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Published on : Friday, November 8, 2013
Spurred by earlier-than-expected sightings of nesting turtles, the coastal Queensland town of Bundaberg is coming out of its shell, preparing to welcome tens of thousands of turtle-tracking visitors for the annual breeding season.
Nature lovers will get a front row seat to the action when Australia’s only ranger-guided tours start at the Mon Repos Conservation Park on Saturday 9 November and run until the end of March.
The local tourism industry and Mon Repos rangers are buoyed by the early arrival of the turtles, particularly after the town – and the rookery – was impacted by ex-tropical Cyclone Oswald earlier this year.
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service ranger-in-charge at Mon Repos, Cathy Gatley, said the region had long been home to the largest concentration of nesting sea turtles on Australia’s east coast and one season of bad weather would not change that.
“Threatened loggerhead and flatback turtles have already started returning to nest,” she said.
“These incredible mariners have been nesting at the Mon Repos Conservation Park for generations and we are looking forward to welcoming this season’s turtles ashore.”
The Bundaberg Visitor Information Centre is already reporting strong bookings, potentially a result of the pent up demand following last season’s early cancellation.
Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism General Manager, Rick Matkowski, said he anticipated more than 30,000 people would visit Mon Repos this season.
“Successful turtle breeding seasons at Mon Repos are critical for the future of tourism and the economy in the region,” he said.
According to Mr Matkowski, the drawcard is simple; “The chance to see a 100-plus kilo loggerhead drag itself up the beach to lay hundreds of eggs under a stream of moonlight has to be one of Australia’s greatest conservation and educational experiences.”
“It’s a real-life National Geographic moment. Instead of watching it through a camera lens, you are centimetres from the live action,” he said.
“There’s also the chance for visitors to get hands-on and help rangers relocate clutches of eggs if they’re laid too low on the beach.”
Mon Repos Conservation Park is the largest and most accessible turtle rookery on the Australian mainland, located just 15 kilometres from Bundaberg.
Sea turtles, with their inbuilt GPS, travel tens of thousands of kilometres before returning to the area they were born when they’re ready to nest – a ‘natal homing’ natural phenomenon.
Typically they lay around 130 eggs per clutch, returning every two weeks to nest, and laying up to four clutches per season.
Mr Matkowski said the early return of turtles to Mon Repos had the town gearing up for a bumper season of tours.
“It’s a massive billboard to the world that Bundaberg is back bigger and better than ever and ready to roll out the welcome mat for the return of our iconic visitor experience,” he said.
“Bundaberg is painting the town turtle. Local retailers are selling turtle-themed ice cream and cupcakes, our beaches are pristine and everything is on track for a bumper season.”
Nightly ranger-guided Turtle Encounters run seven nights a week and cost $10.90 for adults and $5.70 for children (five to 14 years).
For the first time, tickets including return bus transfers from local accommodation are also available and cost $38.95 for adults and $28.95 for children.
Source:- Tourism Queensland