The World Around Us

Bundy’s Ancient Turtles

Country: Australia by Lisette


Still in Bundaberg and recovering from a nasty hostel along with some fine rum, I go to see its famous ancient sea turtles. The Loggerhead Turtles are 1,5 metres big and come to the beach laying their eggs once every eight years after the female turns 30-35 years of age.

The turtle lays eggs only four times in her life, and for this the turtle comes all the way back to her birth beach, so it is important to make sure these eggs survive. The eggs look like Ping-Pong balls and she lays about 100 to 150 each time.

Rangers and researchers are guiding the troops onto the beach at night with flashlights, and as soon as they see a turtle coming out of the water we are told to turn all of our lights off. We’re not allowed to speak or to move; if we do the turtle is alarmed and will leave the beach. She may lay her eggs at a place where they will not survive and as there are not many turtles left, we all abide happily.

Seeing the loggerhead turtle totteringly coming out of the ocean and slowly coming closer is a mesmerizing moment. I was very lucky, one turtle (there were quite a few after a while) decides to give birth practically in front of me! When she felt this was the right spot for her to make a safe nest, she started digging carefully with her front and hind feet. When she’s comfortable, she digs further with her hind feet and then she begins popping out her eggs.

This is a moment of awe, to see such an ancient animal coming close to you and laying eggs is amazing. After she laid the first couple of eggs, she cannot stop and we are allowed to get closer and form a ring around her. I feel a little sad, imagine you would be giving birth to a baby boy or girl and twenty tourists come and stand around you to watch?!

The researcher is checking the turtle out.

The researcher soon gets very excited, it turns out this is a new turtle! That means that this particular sea turtle has not been registered in the past 25 years. They check her, measure her and after she is finished laying eggs she labels her. The researcher says this doesn’t bother the turtles, but at the moment I feel very sorry for this Lady Turtle. Her face was distorted for a moment in pain.

After all of this hard work she closes the nest and glides back to the ocean. Once the eggs are hatched, the little ones have to find their own way to the water. The researchers measure the spot of the nest and realize it is on the flood line. To make sure the nest doesn’t get washed away, they decide to move it further on the beach.

Excitedly, we tourists get to help and each of us carries a couple of eggs carefully in our hands. When this is done a few more turtles are coming out of the water and so we have to repeat the drill: no lights, talking or moving. This time, the turtles are left alone as they are all labeled. One turtle decides to make her nest about 2 metres away from me. Quietly and in the dark, I am determined not to disturb her and sit rigidly still for another half hour.

I am in awe seeing these prehistoric animals and I truly hope we are able to keep their numbers up for survival. If you’re interested in visiting the turtles, contact the conservation.