Out & About with Kids was given the joyous opportunity to see loggerhead turtles nesting and, hopefully, hatching at Mon Repos beach Queensland. Yes please! We leapt on board!
After arriving in Bundaberg we make our way to our wonderful family friendly, 5-star, 2 bedroom, fully kitted out apartment at the Manta Bargara Resort. Beachfront views, plenty of room for the family and a great pool area. The best part for us - Bargara was only a 4 km drive from Mon Repos Turtle Rookery.
Mon Repos Beach has more marine turtles nesting than any other beach on the East Coast of Australia, and the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific.
Wandering to Mon Repos that morning we take our time at the information centre and get our bearings for the evening. This only builds our excitement for the night ahead.
The beach is closed to the public between 6pm and 6am during Turtle Nesting season. Turtle viewing is through the Mon Repos Information Centre from 7pm November to March only.
Our preparation starts with an afternoon nap to ready ourselves for what could be a very long night.
These are wild animals; reptiles doing their age-old thing of returning to the beach where they were hatched to lay their clutches of eggs. We have been warned we may not see babies hatching and could have to wait for up to 6 hours to be called onto the beach.
So off we venture, sweater packed for the evening's cool ocean breezes, insect repellent to ward off any bities, water to stave off dehydration, camera for any permitted photo opportunities and full of enthusiasm, anticipation and hope that we will be lucky enough to see baby loggerhead turtles emerge from their sandy nests.
Our arrival that evening sees us join a full cohort of excited families, locals, Aussies visitors like us and international guests all buzzing with anticipation. We listen carefully to instructions about how to behave and what is expected of all of us. Rangers have the single goal to help these endangered creatures and run everything carefully to ensure they breed, nest and hatch successfully.
Top Tip For A Top Night
We are then allocated group numbers - and here is my first and most useful tip! BOOK EARLY!
First booked get on the beach first. This can be a long night with some groups not even making it onto the beach until after 11 pm, and not in bed until after 2am. There is, however, plenty to keep young minds active while you wait with displays, activities and a documentary-style movie in an open air amphitheatre.
We were organised and lucky to be in Group One. First on the beach, first to see a clutch hatch, first home by a sensible 10pm. As we stumble in the growing gloom of twilight down onto the beach we are told by our Ranger guide we are to see a nest of hatchlings. Woo Hoo! I feel like our group has hit the jackpot. More rule essentials - no light, torches flashes, phones. These little guys go towards the light, the white starlight reflected on the white waves rolling in to the beach. Any false light can disorient them.
Sitting around a sandy bump we can all see what looks like pebbles. Nope!
It's a bundled jumble of baby loggerhead hatchlings still working their way out of their sandy nest. Slowly they wake out of their freshly-hatched stupor to come alive like divine little wind-up toys. Barely bigger than a 50 cent piece with little heads and whirring flippers, they all begin to make their way over a seemingly insurmountable stretch of bumpy, rocky sand aiming for their freedom and fate in the waves.
Kids and nature a perfect mix. Kids and baby animals, endless joy and amusement even in the wee small hours. More’s the fun. However, all the under 3s in our group had to be forcibly restrained from wanting to touch, pick up and hold these new babies. The late night, combined with a wait, made all attempts at reason impossible. All were held tight usually squirming and squawking unhappily. Lucky baby turtles aren’t disoriented by noise! Judge your own little ones' abilities to cope before you consider this adventure.
Once all have hatched and been collected by the rangers, they are counted and placed in a holding pen to ensure a safe group journey into the waves. We all get a turn to touch a baby, still safely held by a Ranger - yes even those impetuous toddlers. Camera flashes are allowed for that brief encounter and the dark beach transforms as we, nature's paparazzi, shoot with wild abandon to capture this moment.
This is where the kids and torches come into their own. Legs spread in the old tunnel ball fashion, torches pointing at the sand. A path of torchlight is made to guide our little brood into the waiting, foaming sea. Willing them with each little flapping flipper, our group watched each and every one make their way on their life journey. Only one in 1000 survives the perilous journey to adulthood.
I know it will be one of our little hatchling group. I know it ...
Listen to staff on the beach and follow their instructions. They are there to look after the turtles and give you a memorable experience.
Do not approach or shine lights on turtles leaving the sea or moving up the beach.
Please be patient. Turtles may arrive any time after dark.
Bookings are essential.
Contact the Bundaberg West Visitor Information Centre
Phone: (07) 4153 8888
For more information on the region visit:
Elisa Elwin is a Publisher, Travel Writer, Social Worker and parent to 2 teenage daughters Sam & Tori. With family far and wide, they visit and spread their wings a couple of times a year.