Heron Island, a National Marine Park situated in the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, is a significant nesting location for two threatened sea turtle species, the Green Turtle and the Loggerhead Turtle. Year after year these turtles return on the high tide to nest in the sandy dunes from late October to early March.
Late December marks the beginning of baby Green and Loggerhead Turtle hatching season, a cycle that will continue into May. Undeterred by human presence the hatchlings erupt from their nests between 25 to 50 metres from shore and make their way to the reef, just beyond the water’s edge. During this journey, the hatchlings will be imprinting on the environment, so they know to return to these beaches as mature adults. This crossing from nest to ocean also gives hatchlings the opportunity to warm up their flippers in preparation for their big ocean journey.
For guests, the opportunity to see turtles nesting or hatchlings erupting, is as simple as taking a stroll around the island at sunset or sunrise. As a world-renowned haven for turtles, guests at Heron Island are given strict guidelines for the viewing of turtles to minimise disturbance to these magnificent marine reptiles. Naturalist guides on Heron Island also lead complimentary educational tours for observing the turtles and hatchlings.
Calling Heron Island home, Master Reef Guide and Marine Biologist, Catie Streng gets to witness this wondrous lifecycle of the turtles and their hatchlings each year.
“During our complimentary sunrise and sunset turtle walks guests are amazed by the experience of seeing a turtle nesting or the tiny hatchlings erupting to make their dash out to sea. It is such a privilege to pass on my knowledge of sea turtles to our guests, who are enthusiastic to know how they can protect these endangered reptiles during their stay at Heron Island and also when they go back home.” Commented Streng.
The Turtles are coming to Heron Island!
It is time to dust the sand off the welcome mat in preparation for the arrival of hundreds of sea turtles who return to Heron Island year after year for their annual breeding and nesting season.
Although you can swim with turtles year-round at Heron Island, from late October to early March, endangered Loggerhead and Green Sea Turtles return on the high tide to nest in the dunes. Then from December to April, be enchanted by hatchlings as they begin to erupt from their nests.
To be part of this magical experience take advantage of our Turtle Package, which allows you to view the turtles in the water, through an underwater window or with a glass of wine in your hand. The choice is yours!
Turtle Experience Package
Pricing is based on accommodation chosen and includes:
- Accommodation with full breakfast daily
- Snorkelling equipment hire (snorkel, fins and mask)
- A $100 Marine Centre Voucher – which can be used towards a tour of your choice, including a Snorkel Tour, I-Spy Semi-Submersible Tour or Sunset Cruise
- Turtle Tours with qualified naturalist guides
- Learn more at the Evening Turtle Presentations
Heron Island is world renowned as an extraordinary, unique destination that allows guests to truly experience being a guest of nature. But what exactly is it about Heron Island that makes it so unique and such a popular destination for travellers and nature lovers alike? From the surrounding reef to the island itself, here are few insights that set Heron Island apart from other island destinations.
- Heron Island is a natural coral cay, which is both part of the Great Barrier Reef and surrounded by it. Making it one of the few locations on the planet where you can walk from your room to the beach and dive into one of the 7 Wonders of the World.
- Heron Island reef is home to the Great Barrier Reef’s living icons, The Great Eight. These creatures are top of everyone’s wish list to see and include; Clownfish, Giant Clams, Manta Rays, Maori Wrasse, potato cod, sharks, turtles and whales.
- The University of Queensland’s Heron Island Research Station is the largest research station of its kind in the world. This world-class research and teaching facility conducts tours for guests, discussing their current research and experiments.
- Heron Island is in a World Heritage listed Marine National Park, supporting around 1000 of the 1,600 different fish species that can be found on the Great Barrier Reef. The Heron Reef is also home to 72% of the more than 450 species of hard coral that is found on the Great Barrier Reef.
- Visitors don’t need to swim to experience the Great Barrier Reef. Guests at Heron Island can join a guided Reef Discovery Walk with one of Heron’s Naturalist guides at low tide or experience the reef in our semi-submersible, I-Spy.
- The Capricorn Bunker, which includes Heron Island, is home to one of Australia’s largest populations of Green and Loggerhead Turtles, who nest from October to December, with hatchlings emerging from January until May.
- Heron Island is a significant breeding site and protected sanctuary for a huge variety of seabirds. During the peak of nesting season in January, there can be over 100,000 migratory birds nesting on Heron Island.
- Heron Island is home to a highly protected, ancient Pisonia forest. The Pisonia trees are a vital part of the eco-system on a coral cay. At Heron Island these trees share a symbiotic relationship with the nesting Noddy Turn birds.
- During their northern migration, which begins in June, Humpback Whales are visible off the jetty at Heron Island. They are frequently seen playing and breeching in the channel between Heron Reef and Wistari Reef.
- For a birds eye view of the Great Barrier Reef, visitors can book a helicopter transfer between Gladstone and Heron Island.