Mon Repos, Australia (13th Feb 2008)
The main reason we stopped off in Bundaberg (besides the rum) was to visit a place called Mon Repos which is the most important place in the southern hemisphere for the conservation of Loggerhead Turtles. Between November and March the mummy turtles come onto the beach and are capable of laying anywhere between 100 and 200 eggs. When ready, the babies emerge from their eggs and attempt the long trek down to the water's edge but unfortunately many have been known not to make it due to being eaten by other animals or simply taking a wrong turn. For the second night in a row we were told that Mon Repos was closed due to bad weather conditions but Rod, our hostel owner, didn't want us going away disappointed so he arranged to take us down to the next beach along from Mon Repos that is open to the public. So we all piled into Rod's Land-cruiser so he could drive us the twenty minutes to the beach.
The further we travelled the worse the weather conditions got, making it almost impossible to see the road in front of us. Rod had to go back to Bundaberg City to pick up some more people so he handed us all a very attractive poncho and a torch between us and gave us a quick lesson in searching for the turtles and the hatchlings. The rain was still lashing it down but we persevered, searching all along the sand dunes for any signs of nests or turtles coming up to lay their eggs. We got as far as finding some egg shells before one of the other guys came running over saying there was a turtle making its way up the beach. Off we went to investigate, being careful not to disturb the turtle as it scoped out the beach trying to find a suitable place to make it's nest. It was such a spectacular sight; the turtle was huge, much bigger than we ever imagined it would be and had such a presence as it gracefully glided across the sand.
By the time Rod and the other group of people had returned the turtle had made its way back to the sea, Rod explained that quite often the turtles will come onto the beach, check it out and then return to the sea before coming back to lay their eggs at a later time. As Rod was an expert and knew what he was doing he went off to try and find a next amongst the sand dunes but with little success, we saw some nests but the turtles had made for the sea only a few days earlier. It was quite a disappointment not seeing any of the baby turtles as it's meant to be amazing seeing hundreds of the tiny little things scurrying towards the sea, at Mon Repos we heard that you actually get to help them by creating a line of light towards the water to ensure they go the right way. The weather continued to get worse so being soaked through to the bone we admitted defeat and made our way back to the hostel for a nice warm shower and some tea, pleased that we had gotten to see at least one wild turtle despite the bad weather conditions.