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It’s hatching time for turtles!

January 5, 2015

Images and words by Danielle Lancaster

The sea turtles cycle is all timed around the moon, tides and nature. And the time to see them is now!

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From November to March the annual pilgrimage of sea turtles begins with huge female turtles making their way up the beach to lay clutches of eggs. You’ll rarely see a male sea turtle on shore unless he’s chased a lady too far up the beach. For males, once they hatch their life is predominately in the ocean.

 

 

Above: A pair of Green turtles doing the ‘turtle-thing’ in the shallows on Seventy-Five Mile beach on Fraser Island, Queensland, Australia

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Approximately eight weeks after the female lays the clutch (50-350 soft-shelled eggs depending on the species) , the hatchlings emerge making a hasty dash to the sea. The estimated rate of survival is low: only one hatchling in a thousand make it to adulthood and breeding (15-25 years). Did you know there are seven living species of sea turtles: leatherback sea turtle, green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, hawksbill sea turtle, flatback sea turtle and olive ridley sea turtle.

 

Above: A Loggerhead hatchling heads to sea

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Mortality rates for turtles and the eggs are increased by predators (animal and human), and some nests are laid to close to the tide line and if not relocated will be lost; hence recovery programmes. Another huge mortality cause is pollution due to rubbish such as plastic bags and containers, fishing lines and nets.

 

 

This is a feast of nature that I highly recommend as one of the best natural experiences I have encountered and that is saying something! It should suit all ages in your family or group no matter the age.

I have only witnessed hatchlings a few times and only twice during the day as most happen at night so be prepared for some late hours. No matter what, it’s a special occasion to witness an animal that may live to be 200 years old in the wild be born.

A loggerhead turtle hatches at Mon Repos

When visiting Queensland’s beaches and islands, (or any other destination that allows beach driving), avoid driving on the beach at night between November to late March. It’s hard enough to see dangers like rocks, washouts and creeks at night, let alone tiny baby turtles or their mum’s lumbering to and from laying her eggs. Vehicle lights can distract this ancient ritual.

 

Above: A baby loggerhead breaks through the sand at 2am at Mon Repos, Queensland, Australia

Understanding the successful protection going and studies is critical for the survival of this endangered species and ancient mariner of the sea.

Best times of the year for viewing:
Nesting: In Queensland on the mainland and islands mother turtles come ashore during November to January.
Hatchings: January to late March see hatchlings explode from the sand on their ‘march’ to survival.

Our Top Places to Visit
Mon Repos
Australia’s Most Accessible Sea Turtle Rookery
‘The Mon Repos Conservation Park, within the Southern Great Barrier Reef, supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the Eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant Loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific.’ Bookings are essential

Lady Elliot Island
A coral cay istuated at the southern tip of the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef.

More Info:
Queensland National Parks
Mon Repos
Lady Elliot Island
Queensland Holidays
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Above: Peek-a-boo we can see you! This was the first of 55 loggerheads to enter the world from this clutch of eggs

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