How to get some quality turtle time on a tight budget in Far North Queensland

Alastair and Amanda Freeman

As you all know, for those of us who love sea turtles, nothing matches the experience of swimming with them in the wild, interacting with them on their terms in their environment. Ironically, living in far north Queensland, prime sea turtle habitat, opportunities to do this can be limited if you don’t own a boat or have a big budget to get yourself offshore. However, there is one place where you are almost guaranteed to see turtles if you are in the water and the means to get there is practically and financially reasonable. That is Green Island.

The lush sea grass beds around the island are a magnet for juvenile and sub-adult green turtles and if you are “locals” (which includes the Atherton Tablelands) the price to get there is relatively cheap. Even if you are not locals, a day-trip is still a very reasonable option on a limited budget.

A lifeguard patrolled beach means swimming is very safe and if you are confident and have the ability, a short 50 to 100m snorkel off the beach will have you away from the crowds and will almost guarantee you at least one and often more turtle experiences. Over twenty years of living in the far north, and with numerous visits to Green Island, we have never failed to see turtles while snorkeling there.

As well as turtles we have also seen white-tipped reef sharks and large stingrays on occasion. The coral is not as spectacular as can be experienced elsewhere on the reef, and there is no doubt that coral bleaching has had an impact over the last few years, but small areas of coral reef in reasonable condition can still be found for those willing to look. So, if you live in or are visiting the Cairns area and have a desire to swim with wild sea turtles but not sure where to go to do this consider a trip to Green Island.