Malaysia is lucky to host 4 species of beautiful marine turtles; the Leatherback, Green, Hawksbill and Olive Ridley turtles. These gentle creatures of the sea swim great distances and come on land only to nest. However, the number of marine turtles in most places has dwindled and some species are also on the brink of extinction. Female turtles lay hundreds of eggs each nesting season but only a few young survive into their first year with many predators (including humans) hunting them before they even make their way out to the sea. In the shallows, many more hatchlings are also taken by fish, and when humans started to harvest these eggs, disturb or degrade nesting beaches, the young turtles’ chances for survival slide further. So, let’s appreciate these beautiful sea creatures, and help their chances of survival!
1. Talang-Satang National Park
This marine protected area is about 19,414 hectares and was gazette in 1999 to enhance marine turtle conservation in Sarawak. It encompasses the coastline and water surrounding four islands; Pulau Talang-Talang Besar and Pulau Talang-Talang Kecil (located off Sematan), and Pulau Satang Besar and Pulau Satang Kecil (located off Santubong). These small islands are surrounded by patches of shallow coral reef which provides shelter and a resting ground for sea turtles that some ashore to lay eggs. Three of the islands in the park, Talang Talang Besar, Talang Talang Kecil and Satang Besar, are also known as Sarawak’s “Turtle Islands”.
2. Turtle Island Park
This ‘Turtle Island’ lies 40km north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea and consists of the Selingan Islands, Bakungan Kecil Islands and Gulisan Islands. It is a safe haven for the endangered green and hawksbill turtles, giving you the rare opportunity to watch turtle landings. Selingan, the park’s headquarters is also a turtle hatchery, and tourist accommodation, whilst the other two islands are more for the conservation activities. Turtles lay their eggs throughout the year, but the best time to head there would be between July and October when the sea is calmer. Go there and observe the collection of eggs, tagging of mother turtles and the release of baby turtles into the sea.
3. Segari Pasir Panjang Turtle Hatchery Centre
The Pasir Panjang Beach used to be the turtles’ main landing place in Perak, however, due to pollution, there are not many turtle landing occasions anymore. Due to this, the Department of Fisheries has established the turtle hatchery in an effort to address the threat of extinction of the turtles. The place also serves as a turtle research and management centre, which also hopes to create awareness and educate the public about turtle conservation.
4. Turtle Hatchery Center, Pulau Upeh
Located about 26km from Alor Gajah and 9km from Masjib Tanah, this hatchery provides a fenced up bench area for turtles and accommodations nearby in the Tanjung Bidara Beach Resort (and there’s also private chalets nearby!). The Malacca government has also identified this island as a landing and breeding sanctuary for the hawksbill turtles in efforts to conserve the species and also to attract tourists.
5. Turtle and Marine Ecosystem Center, Rantau Abang & The Ma’ Daerah Turtle Sanctuary Center, Kemaman, in Terengganu
In the ‘60s, the Rantau Abang Beach in the district of Dungun was made famous for being one of the 6 hatching sites in the world for giant leatherback turtles. However, due to the dwindling numbers of turtle landings each year, the state government has made an effort by setting up turtle research and hatching sites in elected areas in the district of Dungun, setiu, Kemaman as well as the islands of Redang, Bidong, Perhentian and Kapas. There is now an increase in the number of turtle landings especially Green and Hawksbill turtles in Pantai Ma Daerah, Dungun and in Pantai Teluk Mak Nik. There’s also the Turtle Information Cnetre in Rantau Abang, for those who’d like to know more about turtles and also an Aquatic Bio-Diversity Gallery at the Turtle & Marine Ecology Centre!
6. Penang Turtle Sanctuary
This turtle sanctuary is located on Pantai Kerachut in Penang’s National Park and was set up to help protect and preserve the dwindling populations of Turtles in Malaysian waters. Various species come onto the beach at night to lay their eggs which are then protected from predators until they hatch up to 60 days later. The Green Sea Turtles can be seen coming to lay their eggs from April to August, while the Olive Ridley Turtles come here during the months from September to February. Once the eggs hatch, the sanctuary then keeps the young turtles in small ponds until they are old enough to stand a good chance of survival in the wild before they are released, therefore increasing the chances of the babies making it to adulthood and coming back to their birthplace to lay their own eggs in the future.
7. Cherating Turtle Sanctuary
This is a famous sanctuary located just beside Asia’s first Club Med in Cherating, Pahang. The centre was established in 1972 as a turtle hatchery in an effort to protect the endangered species – in particular the Leatherback Turtle. The centre lies on Pantai Chendor and helps to endure the survival of the turtles that land there to lay eggs during the months from April to August. You can also go there during the night and the centre will alert you if there are turtles coming up ahore to lay eggs. This place also acts as an information centre to educate the public about turtles and the need to protect them.
8. TAT (Tengku Arif Temenggung) Turtle Sanctuary
This turtle hatchery and conservation centre is located t the Tekek Village along the gravel trail to Paya Village after Berjaya Tioman Resort. It is also hidden on a beautiful private beachfront at Teluk Sri Intan Bay and comes under royal patronage of the Pahang together with the Department of Fisheries Malaysia. It is also open to public during the day and a caretaker manages the place during nesting season between March and October when eggs are collected from the beach and incubated at the centre.