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Green Turtles

Green turtles are one the largest turtles that visits the Whitsundays. They also are the most common to see when sailing with Whitsunday Catamarans and are often spotted while both snorkelling and sailing. The aboriginals knew that when you cooked a green turtle their fat turned an unusual bright green, which is where they actually get their name, rather than from their external colour.

Green sea turtles are an amazingly majestic creature that cruises effortlessly through the Whitsunday waters. They move around by using small flaps of the powerful flippers propel this them around the ocean currents. If you are lucky enough to swim with any turtle we guarantee it will leave a lasting impression as they cruise around the waters with you. They are generally pretty docile and will hang out with snorkellers and swimmers as long as they don’t feel threatened. They have been known to stay around as they forage for food for a long time.

A mature green turtle can grow to a carapace, or shell, length of more than one metre and weigh on average 150kg. The green turtle has green fat, created by its diet of seagrass.

Habitat and distribution

Green turtles occur in seaweed-rich coral reefs and inshore seagrass pastures in tropical and subtropical areas of Australia. Large numbers of greens occur in suitable feeding areas along the south-west coast of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The entire Great Barrier Reef area is an important feeding area for turtles which nest locally, as well as for those which nest in other regions or countries. They are often spotted at Langford Spit and Tongue Bay in the Whitsundays.

Diet

Adult green turtles feed mostly on seaweeds and seagrasses although immature green turtles are carnivorous. They will feed on corals, plants, animals and insects. For this reason, mature sea turtles are often spotted in seagrass pastures and juveniles on the coral reefs.

Behaviour and life history

Green turtles nesting along the Western Australian coast migrate from feeding grounds in Indonesia, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia, only coming to Australia to lay their eggs. They make long migrations between feeding grounds and nesting beaches, returning to the beaches where they themselves hatched... Migrations recorded from nesting beaches in the southern Great Barrier Reef have exceeded 2,600km but the average migration is about 400km.

Nesting

Nesting occurs between late November and January in southern Queensland. It takes a female green turtle 30-40 years to reach maturity, after which they will begin to mate and reproduce... In general, female green turtles lay about 115 round, ping-pong ball sized, parchment-shelled eggs per clutch, which they lay in holes they dig in the sand... Each nesting season she may return to the beach to nest an average of five times at fortnightly intervals.