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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Road Trip East Coast To West Coast Malaysia - Turtle Watching At Kerteh, Terengganu

Continued from previous post: From KL to Kuantan to Cherating to Tanjung Jara, Terengganu

We were told to standby from 9pm to 11pm for the turtle watching activity. The turtle watching activity was to be carried out in Kerteh, not Rantau Abang which no longer had turtles coming to the beach.

At around 10 pm the hotel rang us to inform  us that some turtles had been spotted. So we hopped into the van for the journey from Tanjung Jara, Dungun to Kerteh. The journey took 45 minutes. The kids were thrilled because it was rather exciting as everything was done in great secrecy. Along the way, we had to pass by Paka, the home of the largest power station in Malaysia. We also passed by the Petronas Oil Refinery which looked like something out of a sci-fi movie!

Finally we arrived at the spot. We went there in two vans. The van drivers got down to unlock a gated part of the beach. After driving through, they locked it and turned off all the lights and drove in the dark. Everything was pitched dark and there were no lights, only a flickering fire from the Oil Refinery from afar.

We got down from the van and were given a briefing by the turtle guide. The turtle man (the one who waits and looks for signs and turtle trails) had informed him that there were 7 turtles who had come to the beach to lay their eggs that night. We had to keep very quiet, no lights were allowed from cameras or phones and we had to crouch and hide behind trees talking in hushed voices to try to see the green sea turtle digging a hole to lay eggs.

Unfortunately all of the 7 turtles decided to turn back to sea after digging so we could not see them lay eggs. Some returned to sea because the earth caved in on them during digging scaring them away. The temperature may also not have been optimal, we were told. We were allowed to follow the last turtle back to sea. We weren't allowed before that because lights from phones could have confused the turtles. However, since they were turning back and not laying eggs that night, we were allowed to take photos and follow one briefly back to sea.

Then we were taken to the turtle hatchery. Some turtle eggs had just hatched within 24 hours. We were allowed to hold the baby turtles before releasing them back to sea. We were taught how to hold the turtles so as not to injure them and how not to shine lights on the beach away from the sea as it will confuse them. Lights could be shone in front of the turtles leading them towards the sea.

We were told that those which survive, if any, may return 25 years later to lay their eggs on the same beach. We hoped that some of the baby turtles we saw will make it back to the same beach 25 years later to lay their eggs.

We were told that Terengganu has over 220 km of beach and about 5 or 6 km were conservation beach like this one, that is why it was locked from the public.

We were also shown the baby turtle's food, the glow in the dark algae from the beach. It looked like ordinary sand when he held some in his palm but glowed when he removed the light from the torch. When the guide threw the algae into the sea, it shone magically.

Finally, we made our way back to the hotel at around 1 am travelling for another 45 minutes. It was a most fascinating trip indeed and very educational for the kids. A little sad too knowing that many of the baby turtles may not survive.

Turtle Watching At Kerteh, Terengganu Tips:

Best time to watch turtles = May to September
Place to watch turtles = Kerteh, Terengganu
Type of turtle = Green turtles. Leatherback turtles are almost extinct
Best for: Families with school going kids. Not too young as the younger ones were tired some of them fell asleep and had to be carried by parents since this activity is often carried out late into the night.

Next post: From Dungun to Kuala Terengganu to Kota Bharu, Kelantan.


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