Volunteering at Sepilok and Turtle Island

Published: July 7th 2018
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Proboscis monkeyProboscis monkeyProboscis monkey

Taken at the proboscis monkey sanctuary, Sabah
For those of you who were keeping a track of my adventures prior to me going to Sepilok, I apologise for the silence for the last 2 months. I spent May and June volunteering at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and whilst completing the volunteer programme at Sepilok we were asked not to blog due to confidentiality. If anyone is interested in my time spent working with the orangutans I’d be happy to answer any questions if you contact me directly.

I’ve had so many photo opportunities, I literally have thousands of photos - there are a select few posted here, but rest assured I have many more to bore you with should you want to see them!

In summary, I can confirm I had the best time of my life whilst working with the orangutans, experiences I will never forget and a whole bunch of furry friends! I knew I would love it, but, I don’t think I was prepared for how much I would love every single second. It was incredibly difficult to leave and not only because of the orangutans, but, because I made some amazing friends who I already miss terribly, but I know will be in my life for a long time to come.... Froo, Lauren and Anna... Jumpa lagi xxx

During my time at Sepilok I was fortunate enough to have enough spare time to visit Turtle Island, seeing sea turtles is something I have wanted to do since I was at school and I was finally able to fulfil that dream. At time of writing, I believe the FCO advise against all travel to Turtle Island due to the threat of pirates and won’t allow you to book from the UK. I took the plunge and booked my place for the overnight stay whilst in Borneo. The boat journey from Sandakan is around an hour, we left quite early so we arrived by around 10am. I was amazed to see the beautiful white sandy beach and clear water as we approached; a complete contrast from where we boarded the boat where there is so much rubbish in the water.

We checked in to our rooms which were lovely, I was so impressed to have an actual duvet (we had small blankets at the rest house in Sepilok) and a really nice powerful shower. Bags ditched, swimwear and sun cream on we headed to the beach to chill out. I enjoyed my day relaxing on the beach and the odd dip in the sea to cool down. There are armed guards on the beach 24/7 but you don’t really notice them and actually, it probably made me feel better they were there.

We showered and changed and went for a walk on the beach to watch the sunset, the sky was pretty spectacular and there was a storm out to sea which looked pretty cool.

We all had to meet at the restaurant for 18:30 in readiness for any female turtles who may come in the beach to lay eggs and after eating it was a waiting game. The tide was so far out we were warned it may be very late or not happen at all. I decided I’d stick it out as long as was necessary to see a turtle. At around 22:15 we were given the shout that a female had come up the beach, made her nest and was about to start laying eggs and we were told to run! I think she had made her nest at the furthest possible place on the island from where we were! We arrived and she had started to lay her eggs, she laid 93 in total which were all collected by the ranger. It really was a lovely experience to witness this and it seemed she didn’t even notice we were there. The rangers checked her over before we left her to make her way back to the ocean.

We walked back to the hatchery with the freshly laid eggs and buried them. Keeping them in the hatchery means they’re safer from predators such as monitor lizards and the rangers keep an eye on them. The sex of the hatchlings is dependent on the temperature they’re kept at - cooler and they’ll be male, warmer and they’ll be female.

After burying the eggs, we took a basket of hatchlings, they were only about 2 inches long, to the ocean to release them. That evening we released 59 of them, hoping so much that they make it.

The next day we got up early to see the sunrise on the beach. It was so beautiful looking at the sun rise over the ocean and take the opportunity for some photos. On the walk back to the restaurant for breakfast we saw someone running through the trees towards the opposite side of the island and the beach. Assuming there was something going on, we followed and I’m so glad I did. A turtle was on the beach having just laid her eggs and was covering them with sand. She then turned around and headed for the water. I was so lucky to see her in the daylight. One of the guides who was there said it was dangerous for them to be on the beach during the day because of their dark shell they overheat. Photos taken, we went for breakfast and to pack ready for the boat journey back to Sandakan.

Additional photos below
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