27 Oct 2022
If you haven’t witnessed the turtle nesting season in Port Hedland, start firming up your travel plans, because it’s on again.
Between November and March every year, the Australian Flatback sea turtle, otherwise known by the slightly misleading name of Natator Depressus, hatch their young along Australia’s northern coastlines.
In Port Hedland on Western Australia’s Pilbara coast, because of its unique location and proximity to Eighty Mile Beach, it happens close to the centre of town.
This makes it easy for locals and visitors to witness one of nature's sweetest migrations, with baby turtles making their awkward (and often perilous) way across the sand from their hatching sites in the dunes out into the relative safety of the ocean.
Check out the cuteness overload in the video below!
Able to lay up to four times at 2-3 week intervals, female flatbacks use their front flippers to dig and clear away dry sand, and will then create an egg chamber using their back flippers to lay eggs in.
Before retreating back to the sea, she will then cover the nest using her back flippers, while also tossing sand back over her shell with her front ones.
Taking about 50 days to hatch, the sex of each turtle is determined largely by the temperature of the nest.
Eighty Mile Beach is recognised as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The rich feeding grounds at Eighty Mile Beach Marine Park attract thousands of small migratory wading birds each summer, travelling from countries thousands of kilometres away. Species found at Eight Mile Beach during the migratory season include eastern curlews, great knots, red knots, Terek sandpipers, pied oystercatchers, greater sand plovers, Oriental plovers and red-capped plovers.
Flatback Turtle Facts
Unique to Australian waters - the Flatback sea turtle lives mostly in the subtropical waters of the Australian continental shelf - and is recognizable for its smooth, yellow-rimmed olive green shell and brighter yellow underbelly.
Surviving for an average of about 50 years (although some go on to live to a ripe old age of about 70) their shells can grow to almost 100 cm in length and they can weigh up to 90kg at full maturity.
Care for Hedland
Still listed as a threatened species by the International Union of Conservation for Nature, Discovery Parks - Port Hedland has been supporting the work of local conservation agency, Care for Hedland for several years, subsiding accommodation for volunteers from around the world to take part in their flatback turtle monitoring program.
The presence of Flatback turtles in Port Hedland provides a unique opportunity for the community and visitors to be actively involved in contributing to the monitoring of the protected species.
Care for Hedland runs an annual Flatback turtle volunteer program, where volunteers help out with data collection and overall conservation awareness. No previous experience is necessary but a reasonable level of fitness is required to walk the beaches.
Volunteers get the opportunity to observe Flatback turtles returning to the sea, see hatchlings emerge from nests, assist in turtle rescues, observe the nesting process at night and be hands on and assist in the mark/recapture tagging program.
Care For Hedland relies on out-of-town volunteers for the turtle monitoring program and encourage all to apply. For more information, see our Volunteer Information Pack 2022-23 and email your completed Volunteer Application Form to firstname.lastname@example.org.