Turtles Hatching, Bundaberg: Our Special Moment With Baby Turtles

In Brisbane, when you mention Turtles Hatching, Bundaberg is the first destination that comes to mind. During the turtle hatching season, the Mon Repos Turtle Centre allows groups of visitors to witness a magic moment.

Seeing wild baby turtles reaching the ocean for the first time must be amongst all nature and wildlife lovers’ dreams.

In Australia, the turtle nesting season starts in November and the hatching season is from January to March. Mon Repos Beach, at the north of Bundaberg, Heron Island and Lady Elliot Island (are the three most famous spots to take part in this incredible experience.

Mon Repos Bundaberg Baby Turtle in Sand
Now ready to head to the ocean after five days of climbing the nest!

Out of the three, experiencing the turtles hatching in Bundaberg is the cheapest option by far. It’s not as private as on the islands, but it remains a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


When is the best time to see turtles hatching in Bundaberg?

You’ll have to travel to Bundaberg during the hatching season, around February and March.

A turtle nest is dug deep in the sand. When they hatch, baby turtles then have to climb in the sand for up to five days before reaching the surface. They would wait until night time to go out and run to the ocean. So it can happen

So turtles hatching can happen anytime after sunset when the temperature drops to indicate to the babies the night has arrived.

Mon Repos is a highly controlled area to support the conservation of turtles. They close the beach at night during the nesting and hatching season so the only way to have access to the beach is to book a tour with a ranger.


How to see the turtles hatching in Bundaberg?

To see the turtles hatching in Bundaberg, you’ll need to go to Mon Repos Beach with a ranger from the Mon Repos Turtle Centre.

You will need to book the tour in advance, and even a lot in advance if you are visiting during the weekend. Plus, if you are amongst the first ones to book for the night, you will be in the first group to go on the beach. That’s not a bad idea: we arrived at 7 pm and, as we were in the last group (group 5), it was past midnight when we finally went to the beach!

They make it clear: turtles are wild animals, and you may have to wait for hours for the magic moment – and it also may not happen at all that night. The wait is not unpleasant as the Turtle Centre has interesting displays to learn more about turtles, videos to get you pumped about the experience you are going to live and volunteers to entertain the young ones and help the Rangers.


Mon Repos Bundaberg Turtle Tour Nest
Turtle nest after the turtles left it (marks can be seen in front of it)

The experience of seeing wild baby turtles is amazing.

However, don’t expect a private experience: we were more than 50 people in our group. Still, they manage to give you a close experience.

When we arrived on the beach, turtles were already waiting for us out of the sand, with a small fence around them. Our ranger Lisa had a microphone to make sure everyone in the group could hear her explanations and her orders to keep the experience safe for the turtles. I was very impressed to see such a big group behaving so well!

A couple of volunteers from the Turtle Centre were here to help Lisa. They grabbed a couple of turtles and showed them around the crowd, making sure everyone could have their own time watching and touching the baby turtle and taking a photo with it. We then formed a guard of honour to direct the baby turtles to the ocean, with a couple of lucky kids chosen to light up the way.

When all the babies had found the sea, most of the group left the beach. Only a dozen stayed with the ranger to watch what happens next. For research purposes, they dig the nest to count the number of eggs that hatched and the number of eggs that stayed undeveloped. Most of the undeveloped eggs stopped at an early stage and were made of yolk, but we had the surprise to have an embryo in one of them! Although it isn’t the best image at all, it is fascinating to see that in real life and I was very impressed by the curiosity of the few kids that were left. The ranger throws away in the ocean all the eggs to avoid attracting foxes and other predators with the strong smell.

We were lucky to find one turtle left in the nest. She got blocked in a crab hole. It was still alive so we could watch it going down to the ocean, this time in a much smaller comity. Probably the highlight of the night for the dozen people who stayed.


If you want to learn more about turtles and hatchlings, I recommend reading the Sea Turtle Conservancy FAQ Page.


My Mixed Feelings about the Turtle Centre Experience

I had a mixed feeling about the experience I had that night. For the entire time we spent in the 50-people group, I wasn’t sure if I liked the experience or not. I mean, I was overwhelmingly happy to see baby turtles. And I am glad they open this experience to the public so I could be part of it. And of course, it is great to have a photo with them as a memory. But no news here, I’m not a fan of big groups – especially in one natural place – and I don’t like to disturb animals.

And in that situation, we were not only watching the turtles: the experience involved a lot of manipulation of these newly born wild animals, sometimes for research and preservation, and sometimes exclusively for our pleasure. They do recognise in one of the videos they played that they are criticised by some other bodies for interacting that much with the wild animals. I appreciate the honesty to add that mention in their history; it reassures that they acknowledge it and – hopefully! – weight the risks.
Mon Repos Bundaberg Baby Turtle ++The positive point is that the crowd does have some beneficial impacts: the foxes and crabs will stay away and give a bit more chances to the baby turtles. They say only 1 in 1,000 will become an adult, and they are endangered animals, so some human involvements to help them is a good thing! With their actions, the Centre has helped to stop the decline of the species so we cannot deny they are doing well for the animals.

Also, involving people that much is a great opportunity to educate them through this unique experience. All the speeches and activities are adapted for children. Unfortunately, I found they did not do enough of sensibilisation, at least during our visit. The photos in the information centre were good for that, but when you hear the questions people were asking when we were on the beach, you quickly realise they did not look at the information centre. From my point of view, it is the speech on the beach that is important to print a message in people’s mind. It’s when they are witnessing this special moment that you can use their emotions to change their behaviour. They are going to be marked by this turtle experience their whole life; it’s an excellent time to give them some key messages to help protect turtles. Sadly, the focus was too much on light pollution, and they hardly mentioned plastic pollution and easy steps to reduce plastic consumption. Plastic kills turtles and many other animals. I wish they were a lot more aggressive on that topic when they have kids with stars in their eyes lapping up everything they say. Tell them they can save turtles by cleaning the beaches and waterways, not using plastic bags, and not using straws and plastic glasses at their party…

I also found that they were not exploiting enough the number of visitors: the fundraising actions were almost hidden. And when we were picking up some rubbish near the dunes during the day, we found many stickers from the Turtle Centre visitors from the night before. It broke a bit my heart… Can I suggest using reusable lanyards instead?


Mon Repos Bundaberg Baby TurtlesOur Lucky Special Encounter with Baby Sea Turtles

We went back to the beautiful beach of Mon Repos in the morning. We didn’t have high expectations for seeing a nest hatching as this happens at night. We were hoping we might spot some late hatchlings who wouldn’t have found the ocean yet. And it happened. And it was one of the best moments ever.

Of course, it made more sense than ever to clean this beach. We walked along the beach four times and found:

  • a dozen of stickers from the Turtle Centre
  • two cans of soda
  • a fishing net
  • a bottle cap
  • small pieces of plastic


Remember, no one is too small to make a difference!


What about you? What are your most memorable wild encounters? Leave a comment below!


Planning a trip to Bundaberg? We camped near Mon Repos when we went there. If you don’t like camping, booking a hotel in Bargara* is probably the best option.


Where the Mon Repos Beach where you can see turtles hatching in Bundaberg?


It takes approximately 15 minutes to drive from Bundaberg to Mon Repos Beach. We stayed in Bargara, the closest town to Mon Repos, only 10 minutes away.

Bundaberg is approximately 4.5 hours north of Brisbane. This trip is feasible in one weekend if you leave on Friday night. The town is also famous for its rum, and the visit of the distillery was interesting.




Add this to your Pinterest board:

Bundaberg Mon Repos Baby Turtles

*These are affiliate links: I will receive a commission if you make a booking using this link but you won’t pay anything extra. This will help me maintain this website. 


Turtles Hatching, Bundaberg: Our Special Moment With Baby Turtles was last modified: March 8th, 2018 by Eloise

I am a part-time traveller: I combine a full-time job with a passion for travelling. I love to share my trips and tips to inspire others to explore what’s around them. Before moving to Australia, I lived in France, England and Turkey. I’ve finally found my balance in Brisbane.

39 thoughts on “Turtles Hatching, Bundaberg: Our Special Moment With Baby Turtles

  1. What an amazing experience! I’d never been to a place with so many turtles. However, also a little sad about this controversial issue that you mentioned, which applies to many other places too that involve other animals. It’s nice of you to mention it.

    1. Thank you, Criz. Wild animals are indeed always a controversial topic. Here, it was done with a conservation objective in mind so it’s not that sad. Better than nothing, the turtles do get benefits from it in the end.

  2. I always feel just a tiny bit of guilt too when I go to places that involves a little bit of manipulation of wild animal. That’s great to know that the amount of tourists has a positive impact as well. That makes me happy hearing that! It must have been a great experience nonetheless.

  3. Great article and an interesting perspective about the place. I find it a bit ironic that a portion of the garbage you found afterwards was directly related to the Turtle Conservation group. There are always pro’s and cons’ to everything and as long as things are weighed and measured correctly, it can be a good experience.

    1. Thank you, Kevin. You’re right. It is indeed sad that some stickers end up on the beach. I did mention it to two volunteers, with the idea of having a re-usable lanyard instead. They seemed surprised to hear this and listened to the feedback so maybe they’ll do something to fix that :)

  4. Thanks for such an honest review! It’s a very controversial topic isn’t it, of whether or not to interfere with nature even if you think you’re doing good in the long run. But I suppose it’s humans who have caused the planet’s problems so it has to be humans who fix it! Shame the group was so large, but if that’s the only way then it’s perhaps a small price to pay.

    1. Thank you, Heather. This topic is always a big debate for sure. I agree that we need to fix our planet and it’s always better to do something – even if it’s not 100% perfect – than doing nothing and watch things getting worse!

  5. This sounds like an absolutely amazing experience! I’ve always wanted to see baby turtles so this is on my bucket list. I get what you mean about feeling uncomfortable about the large groups disturbing the animals. I think if I did something like this I’d make sure it was ethical etc.

    1. Thanks, Laura. I hope you’ll get to tick that one off your bucket list as it is amazing indeed!
      I agree, it is important to make sure a tour is ethical when booking an experience, no matter who is involved (animals, locals…). I find the Turtle Centre does a good job at balancing research/conservation/interaction/tourist experience. As mentioned in the article, although we were a big group, everybody was behaving very well and following all the orders. I’ve seen a lot of small groups in other places doing a lot more harm at disturbing wild animals. So I think what is important above all – when there is a risk – is to have something well reglemented and documented, with strict (sometimes obvious…) rules to follow!

  6. We’ve actually witnessed both baby turtles hatching and going to sea and then also a mama turtle going up to lay eggs. It’s really amazing and lucky we came across it in Florida.

  7. How cute!! I love baby turtles. My four year old and I watched the video and she oohed and aahed and said I want one, LOL. I find is so fascinating that this center actually took part and they are doing a good job at keeping predators away. They should speak more on the pollution that is killing the turtles. You are right, we must always do our part.

    1. Ahah. Tell your little girl that the turtle will grow as big as her :D
      The Centre would also protect the eggs from cyclones by moving the nests that are too close to shore. Somes evenings, kids can help doing that. We were not there during the nesting season but we’ve seen videos. It really leaves visitors with unforgettable memories, and hopefully they will remember how to save the turtles too…!

  8. Oh wow this is amazing! My sister went travelling and saw so many different animals in the wild. She actually worked on a nature reserve at the beach so she has seen this too I am very jealous

    1. Working in a nature reserve sounds like a great plan to have a meaningful experience with wildlife! I hope you’ll have the chance to travel around and witness amazing things too that will make your sister jealous :p

  9. Awww they’re so cute, and so brave. I almost wish baby turtles didn’t have to go through such lengths to reach the ocean, I know a lot of them get killed by seagulls and wild animals. Glad they all made it to sea safely.

    1. Yes, the story of a newborn turtle is not a happy tale…! But that’s how Nature is, I guess. What REALLY breaks my heart is when they are killed by humans and plastic…

  10. Lawrence Hamilton

    - Edit


    That is so precious. Wild turtles. So peaceful and friendly. I wonder sometimes after seeing things like this if people really are more civilized than animals or if it really is vice versa.

    1. Yes, Ana. The turtles were beautiful and the site is fantastic as well. That’s why we were happy to go back in the morning for a stroll. Even if our chances to see hatchlings were low, it was still a beautiful walk!

  11. These little fellas are SO CUTE! It’s a truly wonderful thing how they know what to do – but it’s terrible that we have made it so dangerous for them. I love going to beaches that have the “Save the Turtle” type foundations to ensure their safety and continued presence and life.

    1. Thank you, Alex. Yes, I can’t believe they are older than the dinosaurs and now endangered because of us! Remember to pick up small (and big!) pieces of plastic when you’re on the beach, that will save our cute and nice turtles…! :)

  12. While I was reading your experience I felt uncomfortable: what a great experience but poor turtles … And I actually liked the fact that you talk about this dichotomy. It is a great experience but at the same time some people are making money with tourist who go to disturb the natural environment of wildlife … I do not blame you at all, It happened to me as well. I always feel bad about it and thereforeI don’t enjoy it as I could

    1. Thank you for your comment, Florence. I actually don’t think it is fair to say “poor turtles”. The Turtle Centre wouldn’t work without all the amazing volunteers helping to protect the turtles, and they don’t make money out of it: “All fees are donated to the continuing turtle research and conservation efforts of the Mon Repos Conservation Park and turtle research station”. Their actions – that I , of course, understand some people can disagree with because it involves manipulating the wild animals – are all with the intention to help the endangered species. The tourist part of it is the top of the iceberg, and they are doing a lot more behind the scenes. They say the decline of the turtle population has stopped so, in the end, it is a huge win situation for turtles. With no human intervention on that beach, a lot less turtles would reach the ocean.

      I still had a fabulous experience and give my support to the Turtle Centre staff, volunteers and researchers. My overall point was that there is, like everywhere, opportunities for reflexions and improvements.

  13. Oh what a beautiful experience. I understand what you mean about the crowd. It seems wrong to stand in a marge group witnessing wildlife. Not very ‘wild’ really! But great news that it raises their chances by keeping predators at bay! The trash is a shame :(

    1. Thank you for your comment, Amy. Yes, a wonderful experience indeed. I’m okay with witnessing, it’s more interfering that makes me wonder if it’s really the good thing to do. I think because it is in the dark, you don’t actually see that much the crowd and there is a front line spot for everyone, so the experience remains very good. And people were behaving so well, I was so surprised!

  14. The battle for life that these little newborns have to fight makes me sad and everytime I wonder why nature is so cruel to them? And the human interference has made their struggle all the more difficult for them.

    1. Yes Ratisha, they have to go through a hard time from the first minute they were born! I also find it hard to watch those documentaries, cruel is the word. In another hand, they are one of the oldest animals on Earth – I learnt in the Turtle Centre that they were here before the dinosaurs – so Nature has made them quite strong too! I hope the actions of conservation like the ones by the Turtle Centre will change behaviours and reduce negative human interference!

  15. Australia is said to have many weird, wild animals and have seen many people telling stories on them. But this is the first time seeing someone describe their experience with a turtle, written in a beautiful way. Good post

    1. Thank you so much, Varun. You’re right, Australia does have a lot of wild animals – and many weird ones!!

      We actually have many sea turtles on the east coast (I haven’t been to the west coast yet!), especially in the north with the Great Barrier Reef. They are fascinating animals, very kind to humans offering great interactions for snorkelers and divers.

  16. Wow! Seems like you had a lovely experience. I have never been to Australia but it is definitely in my trave list. Have often read about turtles and watched videos online but glad to read about your personal experience. It seems that I have myself experienced it. You have done the post so well!

    Fatima | http://www.blogsbyfa.com

  17. They are absolutely beautiful animals. I have seen more than my fair share of sea turtles in all the years I was a diving professional. I have so many memories of sea turtles but one stood out.

    On a training dive with a young student, we stopped in front of a sea turtle. We were a meter away. The turtle was motionless, and then it probably got comfortable it started eating some corals. What I found truly astounding was that it was chewing! We were there for five minutes before I motioned my student to start moving for there were a lot of other marine life to see.

    1. Thank you for your comment and your nice story, Robert! You are right, they are beautiful animals. And fascinating. I am a diver too and I am always impressed at how friendly they are with us. It’s always a pleasure to see them, no matter if they are small or big!!

What do you think?