The Mon Repos Conversation Park outside Bundaberg is one of the best places to encounter sea turtles on land — either while they’re laying eggs or when they’re hatching from their eggs. Today we participated in a Turtle Encounter, which taught us a lot about the natural habits of sea turtles and the research is being undertaken to learn mor, and gave us an opportunity to handle a live turtle egg.
Yesterday’s outing to the beach in Mackay was the first time the girls became aware of turtles laying their eggs in the sand. So today’s activity was a natural follow-up as we sought expert information on these marvellous sea creatures. It was also a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with local friends who joined us for the Turtle Encounter tour.
We access Mon Repos beach from the conservation park's parking lot.
The girls love to pick their way through the rocky outcrops. We're so used to sandy beaches that one with a large amount of rocks is a novelty to navigate.
Later, Delaney collects small rocks in her dress and then lays them in precise points on the sand, drawing a circle around each one.
After exploring the beach, we head back to the conservation park to look through the information centre.
The information centre at Mon Repos is one of the best information centres we have visited during our travels. The information on display was a good mix of anecdotal and factual, with interactive exhibits, high-end artworks and technology all used to enhance the displays.
Although not credited to an artist, this fantastic metal cut-out is a great asset to the information centre.
Turtle hatchlings are embedded into the hardwood flooring.
We visit many information centres, and Mon Repos is one of the best. It contains a great variety of information on Australian sea turtles in a beautiful setting.
The workers at Mon Repos Conservation Park are profiled on the hard hats. It's a great way to introduce us to the rangers who will be guiding us later this evening.
We are glad to look through the information centre without a crowd around.
Outside on the deck, wooden panels can be raised or lowered to reveal the shapes behind them — an innovative game of Memory!
"Surfacing" is a huge painting by James Chapman, drawn as an illustration for a story told by Taribelang Bunda elder Charlie Broom.
The skeletal remains of three different turtle species are on display in drawers. It's easy to compare the sizes and characteristics of each.
A life-sized sculpture of a Loggerhead turtle and her nest of eggs is in the entranceway to the Information Centre.
The information center is accessible all during the day, although the Turtle Encounter tours take place at night-time. The centre advises advance bookings as visitor numbers each night are limited — although this can be up to 300 in peak season.
As it approaches the time of the Turtle Encounter tours, the information centre lights up and fills with visitors. The tours run nightly from November to late March.
The visitors are divided into three groups and we wait for our group to be called to accompany a ranger to the beach to watch a turtle lay her eggs. In the meantime, there’s lots to keep us awake, with movies on display, the information centre open and a food stall operating.
While we wait for our group's turn to visit the beach, the girls play in the kids corner.
A ranger briefly introduces a video which talks through the procedure for observing the turtles on the beach.
Joining with their friends, our girls sit in the junior ranger lesson. These activities are simply designed to fill in time before turtles start coming up the beach to lay their eggs.
Our group is the last one to be called. Although we haven’t been allocated a laying turtle, we can watch a ranger re-home some eggs that were laid on a more populated beach earlier in the evening. All along the coast from Mackay to Bundaberg, volunteers keep watch over their beaches and notify the rangers if eggs are being laid in an unsuitable location. With sea turtle numbers dwindling worldwide, it’s important to keep the eggs safe until they hatch to maximise the possible numbers of surviving turtles.
After digging a hole about two feet deep, the ranger counts the eggs by arranging them in rows as he removes them from the bucket.
Sea turtles lay about 100 eggs in each nest, and they lay three or four times a season.
We all gather around to watch the eggs be counted and laid into their new hole.
Before burying the last egg, the ranger hands it around for us to touch. It feels slightly leathery and moves under our touch.
After the eggs are laid in their hole and it’s covered up, we return to the Information Centre to wait for another chance to watch a turtle laying. I bring out mattresses from our bus and we lay down with blankets to watch the movies and doze. Tonight’s eggs were great, but we really want to see a turtle!