Visiting the Great Barrier Reef is a must-do experience for visitors to the Cairns region in Tropical Far North Queensland. No matter how you choose to explore the Reef, from snorkelling to scuba diving, taking a glass-bottom boat ride to helicopter tours, witnessing the utter magic of all the wondrous sea life that call the Reef home is an unbeatable experience.
In addition to more than 600 different types of hard and soft coral (that form the individual reefs that together make up the Great Barrier Reef), this magnificent natural structure is also home to thousands of different species of fish, crustaceans, rays, molluscs, starfish, dolphins, birds, whales and the most requested animal of all when it comes to seeing animals up close in their natural reef habitat, marine turtles.
Thankfully, the Cairns region is abundant with gorgeous locations at which you can see spectacular and gentle marines turtle up close. Did you know that the Great Barrier Reef is in fact home to six of the world’s total of seven marine turtle species? Amazing, huh! Upon your visit to the Great Barrier Reef, you may be lucky enough to spot one or more of the following species of marine turtles: Green Turtle, Flatback Turtle, Loggerhead Turtle, Hawksbill Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle and Leatherback Turtle (sadly, five of six of these species are currently listed as endangered).
Let us introduce to you now five of the most amazing locations to sea marine turtles amongst the Great Barrier Reef near Cairns.
Of the five locations listed in this article, Fitzroy Island is rather unique – it is one of the only locations on the Great Barrier Reef where you can admire sea turtles in both their natural habitat as well as at the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (located right on Fitzroy Island).
Fitzroy Island is a stunning tropical island situated just 45 minutes from Cairns via Fast Cat. Fitzroy Island welcomes day visitors as well as guests who wish to stay longer and enjoy all Fitzroy Island Resort has to offer.
One of the most popular ways to see turtles in the warm, tropical waters that surround Fitzroy Island is by snorkelling straight from the shore of the island’s main beaches, Welcome Bay and Nudey Beach (which took out the prized number one spot in Australia’s Top 101 Beaches Awards for 2018). Other fun ways in which you can explore the Great Barrier Reef that surrounds the island include scuba diving, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and taking a glass-bottom boat tour.
If you are a nature and animal lover, be sure to book in for an intimate tour of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre upon arrival at Fitzroy Island. The Centre open their doors to visitors once per day at 1pm, where you can see firsthand the amazing work that is carried out by dedicated volunteers who lovingly tend to sick and/or injured sea turtles, with the goal of releasing them back into their ocean home.
If you are dying to see the magic that is one of the planet’s most enormous gatherings of marine turtles in the one location, a visit to Raine Island is an absolute must. More than 60,000 (!) female green turtles migrate their way to the shores of Raine Island in order to lay their eggs throughout peak breeding season. In fact, this incredible natural phenomenon has been covered in Sir David Attenborough’s magnificent ‘Great Barrier Reef’ series.
Only a small number of boat operators venture to Raine Island, as it is located 620km north west of Cairns. However, if you are passionate about turtles and nature in general, a visit to Raine Island is most certainly worth the journey and price.
Image credit: parks.des.qld.gov.au
Green Island is a popular choice for tourists to the Cairns area and is situated approximately 45 minutes by boat from the Cairns marina. The coral reefs that surround Green Island are home to a number of different sea animals, including marine turtles, and can be admired by swimming or snorkelling.
Turtle Bay, Agincourt Reef
A number of local boat tours (launching from Port Douglas) venture to the protected corner of Agincourt Reef, Turtle Bay (a 90-minute boat ride in each direction). If you are a big turtle lover, a visit to Turtle Bay is a must, especially during the warmer months of late Spring/early Summer, when nesting season occurs.
At Turtle Bay, you can expect to see both the Green Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle species, and perhaps even an Olive Ridley Turtle or the striking Loggerhead Turtle, too.
Image credit: tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au
Mojo, Opal Reef
Mojo, Opal Reef is in fact located nearby to Agincourt Reef and as a result is also frequented by a number of turtles from Late October through to early December. Similar to Turtle Bay, you can hope to see a variety of different sea turtle species at this location.