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Turtle Island

sunny 32 °C

Thought it was about time I wrote again- it's been a while. I've done a fair bit in the last two weeks, but have been pretty lazy in terms of writing it must be said. I think my mammoth chunks of text have taken their toll on me, so going to try to keep it much more brief. Well I think I was just back in KK last time I wrote, and I remained there for just over a week- which was really nice. Didn't have any stresses and could just relax and do a few different thinks. The project at this point had sort of ground to a halt- we needed expert help in terms of the TED design as it wasn't functioning properly and because of this we couldn't exactly trial it. So we decided to head back to KK and await Nick's return from Madagascar.

Me and gill started our Rescue Diver course the day after we got back from KK- which lasted two days. It was really good fun and I learnt an awful lot. You learn all different skills- from how to restrain and rescue panicking divers, to manage a rescue effort, search and rescue dives, recovering, dekitting, and removing an unconscious diver from the water. Pretty much any rescue you can think of, you cover. To start with you do all kinds of self rescue- so the instructor will do things like turn off your air underwater, or deflate your BCD on the surface and rip the chord out that you inflate it with. They do all this out of the blue and it's up to you to rescue yourself properly and efficiently. It was good fun- throughout the whole course they sprung surprises on you and it made you think on your feet, which was a great experience. A couple of days later I went leisure diving also, which was really good. I love diving with borneo dream and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who's ever out in KK, they are great guys (cheers Katie!!). Saw my first shark on this dive also, even though it was a baby nurse shark hiding under a rock, it was still pretty cool. Saw an eagle ray on one of my rescue dives also, which is even more amazing! Saw some crown of thorns starfish too, which was very cool.

So diving took up a fair chunk of my time in KK. Kit had his mum and step dad over for a few days, which left me to hang out with the girls quite a lot in the evening. I went to see that new twilight film with them one (shitlad), which was actually one of the most boring films I have ever seen. I implore you not to see it, it is truly horrific. Went to see Salt on my last night in KK too, which although was reasonably enjoyable- in a hollywood popcorn kind of way, it was one of the most ridiculous films I have ever seen. Totally not worth £7 or whatever in the UK, but for £1.80 over here, I wasn't too displeased. We all went out on saturday night again also, which started off slowly until me and Kit went to the supermarket and bought a bottle of 50% bright pink local liquor. Needless to say I don't remember much after that, and spent much of the next day in a darkened room, with only a trip to pizza hut worth noting.

When I was diving on the monday, Gill was sorting her bank stuff out and went in to the office and found Nick there giving lectures to these two Pakistani guys (one from the government and one from IUCN) who he is helping them start up a turtle conservation project over in Pakistan. She sat in on the days lectures and managed to get us to join in with the rest of their training. The next day consisted of more lectures, which was really interesting and the highlight was to come on wednesday when we were taking a trip to turtle island, a turtle hatchery off the east coast of borneo. We headed off in the morning to the airport and flew 45 minutes to Sandakan, another big city in Sabah. From there we took Nick's boat out to the island, which takes about an hour. The island looks stunning- I've attached some photos at the bottom. It finally felt tropical- Clear blue water and sandy beaches. It was just brilliant. Nick has done a lot of research there in the past- so we didn't have to pay. We all had passes and because we were with Nick we were allowed round the island to do whatever we wanted. Tourists are highly managed on the island- Only 48 a night and you have to leave the beach by 6pm. No tourists are allowed on the beach after this without a ranger. We were exempt from this, which was brilliant. In the afternoon, Nick walked us round and explained how the turtles laid their eggs and showed us their tracks and things and showed us successful and abandoned nests etc etc. It was very interesting to get an idea about the nesting habits. Hatcheries are quite contentious things in turtle conservation- if managed badly they can cause high levels of mortality from mishandling the eggs and not reburying them in the right conditions. Turtles develop their sex depending on their temperature. Eggs that are warmer become female- In the wild many nests are made under the shade of trees, but often in the past hatcheries have not received any shade at all. So when the nests are moved, it leads to a huge bias of female turtles being hatched. There are many other issues, that I can't really go into over this, but I found it really interesting. I've got to say though, the price is crazy- it costs around £150 per person to see the turtles and your experience goes something like this- Get to the island in the morning, spend the day their snorkelling, sunbathing etc, watch educational video at 7pm, have dinner shortly after, wait for turtles to come ashore, go see a turtle lay its eggs into a nest (duration 20 minutes max), watch ranger transport eggs into hatchery and bury them (duration 5 minutes), a bucket of hatchlings is brought out and you watch the rangers taken them down to the shore and release them about 2 foot from the water (Duration 5-10 minutes). The whole turtle experience is extremely short and you only get to see it once, then you have to go to bed. To make this worse the groups are huge- 24 people each. One of the objectives of the training was to see how the hatchery was managed in terms of tourists. We stood back and watched all the interactions and it was very interesting. I would have wanted more. After the tourists had gone to bed, we walked around the island several times to look for tracks and watched a few turtles lay their eggs. The whole process from coming ashore to leaving the beach takes several hours- they dig their nests in the sand and are very slow across the beach. We released some hatchlings into the sea. We kept looking round until the early hours and there was no accommodation so we slept out on the beach, which was pretty cool- even though it did get pretty cold! We left the island at 6am the next morning to get back to the airport to fly back to KK. A quick turn around and we headed up to Kudat to show the Pakistanis the TED project.

We basically just took them out on the boat for a couple of hours. The donor for the project from the UN Small Grants Programme was also with us, so we needed to impress. Which somehow we did, bearing in mind the project hasn't gone too far. We met with a lot of boat owners that night and showed them video footage we had collected (the bits that were suitable anyway) and we're trying to push more interest. We're slowly getting there, we have the funds to compensate them for any losses they incur. The last few nights has been the same out on the boat, collecting data. Still making various adjustments to the TED- Nick is coming back up next week as we have quite a big change to make that hopefully will make it better. Oh I tried to watch the man city v tottenham game last night. Went for a walk round Kudat- a lot of places are shut as it's Ramadan. I found one place showing some football- it was the end of a Japanese league game, which I thought they'd obv turn over once it had finished. They did turn it over when it had finished, only onto a Malaysian soap, which I was highly unimpressed about. Very disappointed in Kudat.

Got 3 weeks left here now, can't believe how quickly it's going. I'm sure these will fly by. Will write in a week or so. x

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Posted by mburgass 21:46 Archived in Malaysia Tagged events

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