The incredible circle of life on the Southern Great Barrier Reef | Southern Great Barrier Reef

The incredible circle of life on the Southern Great Barrier Reef

There has never been a more magical time of year to visit the Southern Great Barrier Reef than right now.

From nesting and hatching turtles to coral’s annual spawn, love will be in the air over the coming months!

Home to loggerhead, green and flatback sea turtles, and cities of incredible coral reefs, this iconic destination in Queensland, Australia, is set to come to life as Mother Nature creates new life.

Turtle Nesting and Hatching

If turtles are on your bucket list, the Southern Great Barrier Reef provides plenty of turtle-spotting opportunities. And now is an extremely inspiring time of year to experience a turtle-y awesome encounter as the sea turtles return to our sandy shores to create new life.

While the Mon Repos Nightly Turtle Encounter is your best bet of sneaking an unrivalled peek behind the curtain into the cycle of life of marine turtles, experiences are available all along the coastline of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, with nesting and hatching occurring on the islands and mainland.

This Turtle Season, Mon Repos tours will run from Monday 7th November 2022 to Sunday 19th March 2023. Watch as mother turtles lay their clutches of eggs from November – January on a ranger-guided Mon Repos Turtle Encounter. In January – March form a pathway to the ocean for the baby turtles as they begin their dangerous journey into adolescence with only 1 in 1000 turtles making it to maturity.

During turtle season, the shores of Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Island become home to nesting mother turtles and their hatchlings. During your guided island walks, reef experts will point out turtle tracks and explain their incredible life journey. In the unlikely event that you do happen to stumble upon a nesting turtle or emerging hatchling during the day, please notify a crew member straight away. You can also experience the magic of turtle season under the stars, with an overnight stay at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort or aboard Lady Musgrave HQ and witness the miracle for yourself on an evening nesting & hatching tour.

Heron Island and the Great Barrier Reef are a significant nesting location for two threatened sea turtle species, the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta). Nesting season occurs from November to March each year, with hatchlings beginning to emerge in early January. Most nesting turtles will begin to come up on the beaches around the high tide of an evening, while some turtles may still be on the beaches finishing the nesting process when the sun rises in the morning.

Great Keppel Island also continues to be a popular birthing centre for these incredible creatures, and while there is no formal guided tour available to witness the nesting and hatching, Keppel Turtle Fund’s team are on site to patrol the beaches of Great Keppel and national park islands, finding and counting nests.

For more information on how to get up close and personal to these wonderful marine creatures, check out ‘5 ways to tick turtles off your bucket list’ blog.

Coral Spawning

Coral spawning really is the biggest reproductive show on Earth.

Once a year, around the full moon in November, corals simultaneously release eggs and sperm bundles into the water. These bundles then rise slowly to the surface where the fertilization process begins. If successful, the fertilized eggs will settle on the ocean floor, eventually developing into coral.

The spawning can last a couple of hours or a few days, and as curious humans, we simply love to watch this gigantic love fest, which signifies regeneration and hope.

The estimated 2022 coral spawning dates are 11th to 15th November and the 11th to the 15th of December.

Find out everything you need to know about coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef here.

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