Don't call me a turtle egg!

Trip Start May 17, 2006
Trip End Jul 01, 2006

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Flag of Malaysia  ,
Sunday, June 11, 2006

I got up early yesterday to take a boat to the Turtle Islands state park to see green sea turtle conservation. We left from Sandakan around 9:30. Along the coast of Sandakan there are stilt villages where fishermen and their families live, and I saw some of the first shanties I have seen in Malaysia. I was thinking how sad it was that the area was poor enough that there were shanties, but then I thought that we would probably have them too if we allowed homeless people to build shelters. Sabah is definitely a lot different than Sarawak. It is more scruffy and the atmosphere is a little more dodgy, but nothing weird. The Muslim presence here is also quite a lot more noticable and the tribes of Sarawak are missing.

Anyway, the boat trip took an hour and we arrived at a tiny island about .5 KM from the nearest inhabited islands of the Philippines, kind of scary considering the pirating incidents along the coast of Sabah in the last few years. I had forgotten to eat breakfast (OK, I got up too late), so I was starving but there were no snacks to be had on the island. After we finally had lunch, which was decent, I went snorkelling off the beach. The snorkelling was pretty good; I saw a lot of fish, good corals, and a lot of clams, worms, and anemones. I chatted for awhile with Juhin, our boat driver, about the island and the military presence in the area to ward off pirates. There were military and police boats close enough to the island to get there in a minute or so in the event of an incident. Juhin works on the island for a month at a time without seeing his wife and three kids and said that all the employees did so. Isn't that shitty?

The rooms were pretty good, but I don't know if they were worth 160MYR (about $45). I think people in Borneo really like plastic, because almost all bathroom doors and window curtains are plastic. One good thing about the hotels is that they tint their windows so people can't spy on you.

I went back down to the beach to read and the tide had gone so far out that all of the area I was swimming in earlier had been exposed. There was a HUGE monitor lizard on the beach looking for turtles to eat. I stubbed my toes on some coral trying to chase him down for a photo, but he escaped. He was maybe a yard long.

At about 10PM we got to see a mother turtle lay eggs, then the rangers collected them so that they would not be vulnerable to predators or poachers. They tagged and measured the mother, then buried the eggs in their own special enclosure. I got to hold one of the eggs and it was really cold. Finally they let us hold hatchlings. They were so cute I almost fell down. Mine was about 4" long and was really strong! He flailed his flippers around while I got a photo and named him Jeffey (sorry for the inside joke, everyone, but... Mom and Dad - I bet his mom called him Jeffey). After that we got to help them release about 100 babies into the water. I cannot possibly explain how cute this whole thing was.
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