The sunny state of Queensland on the east coast of Australia is home to one of the world’s most magnificent coral reefs, the renowned Great Barrier Reef. Where better to get up close and admire sea turtles in their natural environment than amongst the Great Barrier Reef?
Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is more than 2,300 kilometres long? This captivating natural structure starts near Bundaberg in the south and runs all the way up to the Cape York Peninsula, Australia’s most northern point. The Great Barrier Reef is in fact comprised of a large number of individual hard and soft coral reefs, approximately 2,900 in total. Thanks to its lovely, warm tropical waters, the Great Barrier Reef makes for the perfect home for six of the world’s seven different species of marine turtles.
Over two million people from all over Australia and the world make their journey to the Great Barrier Reef each and every year, and its not hard to understand why. Thanks to its awe-inspiring reefs, stunning animal inhabitants and divine tropical islands, the Great Barrier Reef is high on the travel bucket list of many travellers. Interestingly, when asked what people would most like to see on an adventure to the Great Barrier Reef, turtles are far and above the most wished-for encounter.
Turtles are fascinating, majestic, curious and harmless animals that will often glide right on by you as you snorkel or dive amongst the magical Great Barrier Reef. The following six different species of marine turtles live amongst the Reef: the Green Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Flatback Turtle and Leatherback Turtle. Pollution and other causes have sadly led to five of these six species being listed as endangered.
Now we shall share with you five of our top picks for spotting sea turtles in Australia (all of which are dotted along the Great Barrier Reef).
Turtle Bay, Agincourt Reef
The aptly named Turtle Bay, located at Agincourt Reef (the outer Great Barrier Reef) is a fantastic spot for turtle-spotting from late October to early December. Agincourt Reef is a very popular choice for visitors to the Great Barrier Reef and is accessible via a 90-minute boat ride from Port Douglas (one hour north of Cairns). Choose to snorkel or dive at this location during late spring to early summer and you can hope to see the more common Green and Hawksbill Turtles, and if luck is on your side, Olive Ridley and Loggerhead Turtles, too.
Mojo, Opal Reef
Opal Reef is located not far from the popular Agincourt Reef, and similarly welcomes the same marine turtle species from late October until early December.
If you are a turtle lover, you absolutely must visit the stunning tropical island paradise of Fitzroy Island, situated just off the coast of Cairns in Tropical Far North Queensland. Thanks to its position right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as being home to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Fitzroy Island is a must-see destination for all things sea turtles.
Fitzroy Island is easily reached from Cairns- simply make your way to the Cairns Marina and take a 45-minute Fast Cat ride to the island. What makes Fitzroy Island a top choice for travellers in the area is the fact you can visit for just the day, or stay a little longer and relax and unwind in your preferred choice of accommodation at Fitzroy Island Resort.
Fitzroy Island is a water lover’s paradise, thanks to the beautiful fringing Great Barrier Reef, in addition to the array of water activities on offer. There are many ways for you to explore the waters that surround the island, including snorkelling, scuba diving, glass-bottom kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and by taking a Glass Bottom Boat Tour.
Fitzroy Island is the perfect place to put on your mask and snorkel, take a dip in the warm aqua water and admire the fascinating, beautiful creature that is the sea turtle. Snorkelling at Fitzroy Island shall also give you the chance to see beautiful tropical fish, giant clams and an array of different coral species. All relevant equipment can be hired from the island’s Dive and Adventure Centre.
Upon arriving at Fitzroy Island, be sure to book in for the daily Turtle Rehabilitation Centre Tour (which begins at 1pm and lasts for 45 minutes). The Centre is operated solely by volunteers, who dedicate their time and skills to care for and rehabilitate sick and injured turtles for release back onto the Great Barrier Reef.
If you love sea turtles and are after the adventure of a lifetime, you should consider travelling to Raine Island to witness the awe-inspiring, annual Green Turtle visit. Over 60,000 (yes, you read that right!) female Green Turtles travel thousands of kilometres each year to the island in order to lay their precious eggs. Thanks to its location (620km north west of Cairns), only a handful of tour operators take visitors to the island; however, it is truly a sight to behold and more than worth the cost.
Image Credit: newsport.com.au
Green Island and its fringing coral reefs are another popular choice for tourists looking to swim and snorkel amongst the Great Barrier Reef. Sea turtle sightings in its surrounding waters occur on a regular basis.