Sandy the turtle with prep student and reef guardian Elizabeth Wilkinson. Picture: Rhylea Millar.
Sandy the turtle with prep student and reef guardian Elizabeth Wilkinson. Picture: Rhylea Millar.

TURTLEY AWESOME: Bundy reef guardians ring in turtle season

IT'S the best time of the year for the region's beaches with plenty of guests popping up on our shores, much to the delight of our reef guardians.

The first turtle of the season graced Mon Repos shores earlier this week but it was a false start for the flatback turtle who headed back out to sea - until she returned last night and laid a total of 55 eggs.

A loggerhead turtle was also spotted this week on the shores of a Bargara beach.

"Today we're ringing the bells to welcome in our first nesting turtles along the Woongarra coast - it's an exciting time to let the community know that the nesting turtles are back for their season," ranger in charge at Mon Repos Cathy Gatley said.

"Usually we get our turtles in from mid to late October and then early November, so they've been a little bit slower and a little bit later this season to kick off, but it's pretty normal."

 

Students from St Luke's and Bargara State School assisted Mon Repos rangers and Sandy the turtle with ringing the bell. Picture: Rhylea Millar
Students from St Luke's and Bargara State School assisted Mon Repos rangers and Sandy the turtle with ringing the bell. Picture: Rhylea Millar

 

Grade five student at Bargara State School Ben Taylor along with the help of some of his classmates, rang the bell today at St Peter's Anglican Church.

He said it was important to look after the local environment and do what we can to save as many turtles as possible in the years to come.

"I feel very lucky (to be ringing the bell) - we're a town that's close to the beach and it's such a wonderful spot," Ben said.

"If you find a piece of plastic, pick it up and you might as well throw it in the bin - if it's recyclable, then put it in the recycling bin.

"And cut the glow - turtles follow the moon which has a lot of light because they can't see very well in the dark and they sometimes follow the city lights because they get confused and like to wander over to the city, which would cause a major accident and may cause turtles to die."

 

Sandy the turtle stands with Ben Taylor and his classmates from Bargara State School, moments before students rang the bell. Picture: Rhylea Millar.
Sandy the turtle stands with Ben Taylor and his classmates from Bargara State School, moments before students rang the bell. Picture: Rhylea Millar.

 

Falling in love with turtles at a young age, the reef guardian said he loved turtles and was passionate about their conservation.

"On our year three camp, we experienced a turtle that laid eggs and each student got to move an egg to a safer place to stop predators from finding and eating them," he said.

"(Turtles) eat jellyfish which could sting people too and that doesn't feel very good."

Prep student at St Luke's Anglican School Elizabeth Wilkinson said she enjoyed ringing the bell because of the sound it made, even though someone had to lift her up to reach it.

She said ringing the bell is important because it "means the turtles are laying their eggs" and "that means baby turtles will hatch."

 

Sandy the turtle with prep student and reef guardian Elizabeth Wilkinson. Picture: Rhylea Millar.
Sandy the turtle with prep student and reef guardian Elizabeth Wilkinson. Picture: Rhylea Millar.

 

The bell ringing ceremony occurs every year to celebrate the first turtle's arrival of the upcoming season and to remind residents that it's lights out from 7.30pm each night, to keep the beach nice and dark for turtles looking to arrive on shore.

"People can really help out the turtles by thinking about their lighting, especially their outside lights or if they're up high, their balcony lights," Ms Gatley said.

While every season is different, turtle sightings reached the high 300s last year, much to the delight of guests at the nightly tours, which are set to commence for the season, this Friday night.

"We can never guarantee turtles throughout the season but you never know - sometimes we're really lucky and we get turtles on the first night," Ms Gatley said.

"But people always enjoy themselves whether we have turtles or not, so we're really looking forward to people coming to beautiful Bargara."

 

Ranger in charge at Mon Repos Cathy Gatley. Picture: Rhylea Millar
Ranger in charge at Mon Repos Cathy Gatley. Picture: Rhylea Millar

 

Tours will be a little different this year, with COVID-19 safety regulations reducing group numbers.

A maximum of 70 people will be at Mon Repos each night and will be split into 15 people per group, creating a more intimate tour.

Currently booked out until the end of February, visitors are encouraged to book in as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Hatchling season usually starts around New Year, builds in January and peaks in February.

For more information, visit https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/mon-repos/attractions/mon-repos-turtle-centre