Day 27 of Andy and Suez's Great Adventure

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Dec 23, 2010

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Turtle Island Rehabilitation Centre

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 27 of Andy and Suez's Big Adventure


I can't remember the last time I was up this early, but here we are on holiday and being awoken by our alarm at 4 o'clock in the morning, after about 6 hours kip.  The reason, we're getting picked up at five to go on our overnight trip to take in the turtles and orang utans.  Makes it just about worthwhile but by god we're knackered.

It's still dark outside when we're picked up meaning that we've still not seen Kota Kinabalu (KK)  in the daylight so no city review for you just yet.  There's another Aussie couple (Helen and Murray) already in the van when we join, and we meet a further couple of ladies at the airport, however they are only there for a half day tour.  Chatting away with both of them we found out that one of the ladies mothers was Scottish and came from, wait for it, Uphall!  Who ever said it was a small world.

When we'd be talking about the trip I'd been expecting a small plane, similar to the one we took in Grenada (8 seater) but it turns out we're taking a scheduled airline flight from KK to Sandakan Airport.  A bit disappointing but hey, everything can't be perfect :o)  The guide booking us in said that he had got us window seats on the left hand side of the plane so that we could get a view of Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Borneo, and boy was it worth it.  The views were stunning, with low lying clouds and mist shrouding some of the forest but the slopes and peak of the mountain standing clear.

The flight itself was only 45 minutes but during that time we got some complimentary orange juice and peanuts, very friendly staff and a comfortable flight.  Nice one Malaysian Airlines!

Landing in Sandakan we waited for the bags to come off the plane, Suez's came out, everyone elses came out, I stood there waiting...and waiting...and getting a bit worried.  Eventually a security guard came over and asked if we were waiting for a bag.  Well d'uh.  He had a quick check down the luggage chute and mine had got stuck a couple of feet down the conveyor belt, phew!

We then took a bus to Sepilok Orang utan Rehabilitation centre.  We weren't seeing this today, that is booked for tomorrow, but the two ladies were being dropped off here and we were picking up another 5 people.  Eventually we had our full complement, Helen & Murray we'd already met, Jo and Scott (if you looked up Aussie stereotype in the dictionary, would be smiling and waving at you, as well as probably trying to get you to drink a beer!), Kelvin another Aussie, and an Italian couple that kept themselves to themselves.

Trip to Libaran

We headed from Sepilok to a jetty somewhere about 20km away and from there jumped on a slightly rickety looking boat with two pretty powerful outboard motors.  There was a lovely friendly cute wee kitten to greet us well.  Suez got a pang for her own wee ones!  We then took a leisurely crusie through some mangrove swamps, with the threat of seeing crocodiles (no chance!) and possibly other wildlife (nope none of that either).  We then hit open water and the captain opened the throttles, it was great, spray everywhere, cooling wind to stop you melting and the islands and sea scape flashing by.

After about 15 minutes we arrived at Libaran Island, where we were stopping for lunch, and had some time to wander along the beach and chill out.  We were both really reminded of Grenada, and particularly the island that we stopped on when we went on the trip, which is not that surprising given that they are almost on the same line of latitude, but it did leave us feeling a bit like "been there, seen that".  Still it was nice and relaxing.

At 11 Kurt, our guide, told us that lunch was ready(!) so we all trooped in to eat, whether we were ready or not.  I think that idea was that we eat and get to Selingan Island (Turtle Island) asap to allow us to chill out, but it did leave us feeling a little rushed.  I was still not feeling great so only had a wee bit to eat, but it seemed nice enough, and everyone raved about the desserts (coconut pudding and mango pudding).

Prisoner Cell Block C

So, back on the boat and off to Selingan Island.  20 minutes later and we were there, keys were handed out and we led the way heading to our chalet, block C.  From the outside it looks quite a picturesque little building, inside the bedrooms and it's reminiscent of a prison cell.  Grey walls, one window and two single beds.  The beds are comfy enough though so I guess it was OK and we didn't really need much more.  I think that this is possibly some of the accommodation that we were more expecting in India and we've maybe been spoiled a little with what we have encountered.

There was the option of walking around the island or going snorkelling, we went for a kip!  Given the last couple of days we'd had limited sleep and a lot of rushing about so we were absolutlely knackered.  A nice 3 hour sleep and we were a little refreshed.  Suez then went back to sleep :o), I went fro a walk on the beach to see if it was worthwhile going for a snorkel, given it was about a fiver to hire the equipment.  It didn't look that promising and going by what others said later I don't think we missed too much.  The water was quite shallow and a lot of the coral dead so there were a few fish, but nothing compared to what we'll see on the Great Barrier Reef!

Late night?

At the briefing in the afternoon Kurt had told us that the night's programme was completely determined by the turtles (obviously) and that last night the first turtle coming up to nest had not appeared until just before midnight!  Our hearts sank at the thought.

We headed to the centre around 6 and chatted with Helen & Murray and Jo and Scott until we got a shout to watch a video presentation setting out exactly what they do to help preserve sea turtles and what is causing problems (pollution, rubbish, discarded fishing nets and illegal turtle egg collecting).  The rangers monitor the island constantly and tag and monitor all turtles who land to lay eggs.  They then collect the eggs and transfer them to a hatchery so that they can be looked after and predation minimised, and once they hatch released safely into the sea.

After the video it was another buffet dinner and then we sat about waiting...

Our hopes were raised when we realised that a baby turtle had somehow escaped the hatchery and making a break for freedom.  It was grabbed by a ranger and Suez leapt forward when he said that we could hold it.  I think she was pretty excited and surprised at how wriggly it was.  After that smll burst of excitement we went back to waiting...

To the massive relief of everyone involved the cry of "It's turtle time" went up around 9.20 and we all rushed to follow the ranger to the nesting site.  At this point we realised how many people were on the island as part of various tours, around 40.  This meant it was a crush to see anything, with selfish idiots galore refusing to move and let everyone see and thrusting their cameras in the way of everyone else at every opportunity.  One particular Japanese girl was on the point of being killed by Suez as she was paying no heed to the rangers or anyone elses requests or instructions.

From what we were able to see it was a strange mix between inspiring and upsetting given the fact that this was a creature that has travelled thousands of miles to lay her eggs back at her home beach, and the fact that there were morons shining torches and using flash photography (despite warnings not to).  I don't know whether this was contributory or not but she only laid around 30 eggs (average is between 60-90) and then started covering up the egg chamber.

Suddenly a shout went up, "Careful, there's an undiscovered nest, help us catch the hatchlings!"  We turned around and about 2 feet away there were dozens of little turtle hatchlings struggling through the surface of the sand trying to make their way to the sea.  I may be being cynical (as Suez will definitely say) but this seemed a little too convenient to me and smacked of a set-up, but it created a little excitement at least.

After this we were shown the hatcheries where the eggs are taken by the rangers, cue another scrum to get photos with the usual suspect dminating things and paying no attention to other.  She was at her best again and you could almost see the steam coming out of Suez's ears.

We then went down to the beach and the rangers brought around a basket of hatchlings which were ready to be released into the sea.  Guess what, another scrum ensued with the Japanese lassie in danger of being drowned by about 20 folk there due to her behaviour.  Once all the photos had been taken the ranger asked everyone to switch of their lights and cameras so that the turtles could be released and they would follow his light out to sea.  If they saw any other light inland they would head towards that.  Yup you're way ahead of me aren't you, same lassie, camera on with light meaning half the hatchlings headed towards her.  I think at this stage Suez had just had enough and belted her on the arm with her water bottle and she finally got the message and switched of the camera.

Seeing the hatchlings heading out to sea was definitely the best part of the evening and after that we had the option of going back to the centre to wait and see another turtle laying eggs, we just wanted to head back to bed, so we did!

Overall I think we were both a little disappointed with the experience as the group was so large, and there were so many people not obeying the instructions of the rangers that it was difficult to get any idea of what was happening an appreciate the extraordinary things that were happening.

A relative early night for us but looking forward to tomorrow where we hopefully see hairy, orange apes!

Andy and Suez xx
Slideshow Report as Spam


Mum & Dad C on

Just pulled up the map of trip = to orientate ourselves & to see where you are - installed Google Earth to look into where you are. Just wave & we#ll see you (not).
Really great these morning video calls - pity about the "furreigners" spoiling the turtle experience. On the TV nature progs, it's like the camera men are on their own.
Must go mum dragging me to Ikea for stuff for kitchen.
Lots of love

Mum on

Did Suez actually see anything or was she too busy glowering at Japanese lassie, hehe

Louise McWilliams on

can just imagine suez's nippy face ha ha

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