Turtles, Turtles, Turtles!

November is one of our favourite times at Sal Salis, when the green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles we have snorkelled alongside all year begin to mate offshore and then haul themselves up onto the beach to lay their eggs. About six weeks later, the smallest turtles you ever did see dig their way out of the sand and race for the protection of the water – quite a spectacle for some of our lucky guests staking out the nests under moonlight after dinner.

Digging Snorkel1
Hawksbill Nesting

In honour of this exciting time at Ningaloo, we thought we’d share 10 incredible facts about some of our favourite snorkelling buddies!

1

There are seven species of marine turtles in the world – all of them are threatened – three of which are known to nest on the beaches and islands adjacent the Ningaloo Reef – green, hawskbill and loggerhead.

2

Green turtles get their name from the green colour of their body fat! This colouring comes from the seaweed, algae and other ‘sea-greens’ they feed on.

3

In Western Australia, there is only one genetic stock of green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles resulting in a larger risk to the species as low genetic diversity contributes to reduced resilience to threats such as disease and population decline.

4

Marine turtles can be identified by the tracks they leave behind in the sand.

5

Only 1 in 1000 marine turtles survive to sexual maturity as hatchlings and juveniles are a favourite food for many marine predators such as sharks, sea birds and larger fish. Unfortunately humans pose the biggest threat to survival through accidental catches in fishing lines, boat strikes and pollution being ingested.

6

Marine turtles have a ‘magnetic foot’ which means they return to the very same beach they were hatched to lay their eggs, it’s still a mystery how they manage to navigate thousands of kilometres from their feeding groups back to their nesting beaches.

7

The time it takes for all turtles to hatch depends on the temperature of the sand in which they were laid. Eggs will hatch faster if the temperature of the sand is warmer. Temperature also affects the gender of hatchlings, with cooler sand generating more males, and warmer sand more females.

8

Marine turtles can live into their 80s!

9

Hatchlings emerging from their nests are drawn to light, usually moonlight, which guides them to the sea. Due to increased coastal development, some hatchlings are drawn by the lights of the towns, away from the sea.

10

After dinner in November, guests at Sal Salis might be lucky enough to head down to the beach with our lodge manager Tristan – trained in turtle tracking – and watch for green, hawksbill or loggerhead hatchlings make their dash for the ocean!