bundaberg: mon repos turtle sanctuary
Ryann first wants to take the time to thank Miley Cyrus. Or rather, Nicholas Sparks for the inspiration of wanting to watch baby turtles take their remarkable first steps to the ocean shore. If you never get the chance in experiencing this for yourself, I recommend both the movie and the book, The Last Song.
Upon convincing Devin, it was strategic of Ryann to not include the reasons as to why she wanted to watch the turtles. But babe, it would be a series of miraculous moments. It would be a glimpse of nature’s most precious spectacles. A night that won’t be forgotten. Either way, they were all very true reasons to visit Bundaberg Mon Repos Turtle Sanctuary!
Worth the Drive?
We debated the ROI, as Devin would put it, of the drive from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg after seeing the weather report. RAIN!! NOO! Would the turtles stay in their shells? Would they hide in their nests afraid? It was all a gamble. The weather could call off all tours. Besides the rain, groups were called down individually without a definite promise of seeing the baby turtles hatch and make their way down the sand to the ocean. Would luck be on our side? We left anyway, feigning optimism all the way while looking skeptically at the clouds.
We drove through one or two rainfalls, rather downpours, nearly needing to pull over. Just as our fear began of the eggs being washed away, the rain subsided and we had arrived. We doused ourselves with insect repellent and quickly walked down to check in.
The Experience of Mon Repos
We weren’t in line for five minutes before the first group was called. Our names were in that group! Phew, we arrived just in time. We all shuffled down to the beach, following our guide and the light of the moon. Finally, we were stopped near a grassy area just off the beach and told where to stand. Another guide joined us, everyone looking in anticipation. Would we be able to see them? The answer was revealed as soon as the guides took their positions. Guide A stood on top of the grassy hill, while Guide B stood at the bottom holding a flashlight. Guide A would dig in a hole and place handfuls of baby turtles on the sand. They immediately found Guide B’s flashlight and followed the artificial sunlight. Oh! There’s one! And another! Here comes four more! Around 100 turtles were paraded down to the flashlight. Guide B would gather all of the baby turtles and gently place them in a temporary fenced-in area until it was safe for them all to make their final trek. The guides positioned us in two parallel lines perpendicular to the shoreline. We stood awaiting the baby turtle parade. The guides picked about 6 volunteers to stand in the middle of our lines to hold the flashlight for the turtles to follow. They were also fortunate enough to position their legs so the turtles would crawl through them.
**Bring your own flashlight-the app on your cell phone doesn’t count. You’ll be able to be one of the lucky ones to have the baby turtles walk through your legs!
Everyone on the beach was ready for the release of the turtles. The guides released the cage and the baby Logggerheads started their way towards the flashlights, through the human legs and finally reached the water! It was truly incredible being able to watch the turtles take “the plunge” into the ocean. They all hit the waves and disappeared into the dark waters, until there was one. We all watched, awe-struck, when the final turtle swam away into the water and realized it was all over and what just happened. People were clapping, jumping in excitement.
Courageous Baby Turtles
We don’t think we were alone that night in feeling emotional, overcome with happiness and hope for those little babies. Sadly, the guides shared a disheartening statistic: only 1/1,000 hatchlings actually survive to adulthood. But, fear not, I’m fully confident in that all 100+ turtles that night, will make it to the average 50 year old lifespan!
All in all, we left feeling like we had witnessed something extremely rare and were grateful to be a part of it! We were glad we faced the risky weather because well, it was turtle-y amazing.
We Can Help Save the Turtles!
Furthermore, we’d like to recognize Mon Repos conservation efforts in helping protect the baby turtles. As mentioned above, the turtles follow any source of light (believing it’s the horizon) and the urban-dwelling lights from the nearby towns often confuse them. The city is working hard to better improve the situation. To find out more about Bundaberg’s Master Plan.