As a National Marine Park and situated in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Protected Area, Heron Island is an important habitat for many species. A variety of wildlife visit the island at different times of the year, depending on breeding, foraging and migratory movements.
As a visitor to Heron Island you may experience unforgettable encounters with the amazing wildlife that also shares the island. Our Naturalist Guides encourage you to learn about the flora and fauna of the island and witness activities such as nesting and hatching, during guided tours.
Heron Island is a significant nesting location for two vulnerable turtle species, the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Nesting season occurs from October to March each year, with hatchlings beginning to emerge in early January. Most nesting turtles will begin to come up on the beaches around the high tide of a night time, some turtles may still be on the beaches finishing the nesting process when the sun rises in the morning.
To minimise disturbance to these magnificent marine reptiles, there are strict guidelines in place for the viewing of nesting and hatching turtles. Please remember to follow these guidelines when you are on the beaches of Heron Island.
- Do not use lights or flash photography
- If you see a turtle on the beach, remain low and still. Turtles are very sensitive to movement
- Remain 10m away from the turtle
- Remain behind her line of sight
- Avoid walking in the high dune area as there are many nests below the sand
- Attend a Turtle Hints presentation which is conducted daily by our Naturalist Guides, and join a Guided Turtle Walk when available.
Turtle Watching Guidelines
Heron Island hosts a large nesting population of Green (Chelonia mydas) and Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) sea turtles from October to March each year. The number of females nesting each season can vary greatly. The optimal time to view turtles is at night, 2 hours each side of the high tide.
As guests to the island you’re welcome to walk the beaches at night to view the nesting process at your leisure. However, we do ask that you act responsibly around the turtles as they are endangered species and are very vulnerable to being disturbed.
Please follow these guidelines to minimise disturbance to them. Turtles are very sensitive to light and movement. For further information please come join us at one of our daily ‘Turtle Hints’ presentations in the Wistari Room.
- No lights on the beach
- No flash photography
- Remain still and low
- Pass or view her from behind
- Remain 10 m away from the turtle
Turtle Hatching Season
Turtle hatchlings will emerge from the sand from January until May. It is important that they are allowed to make their own way to the water without assistance or hindrance. The hatchlings will be imprinting on the environment so they know to return to these beaches as mature adults. It is also important that the hatchlings have the opportunity to warm up their flippers in preparation for their big ocean journey.
Artificial lights from torches or rooms will disorientate the hatchlings. Please assist by:
- Turning off unnecessary lights on balconies
- Closing curtains at night
- Not using torches or flash photography
Under no circumstances are the hatchlings to be handled and never dig the hatchlings out of their nest.
The best chance of seeing the hatchlings making their way to the ocean is to take a walk along the beach, at the high tide mark, around sunset or sunrise. Please do not walk through the high dunes and vegetation line as you may accidentally trample nests and hatchlings that are soon to surface.
Please attend a Turtle Hints Presentation or speak to a Naturalist Guide for more information.
Sea Turtle Foundation
We are delighted to announce a new partnership between Heron Island and the Sea Turtle Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to safeguarding sea turtle populations, migration routes and habitats.
Did you know that:
- Many guests come to the Island specifically to see the incredible Green and Loggerhead turtles which swim in our waters.
- We have developed this partnership to provide guests with a greater opportunity to understand and support these amazing creatures.
- Sea turtles have been swimming in the world’s oceans for over 120 million years, but today all populations face uncertainty.
- Through education and research, we hope to secure a brighter future for these ancient mariners.
During your stay with us, you will be able to experience the positive results of this partnership. Information sessions will be held regularly and materials are available in your guest room and from reception. And if you are staying with us during turtle season – approximately November through to March each year – you can participate in guided walks led by Foundation or Resort staff members. We also are incorporating hands on experience into our Junior Rangers program.
We are inviting our guests to support these efforts with just a $10 donation on check out. This generous contribution will allow the Sea Turtle Foundation to continue its work to support and protect these wonderful creatures, so that future generations may also feel a connection to them. Heron Island is committed to working with the Foundation to ensure that there are ‘turtles for tomorrow’ and your donation, which will be added to your bill, will help the foundation to continue their valuable work.
Of course, if you choose not to donate, just let the staff know when you request your final bill and the charge will be removed.
The partnership between you, Heron Island Resort and the Sea Turtle Foundation will help to ensure the continued survival of these ancient creatures.
Read more about the Sea Turtle Foundation and turtle-watching on Heron Island, as published in The Guardian.
Watch an audio slide show about turtles on Heron Island:
For more information about the Sea Turtle Foundation please visit their official website .
Join the Sea Turtle Foundation community