Turtle Paradise

Trip Start Sep 19, 2012
Trip End Jul 22, 2014

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Flag of Malaysia  , Terengganu,
Friday, June 7, 2013

After a long overnight bus trip where we had to change buses as our driver was drunk. I thought we were traveling a bit fast but the roads are good in Malaysia and the buses look in good condition. However when going around a bend and the luggage in the overhead racks started flying about I was getting a bit worried. Anyway shortly after that the bus pulled over on the side of the highway and about 10 minutes later Myself and few other passengers were transferred to another bus that was passing by. By this stage I couldn't sleep so it it was a long trip and eventually arrived in Kuala Terengganu at about 6 am. From there I took a taxi to Merang and had about 3 hours to wait for my boat to Pulau Lang Tengah.

Lang Tengah is a little island situated in the South China Sea about 40 minutes boat road from the Malaysian mainland. It is about 2 km long and about 850 meters wide. There are no permanent residents, no roads, no vehicles and no shops. There are 4 small hotels that mainly cater for Chinese tourists. The island closes down and most people leave during October through to February due to the monsoon season. The water is crystal clear and about 30 degrees Celsius. Snorkeling is amazing with a huge variety of fish and it is common to see black tip reef shark, leopard rays, and even the odd turtle.

After leaving Merang, I was dropped off at Turtle Beach on the island. The beach is about 150 m in length and at low tide about 35 meters wide. From the beach it then changes into thick jungle vegetation. I walked up the beach and followed a path into the forest. There was a small clearing about 15 meters set back amongst the trees. It consisted of 2 tents, a wooden platform, a fire pit and a well for water. It looked as if it had been abandoned as there was rubbish everywhere. There pots and plates crusted with old congealed food scattered around. There was no sign of people anywhere. I set up my little tent as I thought maybe someone would return but no one did. I then spent most of the day cleaning the camp and when it started getting dark made a fire and heated some noodles. I was in my tent just after it got dark and lay there listen to all the strange sounds. Cicadas screeching, geckos barking and most disturbing was the plague of rats that descended into the camp. With so much food and rubbish lying around it was like a buffet for them. There were all sorts of other noises and to be honest I didn't get much sleep. Later on I heard voices and 2 torch lights approaching and two Malay guys came walking through the camp. We had a broken conversation as they didn't speak much English and then they left. I later found out they they worked in one of the hotels and we became quite friendly. They left after about  half an hour and I was left on my own. During the night there was a huge thunder storm so I really didn't have a good night.

At first light I was up and after an early morning swim and some coffee brewed on the fire I continued with cleaning the camp. There is a well about 5 m deep where we can get fresh water but it needs to be boiled before drinking. All meals are cooked on the fire, if the wood is not soaked by the rain and the toilet is a short walk away into the jungle with a spade to dig a hole. 

The jungle/forest is fairly dense and the heat and humidity is oppressive and energy draining. There is a constant noise from the insects and numerous visitors pass through the camp. These consists of Monitor lizards, squirrels, rats, bats, crabs, centipedes ( up to 15 cm), an assortment of amazing butterflies and I have seen one snake. Surprisingly there is very little bird life. Very little breeze flows through the jungle and at night it can become very uncomfortable.

After 3 days on my own, Nuar finally arrived. He has been here for a few months and I meet him briefly in Kuala Lumpur. He is a Malaysian guy and is about 26 years old. Apparently there were supposed to be 2 guys at the camp who had been employed to clean the well but they had disappeared as they believed that the camp was haunted! Nuar is great guy and we get on well, even though he is a bit lazy and wanders off for hours at a time.

Right. So what do we do here. During the day it is odd jobs around camp like fixing tents, building benches etc, swimming, snorkeling, sleeping and eating. When it cools down we collect fire wood and the snorkel, swim or sleep again. We do a bit of fishing but as this is a Protected marine park we aren't supposed to but we do eat what we catch. At night we monitor the beaches. There are only three sandy beaches on the island and the rest of the shoreline is rocks and cliffs. We monitor any turtle activity on all the beaches and if a turtle lays eggs on one of the other beaches we have to dig up the nest and move the eggs to our little Turtle Beach so we can watch them and prevent poachers from stealing the eggs. The eggs are sold and eaten as a delicacy. Turtles only lay there eggs at night so it means we have to walk around at night looking for them to come ashore. Sometimes they just walk up to the treeline and then return to the sea without laying eggs. Other times they are disturbed by tourists with flash cameras. 

We have 2 species that come to the island, the Green turtle and the Hawks-bill. These are amazing animals. The females always return to the beach that they hatched from to lay their eggs. The sad thing is that only about 1 out of every 1000 turtle eggs survives to adulthood. So every one can save from the poachers helps a bit. So far this season one of our nests have hatched and it was amazing to watch over a hundred little turtles scamper into the sea.

I really enjoy living in the jungle in our little camp. Slowly things have started to improve and we have built a little kitchen and now have a gas burner, We have a bench and some hammocks and a shower/ wash area. The rats are still around but since we have cleaned up they are not too bad. However anything left out at night is attacked by the rats, so anything with food or plastic has to be stored away in storage boxes. We collect fresh drinking water from one of the hotels in a couple of 5 liter containers. But this entails a steep climb through the jungle, along the beach and back again. Nuar usually collects the water and finds it easier to swim round the bay to the resort and swim back with the full water bags. Every now and then the local fisherman will drop off a bucket of fresh fish which is great. Otherwise its rice and pasta and 2 minute noodles mixed with what we have in tins. Mostly sardines.

The two guys who I met on the first night work in the kitchens of the resort. For many years working in hotels and restaurants it was a constant battle to control stock theft. These guys are masters and at least 2 or 3 times a week we are supplied with a fresh whole chicken, or curry, soup and other items from the hotels kitchen. You can't imagine how we enjoy this fresh food.
Hayati, our boss, came out a few weeks ago and brought us some fresh supplies. Nuar and I sat and polished off the fresh fruit. Huge sweet lychees and mangoes. It was a treat to get fresh eggs and flour so we could make pancakes and omelettes. I am getting quite good at making Roti and Naan breads. 

Anyway I love my little Turtle Beach and cant believe that it has been nearly 4 weeks since I arrived here. My Malaysian visa expires on the 6th of July so i am going to have to do a border run to Thailand and get this renewed so that I can return and watch my turtles. I think a 3 days in Ao Nang beach might be a pleasant break. Hayati, the Boss, also has a house on the Perhentian Islands not far from us and i might be able to get some paying work renovating the floors and doing some painting. I believe some other volunteers are coming to Turtle watch later in July so maybe I will leave them to it. 

I am very happy living here and love the jungle and the beach. I don't miss people and believe I could become a Hermit.

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Melissa kerr on

So nice to read about your adventures uncle Frog!!! The Island looks amazing and the photos are great. Miss you, and hope to read about your next adventure really soon!!!

Gillian on

Hi Gus - thanks for this blog so interesting and the pics are awesome :)

Jenny on

Hi Gus,

I was happily reading your blog about the past weeks.. Sounds like a little paradise for you. So glad, that you can do this and follow your heart.. best what you can with life. Hope to meet again one day!

Angel from Barcelona on

Hi Gus, so nice to hear your trael reports and know you are enjoying those exotic places. It all makes me think of our encounter in Sri Lanka this past Winter. I have been to Germany and other places, and now around northern Spain where the Summer is cooler. In September I will make it to Japan. Hope we can meet again somewhere soon. Keep in touch. Big hug.

Heather on

Great to hear how you are doing.often think of you. Look after yourself xxx

ann green/floors galore on

u may say, who, what....... the working world so far removed from your daily stressless, wonderful peaceful life.
so exciting keeping up with your adventures, embrace the hours, life is fragile and who knows where next how or when!

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