Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Turtle Island

There are three islands that make up Turtle Island National Park.

We went to Selingan. It was a beautiful, bumpy ride. The island just to the east of us was part of the Philippines, which cooperates with Malaysia on sea turtle preservation efforts.

All the turtle action happens at night--the turtles that hatched on Selingan decades ago come back there to lay their eggs.

turtle tracks from the night before
Visitors are called to observe the first turtle that comes ashore. Once it lays its eggs, the rangers move them to a hatchery, where they're safer from predators like monitor lizards. The soil temperature around the eggs determines the gender of the hatchling. Once they hatch, they scurry above ground, where the rangers put them into a crate and take them to the shore to be released to the sea. We get to watch that, too--and to help redirect any that seem confused (Alex got to handle a newborn turtle that kept trying to go the other way). Sea turtles have a natural sense of magnetism; they know which way is up. The rangers once tried to release them in the sea, where they'd be past at least some predators, but the hatchlings didn't know where to go from there so they were brought back to shore.

But that's at night. During the day, there's nothing to do but hit the beach,

if the weather cooperates, which it sure did.  We snorkeled all morning,

and again in the afternoon.

On the way to dinner, we stumbled upon a couple of monitor lizards getting it on.

After dinner, we waited and waited on the patio--I fell asleep on one of the benches--for the first turtle. We admired the stars--it was the only night of the trip clear and remote enough to see them.

Our guide said that the latest he ever waited was 3am; luckily, it didn't come to that. The turtle was ready for us around 9 or 10pm.

mama turtle laying eggs

ranger covering the eggs in sand

In the morning, we headed back to mainland Borneo.

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