We needed no egging on
THIS is one of those natural wonders of Australia everyone should make the effort to see.
I’m talking about a visit to Mon Repos, near Bundaberg, to watch part of the incredible life cycle of the turtle.
For years, we’d heard about the turtles at Mon Repos, yet each time we visited Bundaberg, we were too lazy to investigate.
And I wondered how sitting around waiting for Mother Nature to happen would keep my three young children entertained – because, let’s face it, sometimes she takes her time.
A visit to Mon Repos is certainly not expensive at $23.50 for a family. It was also “the best night of my life, mum, really”.
We had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Mon Repos at 6.45pm on a Friday in November.
We didn’t read the instructions beforehand and it is something everyone definitely should do.
It spells out the things we should not bring in and nearly did: an umbrella and a torch.
The procedure is also detailed.
Once passing through the gates and having your entry ticket checked, you sit around and wait.
Here’s a tip: the earlier you book, the greater the chance of being included in the first group to see a turtle laying.
We were warned we might be there till midnight and a turtle might not show up at all.
As we sat around dodging the rain, I couldn’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t have been better off staying in our luxurious apartment at nearby Bargara Blue.
Thankfully, nature was on steroids that night and just as I was about to order coffee (there is a snack van), our number was called.
We strolled down the walkway to an access point to the beach where the volunteers were constantly talking on walkie-talkie to the people on the beach, advising on what was happening.
For my boys, aged eight and seven, this was the height of adventure. It was dark, no torches were allowed, people were whispering on walkie-talkies and we were about to take part in a covert operation on a beach they’d never experienced.
It didn’t take long for our eyes to adjust to the darkness as we followed the guide along the beach to a point where, apparently, not far away, a turtle was hatching.
As we queued on the shore, waiting for the O-K to go up and see the turtle, a member of our group spotted another turtle making its way up the beach.
This, effectively, stopped our mission in its tracks. We had to stand still to allow the other turtle time to walk up the beach to a point on the sand where she lays her eggs.
Turtles crawl up the sand at night and dig a deep hole where they lay their eggs.
If they are disturbed as they are going up the sand, they will return to the sea. Sometimes they will simply offload their eggs in the sea which leaves them with no chance of survival.
This is why it was so important for me to keep my kiddies, including my two-year-old, still.
Once the laying process is “established”, however, the turtle becomes like a woman in labour.
You can do whatever you like to her – put on your torch, tickle her back, pull off sea anemones – and she just doesn’t care.
Eventually, our turtle’s labour was established and we could crawl up the beach – we had to move slowly as the other turtle was still busy – to have a look.
All we could do was sing: “Wow, this is incredible”.
Her birthing part, I don’t know what the right term is, resembled a short conveyor belt, and every now and then, it would shudder and a white egg would pop out.
There she was, a huge turtle weighing about 60kg, spreadeagled over a large hole she’d dug in the sand, shooting these ping-pong ball-sized eggs into the hole.
While she lay there (excuse the pun), the volunteers removed the barnacles on her, measured her and checked her tags.
And then, she covered up her hole to begin her journey back to the ocean, while her eggs would begin to develop for hatching in February.
We can’t wait to go back to see the next stage of their life cycle.
A visit to Bundaberg wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to Bundaberg Ginger.
Yes, Bundaberg Rum would have been good too, but remember we were travelling with children.
Then there’s the Hinkler Hall of Aviation nestled in Bundaberg’s substantial botanical gardens and, for a family, you can have the thrill of “flying” an ironing board just like Bert Hinkler did nearly a century ago.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Queensland.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Where to stay: Bargara Blue Resort offers fabulous ocean-view, self-contained apartments
- Places to eat: Kacy’s Restaurant on the Esplanade is great spot for a meal in Bargara or travel a bit further to Kelly’s Beach where Kelly’s Beach Resort has a well-deserved reputation for making good steaks
- Things to do: Mon Repos turtle rookery is a must-visit
- The Hinkler Hall of Aviation provides all the background to Australia’s aviation history.
- The Bundaberg Brewed Drinks self-guided tour is interesting and informative and includes tastings.