The sandy beaches of Cape Hillsborough National Park are one of the areas in the Mackay region where marine turtles come ashore and look for a suitable site to lay their precious eggs. Flatback Turtles are the most prominent in the region, but occasionally Green and Loggerhead Turtles make their way up the beaches.
Nowhere near as big as the Loggerhead rookery at Mon Repos near Bundaberg, the area is no less important for these vulnerable turtles. While camping at Cape Hillsborough National Park, we are lucky to see not only a Loggerhead Turtle but also baby turtles hatching from their nest.
To see these turtles struggle up the beach and later watch their cute babies with their tiny flippers waving in the air, scurrying down the beach for their first journey across the ocean is a rare experience.
With only instinct and the moon to guide them, most females will return three times on average during the season, each laying 50-100 eggs. In about 56 days, the babies crack through their delicate shells and in a team effort dig to the surface. This can take a couple of days.
They emerge from their nest and together they race to the sea. The odds are against the newborns. They need to avoid the deadly encounter of crabs, goannas, wild dogs and seabirds before they even enter the ocean.
Only about 1 in 1000 survives the first year. As few as 1 in 10000 survive to adulthood and return in 30 years’ time and lay their eggs and continue the cycle of this miracle of life.
Turtle nesting season here is November to January, with hatchlings emerging until April.
They are guided by the moon, and can become confused and disorientated by artificial light. Do not shine torches on turtles leaving the sea, or moving up the beach.
The best time and chance to see turtles is full moon, high tide and between sunset and sunrise.
We camp at Smalleys Beach in Cape Hillsborough National Park which is about 5 km from the Cape Hillsborough Beach which is famous for the kangaroos at sunrise. Smalleys Beach camp is a bush setting on the edge of the ocean and some sites have great views. The shaded camp has picnic tables at each site, drinking water and flushing eco-toilets.
Sea turtles are among the most endangered animals on the planet. Populations are declining worldwide. They face many threats, most of them from humans. It is no wonder the odds are against them. Fishing activities, boat strikes, illegal sea turtle shell trade, predators, beach erosion, marine pollution and climate change to name a few. Even though turtle conservation has progressed and people are more aware and dedicated to the conservation of the environment; there is still a long way to go.
A tough little survivor from birth that faces a lifelong journey full of danger now faces extinction.
For some information and interesting volunteer projects SeeTURTLES
More of our Australia Travel Stories
- Cape Hillsborough with the Kangaroos
- Platypus at Eungella
- Camping on Whitehaven Beach
- Fraser Island Camping
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