It’s Turtle Time on the Ningaloo!
Everyone loves sea turtles, and the Ningaloo Reef a great place to be able to witness sea turtles both in the water, and on the land. This time of year is particularly exciting for turtle lovers as it’s the time where mature female turtles come up on to shores all along the Ningaloo Coast to nest. If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to encounter this amazing sight or even see some of the adorable hatchlings emerge from the nest and make a mad dash to the sea!
Turtle mating and nesting season occurs on the Ningaloo every year between the months of November to March. In celebration of this exciting time of year, lets delve into some interesting facts about our beloved marine reptiles and the Ningaloo Reef.
- The oldest known sea turtle fossil is at least 120 million years old, making sea turtles some of the oldest creatures on the planet. That means they shared the planet with dinosaurs!
- Of the 7 living species of sea turtles found around the world, 6 of these species can be found on the Ningaloo. The Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) is by far the most common species you will find, followed by the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). There have been sightings of Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Flatback turtles (Natator depressus), but these are less common.
- Sea turtles have lungs, which means they need to come to the surface to breathe. How long they can hold their breath depends on the activity they are doing. If they are swimming, feeding and generally being quite active, they’ll need to surface every few minutes to breathe. However if they are sleeping or resting, they can hold their breath for 5-7 hours! They do this by reducing their heart rate to as low as 1 beat every 9 minutes!
- Green and Loggerhead turtles are most commonly found to nest on the Ningaloo Coast, along with the occasional Hawksbill and Flatback. This stretch of coast is recognised as one of the most important nesting grounds in the world for green and loggerhead turtles, two species that are globally classified as Endangered.
- During a mating season, female turtles will mate with several different males and they can store the sperm of these mating partners. Hatchlings from a single nest can have different fathers, which is the female’s way of giving her offspring genetic diversity.
- The gender of a sea turtle is determined by the temperature of the nest in which they develop. Warmer temperatures (>28oC) produce females and cooler temperatures (<28oC) produce males. This is cause for concern with increasing global temperatures, as it’s likely that there will be many more female sea turtles than males in future.
- The Ningaloo Turtle Program, run by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions with the assistance of community volunteers and the Cape Conservation group, has been running since 2002. Dedicated volunteers walk long stretches of beach on the western cape of Exmouth every morning of the peak nesting season to monitor and record all of the tracks and nests made by each turtle. This valuable information is part of a long-term study on the nesting behaviour of the Ningaloo sea turtle population. To learn more about this program, visit http://www.ningalooturtles.org.au/
- Our Marine Eco Safari and 3hr Turtle Eco tour are two great tours that give you an opportunity to see these amazing marine reptiles in their natural environment! We look forward to welcoming you to Coral Bay.
If you’re out on the Ningaloo Coast searching for nesting turtles and/or hatchlings, please follow the guidelines of the ‘Turtle Code of Conduct’ prepared by the Turtle team at the Department of Parks and Wildlife. When swimming with sea turtles, please always give them space to feel comfortable to come to the surface to breathe. Never chase them or try to touch them, or you’ll scare them away. Respectful interactions are always the best!