The Insider Mum’s Guide: Mon Repos Turtle Encounter - Bundaberg Region
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The Insider Mum’s Guide: Mon Repos Turtle Encounter

Mon Repos Turtle Encounter has become a tradition in our family – since moving to Bundaberg, my family has visited at least twice a season.  There's something about the Encounter that keeps pulling us back, time and time again.

 

 

Living in a house with two high energy boys, even I am amazed that they’ve never grown sick of attending, but that's the magic of the Mon Repos.  Each time, the experience is unique, whether we’re there to see hatchlings or mummas and it’s never gotten old.  We’ve see nests of babies that never seem to stop emerging, we’ve sat on the dunes in the driving rain without even noticing, we’ve seen the darkest of nights and evenings almost as bright as day under full moons, and we’ve even had the honour of watching Dr Col Limpus perform an ultrasound on one of the last nesting mummas of the season.  The wonder lies not only in the act itself but in the sense of connection — of being a part of something profound and timeless.

So, as someone who almost knows the routine by heart, I am sharing some of my top tips on what to expect as you and your family prepare for your Encounter.

Booking Your Tour

We always book early, especially over school holidays and weekends in hatchling season as these tickets sell out – fast!  The earlier you book, the higher your chances of being in one of the first groups, which can make a big difference some nights.  When my boys were little, I always made sure I took an adult for each child in our group – my littlest (the asleep-by-eight one) often fell asleep in my arms on the beach and my eldest (the party-all-night one) always had to be in the middle of the action, so extra hands were vital. 

Arrive Armed & Ready

Preparation is key to enjoying what can end up being a very late night with kids. 

  • An early night the evening before and/or a nap on the day was essential for my two – even when we were on the beach extra early, it is always past their bedtimes by the time we’re finished.
  • Get ahead of hangry attitudes by having an early dinner and packing plenty of snacks. 
    Mummy Hint: I save myself a lot of stress by eating at the on-site Milbi Café, which will be open from 5pm for meals across the 2023/24 season;
  • Take a backpack – it’s far easier to carry on the beach while wrangling excited kids
  • Pack smart – I recommend water bottles, card games and books, bug spray for any cheeky mosquitos, and raincoats if the weather looks questionable;
  • I also hide fully charged devices with headphones in my bag just in case our evening runs late, though the boys haven’t had to use them yet.  Be aware that reception can be very patchy at the Centre, so have movies downloaded in advance;
  • Dress appropriately – we wear trainers or crocs that are comfortable if we have to walk all the way to the other end of the beach, plus clothes we can get active in like shorts, as well as a light jumper (it can get fresh some nights in the sea air);
  • Bring a torch for each child with a brightness of 100 lumens or less.  These are essential if the kids get chosen to form the turtle tunnel to help the hatchlings find the water.  But keep them in your bags if your kids are torch-happy like mine so they don’t use them on the beach without the Rangers’ permission!
  • Strollers and prams are great for a little one while you’re in the Centre but aren’t allowed on the beach, so I strongly recommend packing a baby carrier as it’s helpful to have your hands free when you’re navigating the beach and dunes.
  • We also have a conversation about what the night may look like – some evenings you’ll go expecting hatchlings and will see a mumma instead, on some nights you’ll be on the beach immediately while others you’ll be waiting for hours, and rarely, you may not see any turtles at all.  It’s just part of the experience but I like to prepare my kids for in advance.

 

In The Centre

From the moment you arrive, the Centre is a multi-sensory experience.  Every time we come, we love to see how the native plants are growing around the state-of-the-art centre, making it all but disappear, and listening to the waves. 

  • Once we get into the Centre and receive our group sticker, I try to find a place to act of our homebase.  After this we explore outside if its still light;
  • The kids always gravitate towards the Turtle Tales Immersive Experience - they’re entertained for ages with all of the interactive exhibits in the Junior Discovery zone and it’s cool in the air conditioning on hot nights;
    Mummy Hint: If we’re not in the first group in nesting season, I try to delay the boys’ from going in here until we’re settled with some snacks or other distractions – pacing your night is important as our turtle could take a while to arrive.
  • Another wonderful space is the outdoor amphitheatre – it’s dark and quiet and picks up cool breezes straight off the dunes so it’s a wonderful escape for when my sensory-seekers need a quiet break from all the stimulation;
  • Throughout the night, the Rangers will run presentations on turtles – make the most of these if you’re waiting, the Rangers are wonderful with kids;
  • Ask the Rangers and volunteers for a turtle facts and fun activities booklet.

 

Our Turtle Has Arrived!

When your turtle has arrived or your clutch is ready to emerge, the Rangers and volunteers will call your group number.  Gather the family and your belongings and meet your Rangers and volunteer turtle guides and it’s never gotten old outside the centre.

  • Put your mobiles and iPads away and stash the torches that your kids are probably desperate to use, unless you’re instructed otherwise by the Rangers;
  • The group size is perfectly designed by the Rangers and researchers to minimise light spill when you’re at your turtle event, but it can mean you need to listen carefully to hear their instructions throughout the evening;
  • You may need to walk a way on the turtle trails or along the beach, so keep the kids close as the ground can be uneven and the nights can be dark;
  • When you’re on the beach, keep lights off and remain with your group. Nesting turtles are easily disturbed by light and movement especially when leaving the water, crossing the beach and digging their nests – this is when the one-adult-to-each-child recommendation is especially useful if you have energetic boys like I do

 

At The Turtle Event

Your group will be asked to form a circle or semicircle around your nesting mumma or emerging clutch.  Be aware that this can be up on a dune or on rocky sand so keep an eye on the kids.  I usually get them to sit somewhere they can see with me behind them – this keeps them in one place and allows others to see over the top of us.  Then, watch the magic unfold!

  • Your guides will instruct you where to stand – pay attention and listen closely.  This can be tricky if it’s a windy night or the tide is high, so be patient and quiet. 
  • Everyone will get the chance to view the turtle event, so don’t worry if you’re not immediately in a prime position;
  • Keep your kids close and quiet – they usually want to move close but this isn’t good for the turtle and noisy children make it very difficult for your fellow guests to hear what’s going on;
  • Your guide to let you know when you can take photographs – please don’t be that person who has their phone or camera out when you’re not supposed to, as this contributes to light spill that may affect other turtles;
  • Ensure your kids keep their hands to themselves – these are wild animals and should never be touched;
  • Encourage the kids to ask questions if they have questions and the timing is right – the Rangers are a wealth of knowledge and love to educate their guests.

 

After The Event

Some families like to head home straight after they get back from the beach, while others come back to the Centre and enjoy the facilities.  The night is up to you!

Most of all, bring a relaxed attitude and a healthy sense of curiosity.  This is an experience your family will remember for a very long time, so enjoy it as it unfolds.

 

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Tuesday, 23 April 2024

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