Bundaburg is a small town in Southern Queensland known for a few very specific things; Sugar cane, Rum, and Loggerhead Turtles.
I had actually visited Bundaburg before for completely un-touristy reasons. Bundaburg is home to a lot of commercial fruit and vegetable farms, therefore making it one of the hubs for backpackers seeking their second year visa. To get your second year visa you need to be on a list of approved countries and also complete 88 days of farm work. You might recall a post from around 2 years ago where I also tried to go this route to get a visa extension. Well 4 days into being a tomato picker I decided the quicker immigration route would be to just marry my Australian boyfriend… and so we did.
Coming back to Bundaburg as a tourist allowed me to see it through fresh eyes. Last time I was here it was not the right season for the turtles to be laying eggs or hatching, so I missed out on one of Bundaburg’s main tourist attractions.
This time was different.
Bundaburg, and more specifically, Mon Repos beach is host to the largest Loggerhead turtle nesting area in the South Pacific. Every year, in the summer months, the turtles come up to the beach during the night hours to lay their eggs, and then around 6-8 weeks later the eggs hatch.
You can’t just rock up to the beach at night and hope to see a turtle. The turtles are very sensitive to light and movement, and will leave the beach without laying eggs if they are disturbed. That’s why Queensland Parks now exclusively run and supervise the ranger guided Mon Repos Turtle Encounters.
Tickets are incredibly affordable and should be purchased in advance. It cost us around $25 dollars for two adults (Jacob was free), and we phoned in to buy our tickets the day of. We arrived to the ranger station at around 7 PM. The amount of people there was a shock. This is definitely a huge tourist draw in Bundaburg! Visitors are divided into groups based on when you booked. The earlier you book, the earlier group you will be put into. Each group is assigned a ranger, who will take you down to the beach when a turtle is spotted.
It is important to follow the rangers instructions to the letter, so as not to disturb the turtles.
We were in group 4 and had to wait until around 8:30 until we were called down to the beach. The ranger centre has lots of displays and a play area for the kids so the time went relatively quickly. Once we found our turtle, we spent about an hour with the turtle. There was another opportunity to see a second turtle, but by this time our little one was a dead weight in our arms and it was time to go to bed.
With any wildlife viewing experience, there is always a chance that you will not see any turtles. Due to this, if you book early and are in one of the first groups you will have a better chance of seeing a turtle.
Once we found a turtle who was laying we were allowed to quietly approach from behind her. The rangers carefully checked how many eggs she had laid. Once the turtles have laid about 20 eggs, a hormone that is released during the process is strong enough that the turtle is entirely unaware of her surroundings and we can approach for a better look.
This is a research facility as well as a tourist attraction, and the rangers quickly set to measuring and documenting the turtle, and would have put on ID tag on her if she didn’t already have one. This turtle had already been tagged, and according to their previous documentation would be approximately 80 years old.
Once the rangers were finished their work, we were allowed to take a few photos before the turtle was finished laying her eggs and burying her nest. Once she was down she turned back toward the water, and traversed the beach at an incredibly speed.
When to go
Ranger-guided Turtle Encounters operate seven nights a week from November to late March. (excluding 24, 25 and 31 December.)
Nesting turtles are best viewed after dark, from November to January.
Turtle hatchlings are best viewed from January to March, after dark
What to expect
Wear footwear suitable for walking along a sandy beach.
Pack rainjackets as shelter is limited and umbrellas are not permitted on the beach.
Bring a jumper or wind cheater as it can be cold.
Bring your own drinking water and insect repellent.
Cold and hot food and drinks are available for purchase at the park.
- If you dont have a car, organized transfers can be organized
- Sightings of turtles are not guarenteed
- Listen carefully to the rangers, especially regarding when you can and cannot shine your lights
- Be patient, turtles arrive at any time and some groups have to wait until 10 or 11 PM to see a turtle
How to book
Where we stayed
Our southern Queensland adventure tour was made possible by Choice Hotels.