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Turtles flock to nest on the Great Barrier Reef

30th November 2010 Print
Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef

The annual turtle nesting season has begun in earnest on Australia's Queensland's Heron and Wilson Islands, with an abundance of green turtles coming ashore to nest on these two Great Barrier Reef coral cays.

From November through to March every year, a breeding population of turtles comes ashore on Heron ( and Wilson Islands ( to nest, approximately three to seven times during a season. The turtles lay their eggs at the same location where they were born, laying on average 120 eggs in one clutch.

This season is predicted to be a bumper year, with large numbers of turtles already spotted at the resorts coming out of the ocean and laboriously pulling themselves up the beach to lay their eggs, all under cover of darkness at night and in the early hours of the morning.

By Easter, both Heron and Wilson Islands offer the captivating opportunity to see one of life's natural wonders close up as thousands of baby turtles emerge from their nests to make the annual scurry to the safety of the sea.

As put by Sir David Attenborough in his recent BBC series and the subsequent book 'First Life': "It's a wonderful place for people to come and see wildlife, and It's also really significant in terms of ecology and research". With careful guidelines for viewing, families can not only immerse themselves in all the action on a casual walk around the islands' beaches but also find out more about the islands and their ecology from the resort's specialist guides and scientists from Heron Island's Research Station.

Turtles migrate to Heron and Wilson Islands from as far afield as the Solomon Islands, Cape York and Harvey Bay, returning after an absence of 35 to 40 years since their birth here. Green turtles are the most common turtles that come to both islands, and are characterized by a high domed shell and a smaller jaw than loggerhead turtles. Loggerhead turtles have large jaws used for crushing the shells of crustacean and mollusks and their shell is less domed in shape. Loggerheads only make up around 1%-2% of the breeding population on Heron and Wilson Islands.

The 18-hectare Heron Island lies 72km off the coast of Gladstone, while the two-hectare Wilson Island is more remote, sitting 14km off Heron Island.

True coral cays that sit right on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, Heron and Wilson Islands boast some of the most amazing snorkelling and diving (Heron only) year round, just minutes from the beach.

Heron Island is also home to one of Australia's most important reef Research Stations. Administered by the University of Queensland, it provides accommodation, boats, diving gear, laboratories and a seawater aquarium system for researchers and student groups. Guests at Heron Island Resort are actively encouraged to learn more about the Research Station and its work to get a better understanding of the delicate underwater world that surrounds them.

About Heron and Wilson Islands: /

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Turtles on the Great Barrier Reef