Sometimes it’s hard to even pull yourself away from your desk for lunch. However, when you do have the opportunity to travel, you can truly be blown away by what you see. There was one destination we visited that had more unique and diverse wildlife than any other; The Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Lady Elliot Island is situated on the southernmost end of the Great Barrier Reef. It is a small island known as a coral cay built slowly over thousands of years as coral breaks off and collects in shallow water. It is remote and the only human inhabitants come from the small “eco-resort” that hosts about 150 guests at a time. Humans are greatly outnumbered on and around the island by birds, tropical fish, manta rays and endangered turtles.
For this post we will focus on the celebrities of the island: endangered sea turtles. We were fortunate to be on the island during hatching season. Hatchlings usually come out at night. Even during hatching season you still need to be in the right place at the right time before the baby sea turtles race to the water. It was only our second day on the island when we heard shouting coming from the beach. We rushed over and arrived in time to see this little green sea turtle making a break for the ocean.
It’s a rare sight to see a baby sea turtle during broad daylight as they usually wait for the cooler temperatures after the sun sets so they can navigate to the water under cover of darkness to protect themselves from predators. Fortunately, this turtle had no trouble making for the open water with the protection of his 40 or so human guides.
When a turtle hatches, it heads for the brightest light, which without electricity would be the moon and the stars reflecting off of the ocean. One reason sea turtles are so threatened is the presence of artificial light. While Lady Elliot Island has relatively few inhabitants at any one time, there is still ample light to distract the turtles. Over the next few nights we saw even more hatchlings come up out of the sand and move immediately toward the brightly lit bar area. It took a team of flashlight-equipped employees and vacationing volunteers (us!) to help navigate the turtles one by one back toward the ocean.
The sad reality is that these animals are endangered and there are very few places where you can still see them in their natural environment. They say only one in a thousand sea turtles make it back to its birthplace to nest thirty years after hatching.
We were fortunate to see so many of these elegant creatures. In fact, we got to experience the entire life cycle of the sea turtles. We saw turtles nesting, hatching and swimming free in the lagoon next to the island. Once in a lifetime experiences like this are why we travel. We did everything we could to help guide those turtles to the ocean with the hope that future generations will enjoy the same opportunity we did.