seligan islandd, borneo
When I got to the jetty i heard everyone commenting on how rough the sea was that morning and they hadn’t seen it like that in a long time-just my luck. 8 of us got on the little motor boat and tried to make a start but kept been pushed up against the other boats at the jetty because of the rough waves, but eventually headed out to sea. About half an hour into the journey I realised it probably wasn’t a good idea to have had breakfast and started to curse these turtles. Here I was, out in the open South China Sea being tossed about (later the driver said the the currents in that area were a bit crazy at the moment because of the effects of the earthquake in China-I love my timing) and those of you who know me and my boat trips, I did not have my happy face on, especially when they told us it was time to start putting on the life jackets.
Eventually after an hour and a half of being blown around we reached the tiny Seligan Island or turtle Island as it is more commonly known. It’s a beautiful tropical island and I have to admit we did get a bit excited when we saw all the turtle trails up the beach from the water, and all thoughts of puking were forgotten. All we had to do for the day was relax on the beach which wasn’t too hard to be honest. There’s nothing on the island only the chalet accommodation for the people staying there, a restaurant and the conservation area. We were told what would be happening for the evening-we would all meet for dinner at 7pm and would then have to stay in the restaurant until one of the rangers would come and tell us that the turtle have started coming in. nobody was allowed on the beach after 6pm in case they started coming in early. Of course there was no guarantee that we would see any, some nights they don’t and sometimes they don’t come in til really late so you could be sitting there til 2am waiting. While we were having dinner one of the rangers came into the restaurant and told us he had to turn all the lights off because a turtle had come right up on the beach and had started to lay her eggs outside the restaurant but we couldn’t go out to see her because it was too close and she would be scared off :o(
So we waited and waited with everyone getting more excited and at about 9pm someone came in and announced it was turtle time! We had to quickly run down in complete darkness to where one of the turtles was laying her eggs. The reason there was such a dash was that they will only let one turtle a night be watched by the people that come there, to minimise the disruption to them, so if she had finished laaying the eggs by the time we got there we wouldn’t get to see another. I was so surprised to see how big she was (her shell was 100cm by 65cm) and she had dug a big hole and had started plopping our her eggs. She was in her own little world and didn’t notice anyone around or if she did she didn’t seem too bothered. As she was laying the eggs the ranger was digging them out of the hole to be brought to the hatchery, our one layed 88 eggs. After she was measured and tagged and checked for her age (she was about 25 years old) we had to leave as they get really tired and have to rest for a while. We then went with the ranger to the hatchery to bury the egg she had collected. He was saying how the temperature of the sand determines the sex of the turtles and even a difference of half a degree will change if its male or female. So the eggs were buried and labelled and it was time to wait around to see if any baby turtles had hatched during the evening and were due to be released. By that time there hadn’t been any but we were allowed to wait around for the night and see if any would later. Luckily a little while later they came to tell us that 15 had hatched so it was another dash to get them and bring them to the sea. They were so cute flapping about in the basket, they were tiny! When they let them out, they were a bit disorientated at first but then wobbled towards the sea. Little is know about the first period of life swimming around but after about 20 years they will come back to the exact same beach where they were released from to lay their own eggs. They have magnetic crystals in the heads which is their navigation system and this leads them back. They’re pretty amazing little creatures.
Next morning we were told that 30 turtles had come ashore during the night and 2,500 eggs had been laid. Sounds like a huge amount but when you realise that only 1% of these will survive to make it to the first few years of life because of all its predators, its not all that much.