Asia Trip Day 4: Malaysia (Sandakan)

Day 4: Thursday

Another early morning taxi ride to the airport for our 45 minute flight to Sandakan on Borneo’s northeast coast. We were met by Dino, our guide from Nasalis Lavartus (the company we had pre-booked our tour with), who showed us our van and we headed to the Central Market to pick up a few supplies before going out to Turtle Island.

The boat ride to the island was about an hour, and when we arrived it was like looking at a postcard of a true holiday (except the disappointing amount of garbage on the beach). We learned the rules, got our rooms and headed into the water. After swimming and fish-watching for about an hour we had some lunch and back we went – this time armed with snorkel gear. Well worth the investment! We saw so many variations of fish and little anemones living in rocks; giant clams; sea slugs and spiny sea urchins and so much more! Matt and I snorkelled for 3 hours before emerging due to the tide going out – we didn’t want to scrape ourselves up on exposed coral – both feeling salty, exhausted and sunburnt. Now was the down time – and there was a fair amount of that! The problem with being at Turtle Island is that, once you’ve spent your time in the water, there is NOTHING to do. They were out of beer, there were no hammocks to swing in, no board games or decks of cards, no informative books about the marine life – nothing. So we opted for a short nap instead!

After dinner we watched a short video about the sea turtle conservation work they are doing on the islands and then waited for the mother turtle to come ashore to lay eggs. We were lucky enough to strike up conversation with a mom and her daughters who are from Brunei (our next stop) and they let us play their travel Scrabble which alleviated some of the nothing-to-do time, and around 9pm we were called out to watch a green turtle lay some of her 104 eggs.

The next stop was the “hatchery”, or nursery, where the eggs are deposited once they have been laid but before mama turtle covers them with sand. They do this to decrease eggs lost to predators and also because space on the island is limited and with 10-20 turtles nesting each night, there is a very real possibility of one of them uncovering a previous nest. So we buried the eggs before going to watch 54 new little tiny baby green turtles get released into the sea. The entire evening was very informative, although I have to wonder why, if this is considered “best practice”, it isn’t carried out in places like Tortuguero, Costa Rica which is the first place I’ve seen the turtle conservation effort.

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