Every evening from November to March under the cover of darkness, people gather at a very special Queensland beach. They speak in a quiet hush, with their fingers crossed, hoping they will be lucky enough to observe the miracle of nature, something that is best described as captivating. Would you believe that very special beach is located right here in Bundaberg, the southernmost gateway to Great Barrier Reef?
Online Trip Advisor reviews promise it’s ‘a miracle to be part of ’, ‘a magical experience’ and ‘amazing’. And they’re not wrong. There are few experiences that come close to seeing a majestic 50-year-old loggerhead turtle – measuring almost one metre and weighing 150 kilograms – drag herself slowly up Mon Repos Beach to dig a nest and lay her eggs.
Observing an endangered species in its natural habitat is rivalled only by the arrival of new life. It is an absolute privilege to watch a clutch of 100 turtle hatchlings emerge from the sand to take their first breaths and scurry down into the water. These hatchlings will spend around 16 years at sea, travelling as far as South America, before returning home to the South-West Pacific to mate. Hatchlings have a low chance of survival, with only about one in 1000 reaching maturity.
Mon Repos Conservation Park is regarded as Australia’s premier location for observing nesting sea turtles – not only because it is home to the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the Southern Hemisphere, but also because of the dedicated volunteers making the guided tours happen throughout the warmer months.
At the heart of the Mon Repos Turtle Centre is an award-winning team of volunteers who work alongside the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Rangers year-round to protect the nests, carry out research and monitoring, raise public awareness and ensure visitors during turtle season leave feeling a sense of wonder. Their efforts over the past 20 years, combined with other regulatory and control measures, have seen a rebound in nesting turtle abundance, as well as embedding Bundaberg’s turtle experience as an iconic Queensland nature-based visitor experience.
Mon Repos Turtle Centre is the piece de resistance of Queensland’s Tourism Experiences, having received three certifications from Ecotourism Australia: Advanced Ecotourism, Respecting Our Culture and Climate Action.
The Southern Great Barrier Reef, where great begins, is a bucket list destination unlike any other. Turtle encounters in the Bundaberg Region don’t stop at Mon Repos and they aren’t limited only to nesting season (November – March). There are life changing moments a-plenty in Bundaberg. Here, you can take your turtle experience to new depths and immerse yourself in their world.
Just a hop, skip and a splash from the Bundaberg CBD, pristine reef, warm blue waters and idyllic islands provide the perfect setting to swim with turtles, and discover other giant migratory marine life like manta rays and humpback whales.
Just off the coast sit two of the Southern Great Barrier Reef’s most pristine and untouched gems, Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island. These ladies of the reef are known for being home to giant marine life and intricate coral formations. Most importantly, they’re home to turtles year-round. Beneath the surface, endangered loggerheads, green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles idly swim by and feed. Watch as they enjoy being cleaned by small fish, and find love in their diverse, subtropical eco-system.
If staying dry floats your boat, you can still get up close and personal with these majestic creatures. Find a quiet spot on a white beach that skirts Lady Elliot or Lady Musgrave Island, and watch the turtles play in the calm shorelines, shallows and coral lagoons. Enjoy the comfort of a glass-bottom boat or kayaking tour, as you glide across sun-kissed waters and play I-Spy with the marine life below. Aboard the luxury pontoon, Lady Musgrave HQ, wander through the underwater observatory to watch countless turtles, working their ‘nine-to-five’.
Top tips to maximise your turtle trip in the Bundaberg Region!
- Snorkel or scuba alongside turtles year-round
- Join a nightly ranger-guided beach encounter in nesting season (tickets go on sale in September)
- Escape to a secluded island on the Southern Great Barrier Reef
- Spot turtles from the comfort of a glass bottom boat or kayak
- Sleep on the reef with Lady Musgrave Experience
- Learn about turtle conservation at Mon Repos Turtle Centre
- Bike, walk or run the Turtle Trail
- Celebrate nesting season at the annual Milbi Festival