back turtles lay their eggs in
the safety of the sand at Mon Repos Beach and a few months later their
offspring emerge from the sand and make their way towards the water –
the beginning of an epic journey to the East Australian Current.
Kieren and I had contacted the Mon Repos Conservation Park to get
permission to use lights to take photos and videos of loggerhead
hatchlings, which make up the majority of Mon Repos’s hatchlings.
Our “light girl” Arielle, a member of Griffith University’s dive
club, Kieren, his wife Jen, their son Carter and I made the four-hour
drive from the Gold Coast to Marysborough, where we stayed with our
diving friends Rod and Karen.
It was another hour’s drive to Mon Repos the next evening for the
Mon Repos means “my rest” in French and although it’s a great name
for a tropical resort, there’s no rest taking place on the beach for
When the adult females come to lay their eggs (November through
January), it’s a marathon journey during which they must swim inshore,
haul their heavy bodies up the sloped beach and dig out a hole for
That’s all before they lay 100 to 150 eggs. Then they must cover the
precious eggs with sand and carefully make the nest look as
inconspicuous as possible so as not to attract predators. Gravity is in
their favour on the way back to the water but it’s still a hard slog,
anyone who goes walking or running in soft sand can attest to that.
And the hatchlings don’t have it any easier.
The 50 cent piece-sized loggerhead
hatchlings break out of their
protective eggs and then must climb over their brothers and sisters to
get out of the nest.
With our tour group assembled in a circle around a nest that had
been identified as ready to hatch by the park rangers, we eagerly
waited for the first tiny grey head to poke out of the sand.
It didn’t take long and soon there were at least 100 hatchlings
clamouring over each other in the holding area the rangers use to keep
the hatchlings safe from the wayward tourist’s foot.
While one of our guides tells the
group all the facts and stats and
answers questions, the other counts the hatchlings.
Five are plucked out from the group to be photographed by the group.
Researcher Dr Col Limpus determined this number is small enough so that
it doesn’t adversely affect the hatchlings while at the same time
allowing visitors to touch and photograph the turtles they came to see.
It is hoped this up close encounter promotes conservation and
It’s finally time to let these eager turtles do what they’re
programmed to do – get to the water. The group lines up to form a sort
of runway lit up with torches. A few of the kids are chosen to stand
with their legs wide so the
hatchlings go through their legs as they clamour down to the water.
Kieran, Arielle and I stand at the water’s edge with our cameras and
the bright video lights to help lure the turtles into the surf. They
all seem so determined and they’ll need to be. Only one in 1000
of the hatchling survives long enough to breed.
Just getting past the half metre swells looks like an arduous enough
task, but once they hit the water the hatchlings don’t stop swimming
until they reach the East Australian Current.
The visitor centre and research station at Mon Repos were set up to
protect and rehabilitate the turtle rookery, which is the largest
mainland loggerhead rookery in the South Pacific. Non indigenous
wildlife like red foxes wrecked havoc on the nests
and even with their current protection the population is not expected
to recover until 2020.
You can do your part by going on the Mon Repos turtle experience,
not using plastic shopping bags, participating in beach clean ups,
supporting turtle conservation and sustainable coastal development.
This article originally appeared on Dive Around