Sea Turtles in the Whitsundays | Whitsunday Rent a Yacht

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Caring for Sea Turtles in The Whitsundays

Spotting sea turtles is a highlight when exploring the Whitsundays, but what do you do when a turtle needs help?

There are six varieties of sea turtles in the Whitsundays and sighting them is common when exploring the islands and coastline. Getting up close to these gentle sea creatures is always exciting, even for locals who have been sharing the waters with them for years.

Unfortunately, our local turtles can sometimes get into trouble from human interference. Injuries from pollution, plastic, boat propellers and fishing waste can distress turtles, but if they are found early they can be rehabilitated and saved.

Our turtles rely on people who are using their waters to keep an eye out for them and to call in rescue teams when necessary. In this post, we'll share a rescue story, tell you what to look for when a turtle is showing signs of distress and what you and do to help.

Whitsunday Turtle - Ocean Clean Prints Photography
Image: @Oceancleanprints

Whitsundays Sea Turtle Rescue

This month, the team at Whitsunday Rent A Yacht had a first-hand experience of what happens when a turtle is distressed and needs to be rescued. 

A juvenile green turtle, now named ‘Carlee’, was spotted at our Shute Harbour base in the mooring zone. Caught in a thin mooring line she was suffering from floating syndrome, a serious condition which stops the animal diving for food and ultimately leads to starvation and death. Thankfully, treatment is often highly successful and Carlee was destined to receive human help.

The Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre is a local facility which has been operating since 2013. A total of 42 turtles have been rescued, made remarkable recoveries and been successfully released back into the wild.

On the rescue centres advice, Carlee was taken from the ocean and loaded into a tender, wrapped in wet blankets and transported to the jetty by our operations team. She was then collected by volunteers and taken to quarantine tanks for assessment and treatment.

Carlee is expected to remain at the Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre for about three months but once fully recovered she will be released back into the wild from Shute Harbour.

Whitsunday Sea Turtles

How the public can help with turtle rescues

Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre founder Libby Edge says it’s important for turtle survival that members of the public are able to identify sick or injured animals.

“A member of the public that comes across a sick or injured turtle is allowed to rescue that turtle should it be safe enough to do so, but they must bring the turtle to the closest Turtle Rehabilitation Centre and in the Whitsundays that would be us,” she says.

Signs of a distressed turtle include:

  • An inability to dive and a large amount of carapace exposed.
  • Turtles who have been floating for a long time may be covered in barnacles or algae.
  • Look for signs of entanglement
  • Look for mucus around the eyes

If you see what you suspect to be an injured or sick turtle the best course of action is to call the hotline on 1300 ANIMAL (264 625).

Whitsundays Sea Turtle

Eco-certified Tourism

With such amazing marine life on our doorstep, Whitsunday Rent-A-Yacht is proud to be an Eco-Certified tourism operator. We are also very grateful for the work that the turtle rescue centre do and we regularly donate old blankets from charter yachts to the centre.

We are an Eco-certified operator because we love where we live and we feel a sense of responsibility to be custodians of this beautiful part of the world. We go to work every day grateful that we spend our 9-5 life in the pristine Shute Harbour. And what gives us even more joy is sharing this stunning part of the world with visitors and educating them on how to protect it.

Onboard your Whitsunday Rent-A-Yacht charter vessel you will find several ecotourism resources including whale and marine species, mooring and anchoring, and national parks fact sheets.

How To Keep Local Turtles Safe

There are many ways we can help our turtles and other Whitsunday marine life thrive and these include:

  • Ensuring rubbish is disposed of properly so it does not enter the marine environment.
  • Reducing boat speed when travelling over seagrass waters where turtles are more prevalent.
  • Collecting rubbish that might find its way into Whitsunday waterways
  • Avoid damaging seagrass beds and reefs with anchors
  • Use environmentally friendly fishing tackle such as biodegradable line and non-stainless hooks
  • Donate to the Whitsunday Turtle Rescue Centre to help them provide continuous support for injured titles in the Whitsundays and Mackay region

If you ever see a turtle in distress, please contact our head office on the radio
or phone 1300 ANIMAL (1300 264 625)

Turtle Hotspots in the Whitsunday Islands

Around the Whitsunday islands, there are many locations which are popular turtle sighting spots.

  • Tongue Bay is a great place to see turtles surface close to your boat, as well as being the spot to head to the Hill Inlet lookout track from.
  • Cid Harbour is another great turtle feeding ground, you may spot them from your hired boat
  • Stonehaven Bay has a couple of particularly friendly turtles who are known to frequent the mooring buoys
  • Try the shallow waters of Dugong Inlet from your tender

TOP TIP: You will often hear a turtle before you see it, as they exhale loudly when surfacing from the depths.

We hope that you are able to experience snorkelling alongside a sea turtle when you visit the Whitsundays or the Great Barrier Reef. An encounter with these mesmerising creatures is something you will never forget.




Join us to spot turtles in the Whitsundays and enjoy the freedom to explore  

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Turtle rescue

The day of Carlee's rescue at the Whitsunday Rent A Yacht base