You may find yourself asking, why would turtles need rehabilitation? Truth be told it’s not just for the rich & famous and daily tours to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitaion Centre allow people to learn about not only the history of the organisation but also the journey to recovery that injured or sick turtles undergo whilst at this Centre, prior to their release back into the ocean.

Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy Island (CTRC) is a volunteer operated, non-profit organisation dedicated to the rehabilitation of sick and injured turtles. The Great Barrier Reef is home to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles. A number of these are seriously threatened by a diverse range of natural and, more significantly, human induced factors.

How to Book a Turtle Tour

Tours run Daily from 1.00pm, tours are 45 minutes in duration, with a maximum of 15 guests and are accompanied by a tour guide.

  • Cost:  $8.80 Adult, $5.50 Child (4-13 years), infants free of charge

Tours only can be booked on the day:

Day visitors via the General Store (next to Foxy’s Bar), Resort Guests at hotel reception. Bookings are nonrefundable. Group and schools tours advance bookings contact us here.


CTRC supports the work of all organisations, individuals and agencies in their efforts to conserve sea turtles and the habitats that they live in. They work closely with a number of these groups including the environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and EPA National Park Rangers who are responsible for bringing the turtles to the centre.

CTRC relies on the generous donations from supporters and volunteers, without whom, would be unable to continue this important work. Fitzroy Island Resort is one such proud sponsor who have supplied full use of their land, infrastructure, materials and equipment, utilities, transfers and man power from its initial construction phase through to the current day-to-day operations. Fitzroy Island Resort has been assisting in the implementation of guided daily tours to the Centre meaning they can now be booked for a small fee that contributes towards the Centres’ mission.

Tours are limited to 15 people so guests are advised to book fast once they are on the island.  Ring ahead to double check that its not going to be a rest day for the turtles (a day without tours) on the day that you intend to visit.  You can check this with Reception by calling the team on (07) 4044 6700.  Just remember that you will only be able to book the tour once you are physically on the island (the tour is booked through the General Store).

Meet The Patients

Meet Rinney

Rinney is a juvenile Green Sea Turtle who had the misfortune to be caught in a marine contaminate (i.e an oil spill).  He has been undergoing various treatments to help him to overcome the chemicals that his little body was exposed to.

Rinney is not a huge fan of having his picture taken but he can be tempted with the promise of treats.

He is incredibly endearing but more than a little bit pedantic about his environment and very set in his ways.  The arrival of a tank mate has thoroughly put his nose out of joint!

Meet Woodson

Juvenile Woodson washed up in 2015 suffering from floaters syndrome and starvation. At first we thought that his unusual facial features was the result of a terrible blow to the head but after closer inspection it appears to be a deformation that occurred while he was still developing inside the egg.

It means that he has one working eye but this sprightly little fella has not let it hold him back. He loves to sit underneath his water feature and has developed the quirky little habit of swimming backwards. Woodson has just recently moved into the display tank with Rinney and at this point in time, neither turtle appears to be too happy about it!


Angie the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

Angie is the Centre’s longest patient – an adult female Olive Ridley that arrived in 2009 from Cape York via Qantas with a broken jaw, damaged shell and floaters syndrome; it was suspected that she had an altercation with a resident crocodile or a trawler.

The Golden Girl of the Centre, Angie is a very cheeky turtle that likes to keep the volunteers on their toes by attacking the cleaning equipment with an enthusiasm that would put Hulk Hogan to shame!

Margaret the Green Sea Turtle

Margaret is a big girl! She was found by the crew of Cairns Dive Centre in January 2015 floating half-way between Fitzroy Island and Cairns. Margaret had eaten plastic bags and had been floating for nearly 10 months by the time she was discovered.

She was extremely weak, emaciated and she had pneumonia. Most turtles will go back to Cairns straight away but Margaret posed a unique problem- she was so big that we could not fit her into a transport box!

As result Margaret is the only turtle to receive all of her treatment on the island. She is making a strong recovery- and she has a not very subtle way of letting you know when she doesn’t want her photo taken (by trying to bite the camera)!

Lou the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle

We have a new contender for my favourite turtle! Lou is an adult male Olive Ridley who was caught in a ‘ghost net’. The poor boy has lost two flippers- one on each side. Fortunately for Lou they were on opposite sides of his body so he is still able to swim.

Lou has a can-do attitude and is just plain lovable although you have to keep an eye on him because he is the Centre’s number one culprit for trying to bite volunteers – even those he likes. He adores getting his carapace scrubbed- but you do have to watch his beak closely as he will regularly try to bite the scrubbing brush and who-ever’s fingers are holding it at the time!

Twiggy the Hawksbill Turtle

Twiggy washed ashore in Cape York in October 2016. The critically endangered Hawksbill was suffering from severe starvation- she was so emaciated that the volunteers could think of no better name for her than ‘Twiggy’.

After a brief stint in the Cairns Intensive Care unit Twiggy was relocated to Fitzroy Island where she is very shy; hidden beneath her floating toy and only coming out for food (which she gobbles with great relish).

Shelly the Flatback Turtle

Shelly washed ashore near Port Douglas at the start of December 2016. She was underweight and suffering from a semi-state of floaters syndrome. Fortunately Shelly did not have any form of infection in her tiny body so she was able to transfer out of our Intensive Care to Fitzroy Island within weeks of being found. She is an incredibly timid turtle and is so far proving a most picky eater.


Nellie the Green Sea Turtle, released November 2016

Nellie has been treated twice at the Rehabilitation Centre. The first time was in the early days of the Centre’s operations when she was treated for starvation (and released having regained her condition). Nellie was brought back to the Centre in 2012 suffering from a condition known as Fibro Paploma.

The only turtle in Australia to have made a full recovery from the contagious disease, Nellie finally left Intensive Care in December 2014 and spent the next two years rebuilding her former strength at Fitzroy Island. Nellie was released towards the end of the year- and while she will be sorely missed, we hope that third time is the charm and we never see her back again.

Ella the Green Sea Turtle, released June 2016

Little Ella is a miracle turtle. She was hit by a boat and her shell and head were badly damaged; for a while it was touch and go whether or not she would survive her extensive injuries. You might have seen the episode of Bondi Vet that featured Ella’s dramatic arrival.

With intensive veterinary care this little battler overcame her traumatic injuries (you could see her lungs through the wound) to make a strong recovery – her journey took nearly four years. Ella loved people and used to get very excited whenever a tour came through as she loved to show off to new people.

Jilly the Flatback Sea Turtle, released February 2016

Jilly washed into a Cairns inlet November 2014 and she had clearly been in the wars! Jilly has an old bite out of the back of her shell and she had lost half of her rear flipper in the attack – although this had happened several years ago and Jilly healed completely from this incident in the wild.

Fortunately for Jilly her luck held the next time she ran into a predator- a crocodile this time- and she escaped again, but this time she had a series of bites to her head, neck and shell. She was found injured and floating and was rushed into the Centre where she slowly healed.

Being a shy turtle Jilly was released on a private Glass Bottom Boat trip away from unwanted attention.

Harry the Hawksbill Hatchling, January 2016

Found when he was a mere 15cm long post-hatchling, Harry was discovered floating and emaciated in October 2013. At that age Harry should have been with his companions in the middle of the ocean rather than inshore where he was found.

He instantly won the hearts of all the volunteers with his tiny stature and stubborn nature- in the early days it could be a challenge to get him to eat when he would rather play (pictured left).

During his time with the Centre Harry grew significantly (pictured right). He is the youngest turtle that the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre has been able to track and we are excited to discover how he spends his time now that he is back in the wild!

Jude the Green Sea Turtle, October 2015

Jude was a young juvenile sea turtle found suffering from starvation. Although it has been years since Cyclone Yasi devastated the seagrass beds in 2011 not all of the beds have recovered and starvation turtles continue to be a common occurrence.

Jude was found in October 2014. Following Squirt’s release Jude move into the front tank with Ella. She is gentle and kind but she had shown herself to be surprisingly tough- she was the ony one out of Ella’s tank mates (the other two have been released) who dared to take food out of Ella’s mouth!

Jude’s release was filmed by the BBC as part of their upcoming documentary on the Great Barrier Reef- so be sure to keep an eye out for our little star!

Squirt the Green Sea Turtle, released September 2015

Ella’s former tank mate Squirt was discovered near Lizard Island floating, starved and with a wide-spread infection through her eyes. It took careful treatment twice a day to save her eyesight and she has recovered well as a result; although she was not very happy with the people that nursed her back to health!

Squirt loved to play although she was shy around people that she didn’t know. Squirt was famous for bearig grudges- she held a grudge for five months against the vets that saved her eyesight and was even known to get grumpy with volunteers if they went on a holiday.

Squirt was released with a satalite tracker so we can keep an eye on her progress back in the wild.

Woody the Hawksbill Turtle, released September 2015

Woody was a juvenile Hawksbill who was found floating and starved. It took a few years for Woody to regain his former condition and strength. Woody’s favourite thing to do was to sit underneath his filter bag and feel the flow of seawater cascading over his shell. He used to spend the majority of his time hiding in his tunnel.

Woody was released with a satellite tracker and a video recorder allowing a turtle-eye view of his return to the reef!