This is one of the wild life experiences that has been on my “too-do list” for a long time.
Finally I am in the right place at the right time.
It is almost a full moon, the weather is warm and balmy with a slight breeze blowing in from the ocean and the turtles are arriving, as they have done for thousands of years. The Mon Repos beach at Bundaberg is one of the main beaches in Australia where the loggerhead turtles drag themselves up to dig a hole in the sand and lay their eggs.
The turtles are on the endangered species list and the egg laying turtles are monitored and the viewing experience carefully controlled by the rangers. People are only allowed on the beach between dusk and dawn in a group and accompanied by a ranger. No photos are allowed whilst the turtle is laying her eggs and every one must stay 3 metres away from the turtle.
This all sounds very sterile and organised but the experience of seeing these animals is quite special. “Our girl”, as the ranger referred to her, seemed oblivious to the crowds and every one spoke in whispers. After she had finished laying 156 eggs she laboriously filled in the hole, flipping the sand high and over the nearer spectators, I wonder if this was deliberate??? At this point the ranger said we could take photos. Then the ranger moved us back so a path back to the ocean was cleared and she slowly made her way back into her natural environment. The moon created silver ripples as she disappeared. “Our girl” had been recorded 4 times coming to lay eggs, the previous year being 2008. They don’t start laying until they are 30 years old so “Our girl” could be around 50 years old.
That wasn’t the end of the evening because the eggs had to be moved. The turtle had dug the hole too close to the high tide mark and during storms or extra high king tides the nest would be swamped. So the ranger dug the eggs up, an identical sized hole was dug in the dunes and we all helped to transfer the leathery textured eggs to the new position…
The babies will hatch in approximately 6-8 weeks.
(Now I will attempt to put in some photos, fingers crossed…)
We walked approx 500 metres along the beach to the place our turtle laid her eggs and they had 4 turtles come in to lay during the evening. The rangers are on duty all night to record and monitor them and protect them. Slowly the numbers of turtles coming each year is increasing. A lot more research is needed as so much is unknown about the life cycle.