We had our first lie in for ages and then went into town to get some washing powder and some toiletries. The town of Bundaberg is very small, and as it's Sunday hardly anything was open, so we came back and did some laundry and then sat by the pool.
Tonight we were really lucky to be booked onto the evening turtle tour, the last one of the season. The bus took us from the Cell Block hostel to Mon Repos conservation park, where the turtles lay their eggs on the beach. We had to wait for a while as the rangers had to search the beach for any hatchlings emerging before we could watch. Due to the colder weather they have been taking a while to come to the surface of the sand, but we were lucky as they found a nest relatively quickly.
We were taken down to the beach where we gathered around the nest. The rangers had set up a cage so that we could see the baby turtles closer after they had emerged, and they shone torches above the cage to attract them into it. It was amazing to see them as they pushed their way up through the sand - they were about the size of a palm, but really strong and determined. Once they were all in the cage the rangers picked a few out to show us (it doesn't hurt them, it just wakes them up more!). Even though they were in the air their flippers were still rotating as if they were moving the sand!
Then the rangers lifted the cage away and we stood in two lines making a path to the sea, with torches to encourage them, as they are attracted to light. When they finally reach the sea they usually swim for two days - hard work for little babies! They then lift the nest out for research purposes, to find out which turtle laid the eggs and how many were successful. The first bit is determined by a bit of tape that is put in by the rangers with the nest just after it is laid, which has the mother's tag number on it. The hatchlings we saw were laid on Australia Day, 26th January, by a Loggerhead turtle who was born on the same beach - they all come back to their birthplace 30 years later to lay their eggs. The egg shells are then counted to find the success rate. Sadly, only 45 eggs hatched successfully, 23 eggs developed but didn't hatch and 58 failed to develop at all. This is very unusual though, and they think it is due to the grassy spot where the nest was. We then went back to the bus, but the rangers continue to patrol the beach for the rest of the night to monitor the other hatchlings emerging, although they just allow the rest to occur naturally.