Today the whole group spent the day on Fitzroy Island! Fitzroy Island is south-east of Cairns and is covered in rainforest and has parts of the Great Barrier Reef around the island. Our day started with an hour boat ride out, and on the island we had access to lots of water sports and hiking trails. My first stop was a short walk to the Secret Garden, which was a viewing platform in the middle of a particularly beautiful part of the rainforest. Along the way I saw tons of skinks, from about an inch long to close to a foot! I spent most of the morning on Nudey Beach (don’t worry, it’s not actually a nude beach), which is the second most beautiful beach in Australia! Some of the group took out paddle boards, sea kayaks, and snorkel gear to explore the reefs offshore. One of the coolest things about the island is that the beaches are covered in chunks of coral instead of just fine sand, which was really unique to see.
In the afternoon, I took a tour of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center on the island where I met Woodson, a rehabilitated green sea turtle with one eye that is being released next month! He was in the rehabilitation center because of malnutrition. When injured or ill turtles are found in Queensland, they are sent first to the Marlin Coast Veterinary Clinic in Cairns to check for infectious diseases. After the turtles are stable and beginning recovery, they are transferred to Fitzroy Island for long-term rehabilitation. The turtles in the care of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Center mainly suffer from 3 ailments: malnutrition, physical trauma, and floating disorder. Physical trauma would be things like being caught in nets or hit by boats – one of the turtles at the center lost two fins struggling in an abandoned fishing net. Floating disorder happens when turtles ingest marine debris like plastic bags or mylar balloons which block their digestive system, causing buildup of food which rots and causes gas bubbles to form. The turtles then float on the surface of the water, making it so they can’t swim or dive down to the ocean floor to feed. Another two or three of the turtles at the center were suffering from floating disorder, one from ingesting debris and one from a lung infection after being caught in a fishing net. It was really sad to see the turtles struggling, but it’s also great that they’re getting the help that they need.
It’s been a really great day on a gorgeous island!