As many as 350 rare loggerhead turtles have launched themselves onto beaches along Australia’s Southern Great Barrier Reef region.

The Mon Repos Conservation Park near Bundaberg is home to the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific, and is a regular nesting site for loggerhead, flatback and green turtles between November and March each year.

Now, at the height of the season, hundreds of hatchlings are emerging from their nests and heading into the ocean.

Between November and January, mature female turtles burrow deep into the sand in the darkness of night to lay as many as 130 eggs per clutch before returning to the water. The hatchlings then incubate for eight weeks before breaking out of the nest and hurling themselves toward the ocean.

For more than 40 years, Queensland’s Environment and Heritage Department has tagged nesting turtles at Mon Repos with special GPS tracking devices, providing vital information about turtle migration and breeding patterns.

The sight of an ancient mariner dragging its body up the beach for nesting followed by the moonlit scurry of hundreds of hatchlings into the ocean has become a popular tourism attraction, with ranger-guided turtle tours running seven nights a week during the season.

Until the end of March, hatchlings will emerge from the sands of Mon Repos and other Queensland beaches to make their own way into the world’s vast oceans.

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