20 Jun 2011

Watching Turtles in the Wild

Walk with me as we watch Turtles laying eggs in the wild.
It was a dark night when we arrived. The tour guide said “Welcome”, and after a brief talk produced two baskets of turtle hatchlings, which caused my girls to squeal with such delight. They were given the honor of looking after these baby turtles and we began our walk along the beautiful beach.
It was pitch dark except for the amazing starry sky. Someone shone a dim light to help us find our way at first and eventually that light too was turned off. Our eyes grew accustomed to the black of the night. Occasionally this delinquent tourist ahead of us would take photos using flash photography, and the tour guide would shout “NO FLASH! NO LIGHT!”
 It was heavenly and exciting feeling the sand between my toes while listening to the thundering waves crashing against the shore. Shortly we came to a stop. A mama turtle was trying to climb her way up a steep slope. Two guides were trying to help her climb. They told us to stay away so as not to distract the turtle. Again, that irritating tourist with the flashlight went near. Tour guide shouted “go away, no come near!” she didn’t listen. After a while that mama turtle gave up and swam back to sea.  My older girl followed that mama from behind and watched her disappear into that vast ocean. (She would reappear again later, at a different site to lay eggs.)
A further walk later, we came to a turtle who’d almost done with laying eggs. We watched silently, amazed, as she laid her last eggs, and then she began covering her nesting chamber with her hind flippers. What an awesome sight. We were just awed by such a beautiful, gentle creature, and sometimes Nel laughed, tickled when that turtle flicked the sand hard at the tour guide.
As we sat there waiting again, someone said quietly Moon Rise I’d never heard of that term, but as I sat observing for a while, it really was a moon rise! The moon first appeared just above the sea, and gradually “rose”, illuminating that dark ocean with its glow. How beautiful! At that moment I just thought…What an awesome God who created all this, and what a privilege to enjoy such beauty.
After a rather long wait, (where my hubby dozed of temporarily) we found another turtle laying her eggs. My girls sat quietly behind that turtle watching that mama lay all of her 101 eggs, mesmerized by the entire process and later telling me they’d like to be volunteers at turtle conservation. (smile)
It is a strange feeling when you see a mama turtle head back into the ocean after covering her nesting chamber. I couldn’t help feeling a tinge of sadness as I watch her (the turtle) slowly crawling in that dark night, into the vast ocean, all alone. Yet, when her flippers first touched the ocean water, my sad feelings turned to happiness, feeling a sense that her work has been accomplished, her long journey worth it, her eggs laid. She was now free to go back to her feeding ground. (A Turtle will return to the same beach, approximately every 10 days once, in the time frame of 2 months, to lay eggs after which she’ll return to her feeding ground.)
Finally came time for us to release the baby hatchlings into that ocean.  Again...it was mixed feelings watching the baby turtles moving their way into the ocean. I must say, the babies moved very excitedly, and by instinct found their way. (Baby turtles will always follow the brighter path, and so they will naturally go towards the open ocean. They are attracted by light.) They will return again 20 years from now to lay their own eggs. My girls followed their hatchlings right to the ocean. Jo said "I feel happy mum, and I will see her again in 20 years, if she's a girl." Nel said "I feel sad mum, the ocean is full of danger..I hope my turtle will make it."
What can I say? I’m always lost for words when it comes to experiences like this. Awesome? Wonderful? Heavenly? Indescribable.. unforgettable.
Back to that irritating tourist. She took at least more than 10 shots using flash photography, even right at the eyes of the turtle that was laying eggs. How inconsiderate!! Our tour guide had to keep shouting “no flash! No light!” she ignored it all.
In my opinion, if a tourist wants to go on such an experience, then respect nature and observe silently without disturbing. If a tourist is going just to show been there, done that” without caring nuts about the nature, then DON’T GO.
Finally, we were fortunate to also visit a terrapin conservation program. My girls enjoyed this very much too, and this is where they decided that they’d like to be volunteers.

 Also, my dear friends who know how crazy Jo is about mermaids? Well During our night at the beach, I found her in an old turtle's nest, flipping her hands and legs like crazy. She said "I wish I was a turtle mum. You know how much I love mermaids right mum? Well..now I think I love turtles more." As for Nel, she longs to go back soon to watch more turtles. Perhaps it's because she's older, she has mixed feelings. Like me, she is happy for the turtles, yet sad that they meet so many predators out there. Sad that there are still people stealing eggs to eat, destroying their habitat.

My girls taking care of turtle hatchlings before releasing them later on

The Beautiful Moon Rise. (That's Jo silhouette)

Couldn't get a clear picture. This mama laid 101 eggs.
The first turtle we came across

Isn't a turtle beautiful....just so beautiful

Conservationist will collect the eggs and take them to a hatchery where their chance of survival will be better.

Releasing the babies..a mixture of sadness and happiness
At the Terrapin Conservation Program, headed by
As you can see, Jo's almost in there..she asked "mum, can I swim with them?"

River Terrapin

Baby Terrapins are tagged (by clipping on shell), weighed and measured
Jo trying a hand at tagging the terrapin, while Pelf guides very patiently (what a wonderful teacher )

Nel my child who wants to be a vet  (for now), helping Pelf at tagging. Post trip, she now says, she's considering marine biology. haha..

In between turtles and terrapins, Jo found a new best friend.


For more information on Turtle Conservation, visit

(We revisited Mak Nik to watch turtles again, and to explore Terengganu further. Post found Here


michiko said...

Hi Martha,
I watches on the documentary on TV in here and other day I watches about the polar bears.
You are very smart to do all your photos that I really enjoyed I think your children are very lucky to have you.
Enjoy your day,

Jessica said...

How neat to see these turtles. I can't believe 101 eggs. I hope they all survive.

mom2kiddos said...

Where is Monica Bay? I volunteered with WWF before and went with them to a turtle sanctuary in Terengganu. It was an experience of a lifetime - I got to help release turtle hatchlings into the sea. Also, saw a green turtle but it decided to go back to sea. Would love my kids to experience that too. Can't wait to know more about the Bentong farm.

Martha said...

it's in terengganu. it's wonderful knowing you've volunteered with WWF before. :) I'm sure it was an unforgettable experience for you. :)

Becky Jane said...

Such an amazing experience for your family. Thanks for sharing this with us. I will most likely never get to experience this myself so it's fun to read about yours!

John said...

I know a lot of folks who don’t eat eggs (they’re allergic, for health reasons, or concerns about animal cruelty). Here’s an awesome site that gives tips on cooking and baking without eggs: http://EggFreeLiving.com

Martha said...

@Becky, I guess part of blogging is experiencing and learning new things through other people's stories. :)

Divoo said...

what a great experience it must have been, especially for the kids! that turtle looks adorable and reminds me of "toto", San's word for a tortoise. :D

Columba Lisa said...

Beautiful story, and so well written! I read it just now with my daughter. She wishes she could see that!
I'm hoping to take my kids whale watching soon, here on the California coast. The krill is abundant, so we have a variety of whales close to shore.

Rosann said...

What an amazing experience that must have been for all of you, but especially for your children! I love how God shows us the beauty and details of His creation. God is so awesome!

Many Blessings,

Stasha said...

Those photos are perfect. No need for flash when you have the moon.
We visited a cave back home and every time the guides have to ask for no flash. Even with all the signs, even with them saying please don't in so many different languages, people still do it. Maybe they need a momentum for they are destroying the opportunity for their grandchildren to see the unique creature that inhibits that cave. Who knows, folks can be so ignorant and selfish.
You tell a beautiful story, I enjoyed reading this.

Mini Mocha said...

What a fantastic experience, it is on our to do list. Beautiful.

Carolyn said...

Beautiful is just the right word for your experience.

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