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Published: September 29th 2022
The end of the Intrepid trip was nigh – we would return back to Sandakan in a few days to fly out but for now we had a quick over-nighter in Sandakan. After a delicious roti lunch, we explored the small compact city and escaped the afternoon heat in the town’s mall! Later that evening we met the Intrepid crew at a rooftop bar for drinks, dinner and a glorious sunset. After dinner, a few of us hit the town and went to the seaside where there were markets, pumping music and families enjoying the Saturday night. A couple our gang got roped into dancing with a local singing group which was fun.
The next day we caught a small ferry to Selingan Island – one of three islands that make up the Turtle islands chain which is part of the Turtle Islands National Park. The purpose of this visit it to see how turtle conservation is done here and also to witness turtles laying eggs in the night. Also as we were right on the border with the Philippines, there are pirates who have kidnapped tourists (last one was around 2017) however the waters were heavily guarded by the
coastguard and army/navy that were on the beach. Unfortunately Bill wasn’t feeling very well so he spent the day and night in the room. I joined the Intrepid gang for an afternoon swim and took a short walk along the beach and took some photos. The island also serves as a hatchery where the turtle eggs are buried and surrounded by a netting ‘cave to protect eggs from predators such as monitor lizards and rats. Of course there are natural nests around and we saw many little turtles hatching waddling to the beach it was so cute! The swim was very nice albeit rocky and I stepped on a couple of sea slugs yuck! After dinner we learnt more about the island conservatory and what they do, as well as the life cycle of a sea turtle. As the turtle population is depleting due to predators in the sea as well as man made dangers such as fishing nets, plastics (which if ingested by a turtle is fatal) and outboard motor fins, but also turtle eggs harvesting is also a major contributing factor to the turtle population dwindling as black market poachers sell the eggs in markets of neighbouring countries
touting them as ‘aphrodisiacs’. The conservation centre was established in 1977, and each night Marine Park rangers collect the eggs from the female turtles who lay eggs in ‘clutches’ in a nest on the shore and they then record how many eggs there are and bury them safely in the hatchery. Once they start hatching they are transported to sea (where not many will survive unfortunately and not a lot is known about their life cycle until the females come to shore to lay eggs.) That evening the turtle we witnessed lay 96 eggs – one of our Intrepid members adopted that nest (which is basically a donation) and others adopted other nests. We also got to see the release of some hatched turtles. When we were heading back to our chalets we found heaps of turtles – the nest was under our chalet! So we all had our torches looking for turtles and a ranger had a basket out collecting them for release. What an interesting and informative evening!
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