Turtle spotting

Many people are unaware that Christmas Island is a prime turtle spotting location.

Two endangered species of turtle (the green sea turtle and the hawksbill sea turtle) can be seen on the island thoughout the year, and hatchlings may be sighted during turtle nesting seasons.

Small numbers of green turtles and hawksbill turtles nest on Dolly and Greta beaches.

Unlike mainland areas of Australia where turtle nesting usually takes place between October and November, nesting is a year-round activity on Christmas Island.

  • Code of conduct for turtle watchers.

    Turtles are a protected species, and proper conduct must be observed around these beautiful creatures.

    • Code of conduct for turtles and nesting

      1. Walk along the beach just below the high tide mark, near the water while looking for turtles - the tide will wash foot prints away.
      2. Avoid excess noise and sudden movement at all times.
      3. Do not use powerful torch light (no more than 3 watts, protected with a red filter (a couple of layers of red cellophane will do). Do not shine lights on turtles.
      4. If a turtle is encountered, stop and sit down. Stay at least 15 m away. Position yourself behind the turtle and stay low (sit, crouch or lie on the sand).
      5. You may crawl up behind a nesting turtle on your stomach ('commando crawl'), but do not approach nearer than 15 m.
      6. Be patient. The nesting process may take 20 to 40 minutes as she may abandon the nest and dig another one for a variety of reasons.
      7. Wait until she has commenced laying her eggs before moving any closer. She will be quite still when laying her eggs - if sand is spraying or she is using her front flippers, she is not yet laying her eggs. Only three people at a time, staying at least 2 m away, may move closer to her once she is laying her eggs. It may take her 10 - 20 minutes to lay her eggs.
      8. Give her enough space to camouflage the nest, which may take 20 - 40 minutes. Remain at least 2 m away from her.
      9. Let her return to the ocean without interruption or don't get between her and the ocean. Remain at least 2 m away from her. It may take her 5 - 10 minutes to reach the ocean.

      Code of conduct for hatchlings

      1. Stand back from the nest - do not compact the sand.
      2. Do not use lights as this disorients the hatchlings.
      3. Do not get between the hatchlings and the ocean.
      4. Let the hatchlings make their own way down the beach. Hatchlings can get stuck in footprints so stand to the side rather than crossing their path.

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  • Green turtle

    The green turtle gets its name from the usually green fat found beneath its carapace.

    • The green turtle's flattened body is covered by a large, teardrop-shaped shell with a pair of large, paddle-like flippers. It is usually lightly colored, although in the eastern Pacific populations parts of the shell can be almost black.
      The green sea turtle is listed as vunerable in Australia.

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  • Hawksbill turtle

    The hawksbill's appearance is similar to that of other marine turtles. In general it has a flattened body shape, a protective carapace and flipper-like arms, adapted for swimming in the open ocean.

    • The hawksbill turtle is easily distinguished from other sea turtles by its sharp, curving beak with prominent tomium, and the saw-like appearance of its shell margins. Hawksbill shells slightly change colours, depending on water temperature.
      Hawksbills reach maturity at 30 years. They are believed to live from 30 to 50 years in the wild. Like other sea turtles, hawksbills are solitary for most of their lives; they meet only to mate.
      The hawksbill sea turtle is listed as vulnerable in Australia.

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