Turtle Islands National Park
Trip Start Apr 30, 2004
88Trip End Jan 28, 2005
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After checking out of the Mayfair we took a taxi to the Crystal Quest Jetty. From here a small boat powered by 2 huge Yamaha outboard motor torpedoed the 40k to Pulau Selingan, one of the three islands making up the Turtle Islands National Park. The other two are Pulau Bakungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan.
The islands only take up 18 hectares of the overall 1740 hectares, the rest is coral reef and the Sulu Sea. Two species of sea turtle, the green and the hawksbill, nest on the parks beaches and because their laying seasons are virtually complimentary there is all year round nesting.
The park can house 50 guests and usually does. All accomodation is on Pulau Selingan. We spent a lovely afternoon on this tiny, white sand fringed island, walking, talking and snorkeliing. At 6pm we were able to look round the permanent and informative turtle exhibition. By 7.50 we'd eaten our dinner and sat, along with 48 other tourists, waiting for one of the rangers to tell us a turtle had landed. We chatted multilingually with our Belgian, German, French and Slovakian tablemates until 9.45pm when the ranger appeared.
The conservation work carried out on these islands is vital and top quality, unfortunately the way its presented isn't. Every section of beach is patrolled by rangers who make sure that any turtle landing is spotted. The beaches are covered from 6pm to 6am everyday.
On landing the turtle slowly makes her way up the beach towards the soft sand where she digs a hole. At this point she is tagged and measured. She lays between 60 - 150 eggs, fills the hole back in and has a well deserved hour break before either repeating the process somewhere else or heading back to the sea.
The rangers remove the eggs as she lays them to a protected hatchery where they are re-buried and left to incubate, which takes on average 60 days. When they hatch they are carried back to the beach and released. This process ensures that the maximum possible number of eggs hatch and are released.
These slow graceful harmless vegetarians, who hung around with the dinosaurs, are remarkable creatures. From hatching and scampering into the sea, to the age of 20-30, when a female will return to her beach of birth (hatch) to nest for the first time, no one has a clue where they go or what they do, apart from grow.
Our evening was a tourist circus, 50 people jostling for a better view. We kind of hung back and let them get on with it. It was wonderful to see the green turtle, but it was all way too intrusive when there was no need to be. It was full of unecessary tourist fluff like hold the egg and pass it on and hold the baby turtle. I hate all that.
As we walked back to our chalet the black night sjy sparkled with more stars than there are numbers.
Expenses (7RM / Pound): Taxi 4, fruit 2.40, Turtle Islands Trip 490, PArk entrance 20, drinks 5