Turtles are very obviously the superior creatures of the sea. They’re ridiculously adorable and odd looking at the same time – those doe eyes always get me. They also need our help.
Queensland is the (unofficial) home of the wee turtles, with six of the seven marine turtle species in the WORLD found there. Obviously, the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is a huge drawcard for them and makes snorkelling second to none.
Imagine if you could combine the perfect tropical vacay with a chance to help these magnificent creatures live their best lives? Perfection, no? Here are four ways you can do just that, and have the most unforgettable experience of your life.
1. Mon Repos Turtle Centre
Mon Repos in Bundaberg is home to the largest population of nesting marine loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific, so it makes sense that they’ve made the entire area a conservation park complete with a turtle info centre.
They ask for a number of volunteers each season to help teach the waves of visitors about the turtles, their habits and what areas to stay away from so as not to disturb the animals – don’t worry training is provided. Whether you’re lucky enough to nab a spot or not, you can still go and marvel at the hatching turtles as a visitor.
As a bonus, you’ll get to explore Bundaberg and surrounds between volunteer shifts. It’s a good opp to replenish yourself after a hard day’s work at local fave gin distillery, Kalki Moon, or take a day trip over to the stunning Lady Musgrave Island.
2. Eye On The Reef
Picture this: you’re out on the iconic Great Barrier Reef, having the time of your life snorkelling around the thousands of marine species that call it home, and you’re lucky enough to spot a turtle. Amazing, right? You obviously snap a photo with your GoPro.
Thanks to the Aussie Government-run Eye On The Reef program, that very same photo can help marine park managers and researchers follow the health status, species distributions and gather early warning signs of any environmental impacts to turtles and all creatures living on the GBR. Just download the app and follow the very easy instructions to upload your images.
The best part is, you don’t need to change your holiday. If you ask me, and I’ll tell you even if you didn’t, I’d absolutely get myself to Great Keppel Island. It’s part of a chain of islands along the Southern GBR that Flatback turtles use as breeding grounds.
3. Great Barrier Reef Turtle Rehab Centre
If you’re looking for a longer volunteer-vacay, a stint with the Great Barrier Reef Turtle Rehab Centre on Fitzroy Island just off the mainland from Cairns is absolutely for you. You’ll get to live in Cairns and catch the ferry over. Can’t say no to helping in one of the few areas in the WORLD where you can visit two UNESCO world heritage listed sites – the underwater marvel of the GBR and the 65 million-year-old Daintree Rainforest.
For a minimum of one week at any time of year, you can sign up to a five-day work week roster to help treat sick and injured turtles brought in from all over the GBR and Cape York Peninsula.
Just imagine – spend your mornings cleaning tanks, feeding turtles and speaking with visitors, then spend your afternoons and days off soaking in everything Cairns has to offer. From snorkelling among thousands of sea creatures just off Fitzroy Island, eating Aussie-themed home-made icecream in the middle of the Daintree, and eating yourself silly at my personal fave restaurant, the floating Prawn Star.
4. Marine Wildlife Strandings Response
Due to a large reduction of seagrass in recent years, turtles are travelling further and spending more time at the surface trying to find food. This has led to an increase in beach strandings up and down the coast and a growing need for help. Enter the Marine Wildlife Strandings Response volunteers.
You can join the team and become part of the effort to get our adorbs sea friends back to it, all while you’re living it up on your regular holiday around beautiful QLD. To get involved, all you have to do is complete the free online training package. It’ll walk you through how to get the stranded animals back into the ocean safely, as well as who you can contact in a stranding emergency.
If you want a really good idea of how much your help means (plus just an idyllic spot to lay beachside when you’re not saving the world) you should definitely include a trip to the turtle hospital at Townsville’s Reef HQ Aquarium. Plus it’s an easy day trip to the paradise that is Magnetic Island, where you can add close encounters with dugongs, wallabies, koalas, possums and flying-foxes to your vacay dream list.
I don’t know about you, but a tropical beachy holiday during which I can also help one (or more) of our amazing sea creatures sounds like the jackpot.