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Forty kilometres off the coast of Malaysian Borneo, in the middle of the Sulu Sea, there’s a turtle hatchery for endangered green and hawksbill turtles.
With only about 50 beds available to tourists for an overnight stay, it’s a much sought after experience that has to be reserved weeks or months in advance. Luck smiled on us however, and we were able to fill the spots of 2 others that had cancelled their booking last minute. 🙂
While day tours are only able to drop by to see the Turtle Hatchery and learn about conservation efforts, overnight visitors to the Island, get to enjoy a truly deserted beach, witness a turtle laying eggs, and best of all, help release the little cuties into the sea.
On the night we visited, the mother laid 89 eggs! Strangely, she secreted salt out of her eyes during the process and it seemed to us that she was crying, but the ranger assured us that she was in a sort of trance, and felt no pain.
We watched soundlessly as the ranger collected the eggs, buried them in the sand, just as the mother would, and placed a green net around them to prevent predators from taking them. After incubating for 30 to 60 days, the turtles would hatch and be released into the sea.
Fascinatingly, it’s only a few degrees of difference in temperature that determines the final sex of the turtles.
Seeing the adorable soft-shelled babies, making a mad and instinctive dash towards the water, was one of the most endearing things I’ve ever seen on my travels. Being of service to the confused ones running in the wrong direction, by picking them up and guiding them towards the sea, made our encounter undeniably unforgettable.