Borneo Adventure - Part 5
Day 5 – Selingan -Turtle Island
Alarm woke us up at 6am, after a quick cup of coffee, we were off again on a trip up the river with George to visit the ox bow lake of Tanjung Balat. It was a beautiful clear morning, all the birds were singing and active. We could hear Gibbons calling way up in the top of the trees, a sound I love. Our boat boy gently slowed, turning into the narrow channel that would lead to the lake. We again saw many different species of Kingfisher, their striking blue colour is hard to miss. Very soon the view changed and we were right in the middle of a huge lake, which large birds were flying over, a Purple Heron sat uptop of a tree, Oriental Darters, Brahminy Kites and White-Bellied Sea-eagles aplenty.
We did a circuit of the lake and headed back to our lodge for breakfast in the jungle. The boys had set everything up for us to have a full cooked breakfast outdoors with nature all around. A very cheeky Black squirrel kept popping down a tree for a bit of bread. Soon it was time to collect our luggage,say goodbye to the lovely staff and boys, who waved us off on the jetty and left Abai. We set off once again with our guide George, down the Kinabatangan river to Sandakan, where the river eventually meets the sea. We passed many fishing villages on the banks of the river. The boat always slowing right down, because as was explained in a most colourful way by George, the little huts in the water, were toilets and if someone was in one and the bow wave was too strong, they could be washed down river!
When we reached Sandakan jetty our suitcases were taken for storage overnight, we changed boats and said goodbye to George, who handed us back to our previous guide Iro, who was to be with us at Turtle island. Now we were on a high powered speedboat and I loved it. After an hour the most beautiful island came into view, Selingan, the home of the turtles.
We were shown to our chalet, once again great accomodation with air con! We ate a very fine lunch, afterwards setting off down to the beach, where mats and towels were provided. We spent a couple of hours down there walking along the shore, looking at shell and coral that had been washed up. We could also see where the many Turtles had come up the night before, leaving their tracks. Excitment starting to grow! We also swam in the wonderfully calm and warm Sulu sea, bliss. After we left the beach we decided to have a sleep until dinner, as we had a long night ahead of us.
At 6.30 we met Iro who took us through what was to happen that night, then we watched a video presentation on the conservation work on the islands, there are three of them in fact. Because of the falling numbers of the Green and Hawksbill Turtles, due to poaching. It was decided in 1977 to buy the three islands where it would be illegal to take the eggs or kill the adult Turtles. There are huge fines and long imprisonment for those who break the law. Most that were found breaking these rules were Chinese and Vietnamese!
I found the video so interesting and could have watched it over and over again.
We were then given a briefing on what would happen that night. After dinner, we would just wait around until we heard the call ‘ Turtles’, where we would be led down the beach by our guide to watch a female Turtle lay her eggs. We could talk in a quiet voice, as they go into a trance like state while laying. An infrared light would be at the back of her to see the eggs drop into the nest, but no light must be shone on her head or eyes. She secretes a mucus that protects her eyes from the sand as she lays, it looks like she is crying. We were also told that they come to the beach where they themselves were hatched between 18 – 30 years ago. They have magnetic crystals in their brain, that enables them to track the ocean floor to find their migratory path (sound familier) When they have eventually finished all their eggs laying, they go back to either Sri Lanka in the Indian ocean or Hawaii in the Pacific.
We went down to the dining room, had our dinner and went outside to wait. And we did, we waited and we waited, which seemed like forever. Then came the call ‘ Turtles’, our guide came for us, took us down to the beach and there she was a large Green Turtle, in her scraped out nest, laying her beautiful pure white eggs, moist and perfectly round.
GREEN TURTLE LAYING HER EGGS
We stood behind her watching as the ranger scooped them out every now and then very gently put them in a bucket. I was surprised that every now and then she let out a grunt. It was a very moving experence and I did cry, I don’t mind admitting. When she had finished laying and scraping the sand back over the nest, the ranger checked her over for barnacles, removing them if possible, as these can cause cancer on the shell, our girl was clear. She was measured and checked for a tag ( only a very small metal no id ) to see if she had been to the beach before, and she had, a local girl with a tag! She had layed 117 eggs that night, but thats not it. Over the next 2 weeks she would come up again to this beach, laying between 1000 – 1500 eggs, staggering, and something I did not realise before.
TURTLE EGGS COLLECTED
We said our goodbyes and thanked the ranger for what had been such a privilege to witness. We were then taken to the hatchery, where 54 baby turtles were in a basket ready to be taken down the beach to be released into the sea. We did this with great difficulty, as the little ones kept turning back and running over my feet. The ranger said the water was cold for them. It felt fine to me, but then they had never felt water before. They were soon on their way, but maybe only one of that release would make it. They are picked of by birds and lizards.
We were then taken back to the hatchery to bury the 117 eggs that had been collected in a man made nest, a protective wire net put around it and labeled.
We walked back to our chalet tired but extremely happy. Good luck little Turtles.
NESTCAP FOR 10TH JULY
FISH COUNT 2
02.34 Lady flies off and straight back and lands on her perch
web cam off
08.23 Webcam still not working
11.09 – Close up of Blue 44 and his transmitter
11.39 – Lady sitting on the edge of the nest looking over the Loch and blue 44 in the middle as usual
11.53 Fish Delivery, Lady takes it and starts feeding blue 44. Laddie stays for a couple of mins before flying off
12.48 Lady flies off and is on the dead tree now
13.26 Laddie arrives on the nest
13.28 Lady flies in now and is shouting for food
13.29 Laddie flies off now
14.01 Lady flies off
14.58 Blue 44 just been amusing himself with a stick and now lying quietly
15.49 Lady sitting in the dead tree
17.13 Night Camera comes on now
18.27 Lady finally arrives back onto the nest now. 4 & a half hours Blue44 has been on his own
19.40 Huge headless fish delivery, Lady snatches it and starts feeding juvie, Laddie straight off.
21.08 Lady has finished the fish and flies off. Juvie looks well and truly stuffed as he stands in the nest, looking where Lady has gone
21.09 Lady back.
22.30 Infra red camera on
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