Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Turtle Magic

Driving back home from Kuala Terengganu along the coast road, we saw beautiful villages, interesting towns and a horrific lorry smash! It is a drive which will live long in our memories, mostly for all the right reasons… By mid-afternoon, we had arrived at our intended destination on this journey: the turtle sanctuary at Cherating.

Cherating Turtle Sanctuary is located at Pantai Chendor or Chendor Beach. Established in 1972, the centre functions as a turtle hatchery, its primary aim to protect the four endangered turtle species which visit Malaysian waters, in particular the Leatherback Turtle but also the Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley Turtles.

The beautiful Pantai Chendor

On arrival, we were able to stroll to Chendor Beach.  Here, there were signs advising that it was illegal to be engaged in activities on the beach after 6pm: this was the beginning of the laying time for turtles, and so people were prohibited from interfering with the delicate process. However, during the main egg-laying months from April to August, the centre alerts those with an interest if there are turtles coming up to the shore. Under supervision, people are permitted to watch this fascinating, natural phenomenon.

No fishing...
No jogging...
No sport...
No bathing...
No nothing...
Which can bother egg-laying turtles!

Unfortunately, we did not have the time, on this trip, to ‘lay over’ in Cherating to witness this special event.

Close to the beach and at the back of the visitor centre, there is a sandy stretch, fenced off from prying hands and protected with shade cloth from the baking sun.  In this compound, the eggs of turtles had been ‘transplanted’ from the adjoining beach, each plot of eggs labelled with the time and date of laying. Here, the valuable eggs are kept under careful and caring supervision until hatching time.

The egg-birthing enclosure

We found the visitor centre to be an interesting and informative place, with a few ‘adolescent’ and the little hatchling turtles on display to the public. As the hatchlings mature and attain appropriate size and condition they are released back into the wild.

A secondary aim of the centre is to educate its visitors, providing information on the different species of turtles, their habitat and their food in their Malaysian context. Other exhibits include local sea shells and corals.

Overall, Cherating was well worth a short visit… and worthy of a ‘lay-over’ to witness the night magic of the turtles. Next visit, yes!

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