The Oz Blog – Mon Repos Turtle Conservation Centre

The Oz Blog – Mon Repos Turtle Conservation Centre

When we decided we wanted to do a turtle trip, we (or I didn’t anyway) didn’t realise how much of an experience of a lifetime it would be. I called on the Saturday and asked to be booked onto that evenings tour and much to my dismay was informed the tour was fully booked. I felt a big lump in my throat but managed to get on the waiting list for a spot on the Sunday….. and coincidentally the last night of the season.

I didn’t hold out much hope, but the 5 year old in me was positive and desperate for a miracle.

After getting serious itchy feet around 2pm on the Sunday I thought I’d give the centre a call on the off chance a bus full of people had come down with piles or something bad enough to cancel but not life threatening. As I waited with baited breach I was informed they had just had a cancellation…. all I kept thinking was “I manifested this mother fucker” and squealed in delight.

I eagerly gave her my card details and tried to listen to the instructions, basically we had to get to the centre for 6:30pm, seemed doable.

We were ushered onto a bus and told some horror stories by the bus driver about swarms of mosquitos (as if I didn’t have enough already) and watching our feet because of the 10m snakes.

Finally we got to the centre and my initial thought was “what the fuck?” Basically a large, dimly lit grass area with loads of people and a food van. We shifted about for a bit wondering what the hell was going on. At around 7pm we finally got a debrief. We were split into 3 groups (we were of course group 3) and they were now going to let us into the conservation centre. Once we were in, we basically wait for a call. The turtle wardens patrol the beach all night looking for turtle activity….. no, you’re losing your shit.

The centre was full of interesting info, but let’s not lie, we were all there for the main event.

After an agonising 2 hour wait, group 3 finally got their call at 9:08pm.

Everyone excitedly collected their belongings and rushed to the boardwalk, ready to see all the baby turtles. The thing is the ranger said “it’s been a bit of a quiet night”. You could feel the spirits of 40 people drop, whilst trying to remain enthuasiatic. We were informed we were going to dig up a turtle nest which all the turtles hatched from a few days ago….. was she high? I wanna see a baby turtle not a frigging egg shell, but whatcha gonna do?

We all wandered to the beach somewhat lacking the enthusiasm and excitement we all shared when we received our initial call.

After walking about 500m we crowded around the nest. Then we get told there might be a bit of a stench from any rotten eggs as they have been there quite a while….. GOOOOOOD. No baby turtles and a frigging stinky nest, happy bloody Hanukkah.

After a few minutes digging, something wonderful happened. The ranger found a baby sea turtle, still trying to get out of the nest. It was the most incredible thing seeing this little lad being pulled from the mound of sand. They put him in a little pen so they could check he was ok and I honestly thought my heart was going to melt, we got to see a turtle after all.

After more digging and lots of shells and crabs, another ranger appeared and said what we’d been waiting to hear all night “I’ve just seen some turtle activity” what happened next was basically a scene from game of thrones. People prepared to sacrifice their sister, throttle their uncle and drown their friend so they could get a good view of the hatchlings (that’s a baby sea turtle to those not in the know).

A few minute passed a then lots of movement in the sand and 4 or 5 hatchlings heads popping up, followed by them completely emerging and trying to toddle down to the sea. They follow the light of the moon, so no phone, watches or any light was allowed so the little cuties didn’t get disorientated.

Another ranger was positioned about 20 metres from the sea with a torch, catching the hatchlings and putting them in the temporary pen, whilst we waited for them all to hatch. This process happened and few times and Rhi counted 20 little hatchlings included our other fella from the old nest.

We got to see the hatchlings up close, but this was definitely an experience to be remembered rather than captured on camera as there was 1 tiny photo opportunity and I was really ok with that.

Once the hatchlings were ready to be released into the sea they elected people from the crowd who had torches, I knew I should have bought a bloody head torch for my adventures. They stood in a line with their legs open shining the torches so the hatchlings could follow the light and it was so so so incredible.

One little babe struggled and took so long to make it to the sea and then every time he got close to the water it seemed the tide went out a little bit further. After about 5 attempts he got in, but then came out again down the shoreline, poor little champ. When he was finally in we all gave a little clap and shared a perfect moment together.

The whole experience was out of this world and Rhi and I are already plotting going back so we can hopefully see it all over again.

Stunning cover photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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