Wildlife Encounter: Sea Turtles

Beyond visiting the Whitsundays and Fraser Island, two of the best-known natural destinations in Oz, one of the most memorable experiences I had whilst traveling down the East Coast was watching a loggerhead sea turtle nest and lay her eggs.

Since we happened to be traveling in mid-December, we made the decision to check out Mon Repos Conservation Park as the beach there has a reputation for being an important nesting site for sea turtles. (November to late March is sea turtle nesting season in Australia.)

So, we left Airlie Beach early in the morning the day after our Whitsundays sailing adventure. And I recall it was a grueling day of driving ….

Just kidding! I didn't really have my feet up the whole time.
Well, I wasn’t a passenger with my feet on the dash the entire time!

Hot, sticky air swirled through the open car windows with the lovely smell of decaying road kill repeatedly stinging my nostrils every 50 meters and, after smashing through a monotonous 10-hour haul, we had missed our original 7 p.m. turtle encounter appointment.

When we finally made it to the conversation park, which is just outside Bundaberg, we were worried we might have completely missed the turtles as we were so late.

However, the evening turned into one of those serendipitous occasions in life where we discovered that if we had been just a little earlier or a bit later, we might not have seen what we saw on the beach that night.

The other side of the loggerhead.
Female loggerhead digging her nest! 

Other groups had waited hours for sea turtles on the beach to begin nesting, but for whatever reason the female turtles were too unsettled to stay on the beach and lay their eggs.

As we watched nature in action and marveled at how lucky we were, scientists on the beach took official measures and recorded data. The research they do at the park helps monitor the endangered loggerhead population and helps us humans understand the lives of sea turtles.
Loggerheads may nest up to four times during the season, laying 100 to 125 eggs in each clutch.

In the end, our turtle slipped back into the sea as mysteriously as she had appeared from its depths.

I hope to return to Mon Repos Conservation Park someday to catch a glimpse of turtle hatchlings making their way to the sea!


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