Talang Island Turtle Conservation

Talang Talang Island Turtle Conservation

The Talang Island Turtle Conservation is actually one of the rare places in Malaysia where you have a hands-on experience is participating in turtle conservation. Located in the Talang-Satang National Park and about two hours drive from Kuching, this is probably the best place in Malaysia to participate in this field of marine conservation. Having been here in 2013 under the Sarawak Tourism Board awareness program, I had an amazing experience that will last me a lifetime. 

To get here, one needs to book a Turtle Conservation Package from selected tour operators around Kuching or directly from the Sarawak Forestry Corporation where they will arrange for your turtle conservation trip here. (See below for the links)

From Kuching, an overland transfer to the town of Sematan where you will continue your journey via a wooden boat to Talang Talang Besar Island. The journey takes about 45 minutes on boat and you will pass a number of islands. If you're lucky, you might even see the rare Irrawaddy Dolphins along the way.

Talang Satang National Park Sarawak
Talang Satang National Park
Upon reaching here, you will be reminded of paradise as there are no commercial resorts, hotels or even local villages staying here. The only thing you will see here is the conservation center and the wardens bunkers. The boats lands just outside the main beach so there are no jetties here. Jump into the water and carry your own bags too.

There are only two old colonial homes which have been converted into the Turtle Conservation office and also home to the Sarawak Forestry officials and visitors. These are very basic while the bathroom is an external outdoor unit using a traditional well water source. In other words, a local well shower.

You will also be staying at very basic accommodations, minus the luxury of a hotel service. Upon arrival at the office deck, the Sarawak Forestry wardens will conduct a full briefing about the entire place and your duties. For my group, we were split into two shifts where they start only at night.

Before you go off and do your own thing, a video presentation is conducted in the main office area where everything you need to know about the Talang Turtle Conservation is shared here. After that, it is simply free and easy for everyone to explore the place.

Talang Island Accommodations
Simple accommodations on Talang Island 
When evening falls, dinner is cooked in the kitchen where simple local meals are served. This means white rice, vegetables, fried fish and chicken. After dinner, volunteers will wait it out by the main wooden deck for the wardens signal. Once the signal is given at about 8-9pm, the first shift will start by heading to the main beach area. The second shift will take a break and catch a nap on the waiting deck. 

The entire beach will see huge numbers of Green Turtles that make their way up to lay eggs here. Some of them really huge too. A warden will scout for those turtles that have laid their eggs and mark them with a stick. The volunteers job will be to dig up those eggs, document them and send them to the hatchery which is also located on the main beach.

Not to worry, the first few sessions are conducted with the wardens showing you how to do it correctly so that you do not destroy the eggs or nest. 

Sarawak Turtle Conservation
Me getting the turtle eggs out from the nest 
Each green turtle lays about 40-140 eggs and your job is to carefully dig them up, put them in a pail and then transfer them to the hatchery. Once at the hatchery, another warden will show you how to dig a hole to re-bury the eggs here and then secure it with the green mesh and then fill up the form for records.

So, this session goes on throughout the night into the wee hours of the mornings. As for my group, we got the midnight shift till about 4 in the morning which was very exciting. 

Another thing that volunteers will do is to check the hatchery nests and take the hatched green baby turtles to do a release on the beach. One has to count the number of hatchlings to match the eggs before releasing them too. As you may already know, the survival rate of the baby turtles are 1 in 1000.

This is absolutely shocking to know too. Therefore, the best time to do this is in the wee hours of the morning as one warden said. I must have released about 300 baby turtles during my shift here and hopefully one survived!

Pulau Talang Besar Sarawak
The main waiting deck on the island 
I have been to a number of turtle conversations around Malaysia, but this experience here at Talang Island is hands down the best one. At any one time when I walked around the turtle nesting area, I could see at least 6 to 8 huge green turtles digging their nest. The sheer sight of them working hard to dig the hole is simple extraordinary.

One has to be quite careful here as when you are walking along the sand, it can be tricky as on my both sides are turtles busy digging or laying eggs. For your added information, during peak season which is from June to September, there can be around 20 to 30 turtles that come up nightly to lay their eggs here. 

We could not use any high powered torches but simple ones to make our way around too. Therefore photography was not easy so I only used my Samsung Note phone camera to take pictures here. At the end of my shift, I could easily say that I was exhausted, not from the digging but from the walking around in the hilly sand areas looking for the turtle nest.

Plus I did not have enough sleep too so that contributed to my tiredness here. Below are random photos taken during my turtle conservation trip to Talang Island in Sarawak. People like to see photos hence my photo section below.

Talang Island in Sarawak
Paradise - The beautiful view from the Talang Besar Island
Turtle Eggs Photo
Freshly dug up turtle eggs from the original nest, they are then re-buried in the hatchery
Green Turtle Eggs Photo
These are Green Turtle Eggs, the ones that are dug up to be re-buried
Turtle Conservation in Sarawak
Multiple turtle tracks leading up to the beach
Talang Island Turtle Conservation
Turtle tracks to the sea. Note the right track, a large green turtle reaches the sea
Talang Island Turtle Conservation Center
View of the Talang Turtle Conservation Center 
Talang Beach Panoramic View
Panoramic view of Talang Island Beach (Click to see large picture)
Talang Talang Island
Ranger lookout station on the beach 
Baby Green Turtle Photo
Baby Green Turtle, one that recently hatched and was released by me
Baby green turtle photo
A freshly hatched turtle surfaces to the sand
Baby Green Turtle Sarawak
A new born baby turtle surfaces from one of the cages
Sarawak Turtle Hatchery
Turtle hatchery on the island 
Sarawak Sunrise Photo
Beautiful sunrise I caught at about 6 in the morning from the beach
Finally, after an overnight trip here and a huge amount of satisfaction in helping the wardens collect and re-bury the eggs, it was a journey back to the main land and to another national park. I would highly recommend this trip for anyone who wants to participate in turtle conservation.

This experience gives you the hands-on feeling of working alongside with the wardens and being up, close and personal with the turtles. Children of all ages are also welcomed to learn about this too. In other words, this turtle conservation program is open to anyone. Note that this is not recommended for handicapped or those on wheelchairs. 

Apparently, Talang Island is one of the pioneer turtle conservation sites in Malaysia and possibly around Southeast Asia. Old historical records show that there has been recordings of turtles landing here since 1946 and back then multiple species of turtles were recorded by conversationalist.

Today, only the Green Turtle makes their way here while on other islands, you may spot the Hawksbill Turtles. The Talang-Satang National Park also covers an area of 19,414 hectares and was gazetted in 1999 to enhance marine turtle conservation in Sarawak. For more information on the Talang Island Turtle Conservation, please visit the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Website

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