Turtle Encounters at Mon Repo are a magical experience you won’t want to miss…
Mon Repo Conservation Park is a turtle hot spot on the Coral Coast of Queensland. It’s based in the small coastal community of Bargara, a town that offers perfect beaches for visitors, particularly families and, in and of itself, is a worthwhile destination.
An encounter that will leave you in awe…
Sea turtles have a gentle, ancient charm. Watching as they come up the beach to lay feels a little bit magical… especially when you realise just how special this ancient ritual is and what odds each mama turtle has overcome to get to this point. And then there is the hatchlings… watching them emerge from the sand and scramble their way down to the water to get swallowed up by incoming waves. It’s an experience that leaves you in awe of nature.
Such experiences are made possible through Mon Repo Turtle Centre who offer Turtle Encounters. Here you can learn about the lifecycle of these amazing creatures from the people who are doing the science. We were lucky enough to have Dr Col Limpus with our group scanning the mama turtle for eggs.
Turtle season is from November to late March. Nesting occurs from November through till January and hatchlings emerge from January through till March.
Experiences of such quality as the Turtle Encounters at Mon Repo are hard to find… to balance the depth of experience for the visitor with respect for the wildlife and the environment is difficult… it’s what makes Mon Repos very special. I’ll certainly be coming back next season.
You can book Turtle Encounters at Mon Repo here
Turtle Encounter Ticket Prices
- Adults $27
- Children (5/14yrs)/Concession $14
- Family (2A + 2C) $65
A note about children… Turtle Encounters are definitely a child friendly activity. As long as your child will respect the instructions of the guide and you think they will enjoy seeing the turtles, then this is a great activity.
Making the most of your visit to Mon Repo…
Book as early as possible… particularly if you have kids, because you will be allocated into a group based on when you booked. If you are in group 1, you will get to go out to the first ‘turtle event’ (laying or hatching) of the night. Group 2 will get the second ‘turtle event’ and so on down the line.
In 2019 bookings opened for Turtle Encounters at Mon Repo in September.
Consider booking two encounters if you go in January… There is a period of overlap when mama turtles are still laying and the first hatchlings (laid earlier in the season) are beginning to emerge. You could get lucky like we did and get a laying event one night and a hatching event the next. If you choose to do this, I highly recommend leaving at least night in-between. This allows you to recover from the late night from your first encounter.
On the night
On the evening of your Turtle Encounter make sure you have dinner before you leave. Even though you may have a long wait once you get there, you also may go out almost immediately.
What to wear…
A lightweight, long sleeve shirt with shorts or 3/4 pants with footwear suitable for the beach.
What to take…
Small Torch or Headlamp… you won’t be allowed to use this on the beach (you need to rely on your night vision). But if you are there to see a turtle hatching event, a small torch (any type) could be useful… as you may have an opportunity to be part of a ‘turtle runway’ providing a guiding light to the hatchlings as they waddle down the beach to meet the waves.
Camera… there are very limited opportunities to take photos because light disturbs the behaviour of turtles (learn more about that here). Your guide will tell you when you can take photos so have your device handy!
Lightweight Raincoat… even if it is destined to be a clear night. It will likely get cold and a light rain jacket will be useful over a long sleeved shirt. We found our Kathmandu pocket raincoats were perfect for this.
Insect repellant… summer in Queensland is mosquito and midge season so bring bug spray.
Bag of tricks… even if you book early, you may need to wait. You are on turtle time now and you can be waiting up to 6 hours to get onto the beach. Card games, fully charged devices and snacks will come in handy in the event of a long wait. There is a small cafe at the centre selling coffee, drinks, sausage rolls and other snacks…. it closes at about 9.30pm.
Arrive a little before 6.30 pm… this means you will get on the earlier shuttle buses down to the centre and gets you closer to the front of the queue. This is handy, especially if you didn’t book early… I’ll explain shortly
At the Centre, line up and wait to be ticked off the list and allocated to your group. You will be given a sticker with your group number on it… that’s your ticket onto the beach. Remember, the group you are in depends on when you booked.
Once you have your sticker, grab a table and don’t abandon it until your group is called… this is particularly important if you are in group 3 up. There isn’t enough seating in the centre! Our first night we ended up uncomfortably standing around trying to find a seat where we could. We learned our lesson and arrived earlier (as mentioned above) on our second visit.
Get your kids to go to the toilet before the group is called! There are no toilets on the beach and you don’t want to have a toddler with a bladder bursting at the seams during your ‘turtle event’!
If it’s a slow night for turtles… you will be able to entertain the kids with the activities in the centre, demonstrations and talks. Take advantage of all that’s on offer (but try not to abandon your table if you have kids or can’t sit on the floor). This is also where card games come in handy.
On the beach
As you head out onto the beach with your guide, you will walk down a long wooden ramp with handrails. It can be a little unnerving on a dark night but your eyes will adjust to the dark.
Once on the beach you will be directed to stay in a close group and not use any lights as your guide takes you to see your hatching or laying event. There will be a chance to take photos but it is important to keep in mind that light from flashes and screens can affect turtles coming in off the beach.
After the main event has taken place, there may be an opportunity to hang around and watch (or even participate) if a nest needs to be relocated or a nest (that has just hatched) is pulled apart and assessed for success rate. This is a great opportunity for any budding scientists. Fair warning… while the nest relocation on the first night was super fun, it can also be a bit sad if you end up with a ‘nest autopsy’ like we did on the second night.
Allow at least 15 minutes to drive from Bargara to where you will park for the turtle encounter at the end of Mon Repos Rd (see below). From here you can get the minibus that takes you to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre.
Where to Stay…. Bargara
Bargara is a small coastal community of about 7000 people and is located 13km east of Bundaberg. It is about a 4 and a half hours drive north from Brisbane. It’s a beautiful town and it’s worthy of a visit in its own right. There are a number of great swimming spots with natural, protected beaches.
There is plenty of accomodation options from camping to luxury hotel rooms and nearly all the offerings are very close to the beach. I’m a huge fan of AirBnB (see why here) and there is plenty to choose from in Bargara too.
If camping is your style then you have two main options… Bargara Beach Caravan Park or, if you have a group and need a minimum of 6 sites for a week or more, you are able to book into Turtle Sands Camping and Holiday Park. Being a family of 4, we stayed at Bargara Beach Caravan Park (we have a Jayco Swan) and loved it… the beach just across the road from the caravan park is absolutely perfect for kids and when we were there it provided awesome conditions for learning to body board.