It made me wonder for a little while what these tracks in the sand were, and suddenly I realized it: the turtles! So fascinating to see, so weird to realize, so wonderful to know!
Here I was walking on the beach seeing all these trails in the sand of the turtles in their attempt to crawl up the beach during night time. And it is not just one trail, they are all over the beach! I saw dozens of them on this little stretch of the beach. At the end of these trails, on top of the hill, there is a big hole, where the turtles have laid there eggs. This was the first sign for me that the turtles are really here.... wow, I got excited about tonight, would I really see a turtle tonight??
After taking it easy for a while we decided to take a look at the only attraction on the island: the watchtower. It was only a few meters walk to get here, hahaha, as the island is so small. And then... up those stairs....
The one real witness that this IS a turtle island is the hatchery. Here is where the turtles eggs are moved too during the night, to keep them save for predators. Rows and rows of these nests are here, a good sign! The more nests, the better is goes with those beautiful turtles!
Turtle Island Park is one of the most important turtle breeding spots in South East Asia and has been a turtle conservation area for over 30 years. There are two types of turtles that lay their eggs here: the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle. The area surrounding the islands are protected and form a safe haven for these turtles. And that is good, as these turtles always return to the same place to lay their eggs: their birthplace.
Here is another nest in the hatchery: nest number 1810 and is from the 27th May 2004.
Now the evening has fallen, the waiting game begins....
A quiet evening, the sea is calm, the sun is setting, the temperatures are so nice and tropical warm. It's after 6 o'clock and the beaches are off limit from now, it is the territory of the turtles, no people allowed. It is also the start of the waiting game..... the quietness before the 'storm'. Everyone is waiting for the time that the ranger will call 'Turtle Time Turtle Time!' The time that we can go out on the beach to see the turtles lay eggs. But when that is...... nobody can tell. It can be as early as 9 o'clock, but it can be around 4 o'clock in the morning too.....
Downstairs in the main building is the restaurant area, and upstairs is a little exposition about Turtle Islands Park and the turtles. And as we needed to 'kill' some time while waiting for the turtles to show up, we took a look around in the exposition area. The exposition was quite nice, hahaha, but there was one funny fact: flashlights required!
As the generator on the island had a hard time keeping up with the demand for electricity with all the air conditioners running on full speed, the lights kept going out again and again. So in the end our guide 'One' told all about the turtles in 'flashlight'. Good thing we had those things with us! It was a strange but funny way to see the exposition. If you are on the island, don't forget to go here, it is nice to see. But maybe looking at it in daytime is a better idea ;-)
The life cycle of a turtle is not an easy one. Only a tiny percentage of them will survive and come back to these beaches to lay their eggs. But that takes a long time, as only after 30 - 50 years the female turtle starts breeding. When they do survive, they can become very old, anywhere from 40 to 70 years.
It's dinner time, buffet style. I can't remember much about dinner, hahaha, I guess I was too much in anticipation about 'Turtle time' :-) This sign on the wall didn't help much either I guess, telling how many turtles had been there the evening before. 12 nests in total, 956 eggs laid, and 800 cute little turtles released from the hatchery. First nesting time 9:30.. How late would it be for us?
If you want to take pictures of the turtles you have to pay a camera fee of 10 Ringgit. I was in doubt if I should do it or not as it is not guaranteed that you will get any (good) pictures. But I decided to give it a go anyway. Biggest problem : no flashlight allowed at any time and also the use of torches is off-limits when you are with the turtles. So in short: it's very dark outside, no light at all, so how can you take pictures?
I just bet on my digital camera as it is rather light sensitive, and hoped for the best so I decided to pay the camera fee. And it worked out! The rangers did shine a little light with their torches on the turtle and the eggs with made some picture taking possible.