05 Feb 2016

Heading Down Under - Aussie Land by valeriepeltier

23/29

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Turtles!!

Tonight is officially the coolest thing we have done so far and officially my favourite moment of our trip to date. Katie, Lauren's childhood pen pal was generous enough to bring us to the Mon Repos Turtle Center for a chance at viewing Loggerhead Turtles laying, burying, and or possibly hatching.
Excited and curious whether or not we would be lucky enough to see any turtles, we pilled into the amphitheatre along with a large group of people and sat anxiously waiting for them to call our name to join a group down to the beach.
Our names were finally called after four groups of people gathered and disappeared down the dark path. Now it was our turn, ready to go they guide told us we could use our torch (flashlight) for the boardwalk portion until we reached the beach where all lights needed to be turned off. With the weather being overcast and cloudy with periods of rain, once all of the lights were turned off it took a moment for my eyes to adjust.
As we walked down the beach our guide continuously scanned the beach for hatchlings and larger turtles with his torch. Before I knew it we were at our groups destination where there was a fairly large loggerhead turtle working hard to push the sand with her flippers over the area in which she had just laid her eggs.
After about 10 minutes of us viewing the process and about an hour for her of digging and moving sand around, she was finished burying the eggs and almost immediately began the journey back to the ocean.
A few moments after she had disappeared into the dark waters, the ranger began digging up her eggs for relocation to the top of the dunes where they would be protected from predators.

Egg laying & burying
Loggerhead Turtle
30 years old
6 clutches
122 eggs
Watched her burry the eggs and journey back into the ocean.

We made the journey back down the boardwalk to the Center just in time for the rain to pour down momentarily. We wandered around the information centre all taking in different bits of information as we made our way through the exhibit before returning to the amphitheatre for the presentation.
After a few interruptions and some interesting facts they made the call for those who were interested in taking a second walk out to view a nest dig from the previous nights hatching.
We stood anxiously as the ranger began to dig up the nest unsure as to whether or not we would see anything other than a bunch of pieces of shells. Only a few seconds in she pulled out a hatchling that had been left behind and placed it in their bucket for safe keeping while the remainder of the nest was dug up.
Once she reached the end of the nest she began sorting the shells into piles of ten to count and record how many were successful verses how many didn't develop properly. Meanwhile her helper made his way around the circle allowing us to each have a chance to hold the hatchling in the palm of our hands.
As soon as she re-buried the egg shells they drew lines in the sand chose people with torches to stand with their legs spread apart in a line and released the hatchling while directing it towards the ocean. We stood on the side watching and cheering for the little fella on the beginning of his journey into the great ocean.

Nest dig
Loggerhead turtle
40 years old
114 hatched eggs
6 unhatched eggs
1 hatchling
I got to hold the hatchling in my palm of my hand as it moved its flippers then watched as they released it and letting it make its journey across the beach while directing it into the ocean.

Witnessing the process and having the opportunity to cheer the little guy on as he crawled across the sand was truly a magical moment, one that I will cherish forever.