Last summer, I ventured to Borneo for two weeks. There is so much to post about the country, but for now, I will share one of the most amazing things I have ever seen – a green Sea Turtle laying her eggs on the beach – IN BORNEO.
My images are not as good as they could be. I made the mistake of not bringing good camera equipment (don’t ask me why). I do hope you enjoy the WordPress Story anyway! Most of the information was from memory, but where there were gaps, I went to the the Sea Turtle Conservancy for details. The images could have told the story without written documentation, but I felt the information added, provided some interesting details.
First things first. We took a boat out to Turtle Island in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo – with the intent of seeing this beautiful act of nature. Turtle Island is well-known for it’s protection of the nesting of two endangered species of the sea turtle, the green turtle and hawksbill. Both species lay their eggs here year-round.
We landed on a beautiful beach and were able to wander around a bit! It only took 20 minutes to canvas the island as it is very small. The formations below are used to prevent beach erosion to further protect this island habitat.
Soon after we arrived, we were educated about the hatchery. Eggs are collected from the nest and placed in the hatchery for ~55 to 60 days depending on the species. Once the eggs hatch, they are released into the ocean, usually at night. Theoretically, they are less likely to be eaten by predators.
Turtles generally nest at night, which means a potentially long wait. As soon as the sun sets, a ranger will scour the beach in search of a turtle ready to build her nest. We waited and waited and WAITED for a turtle to reach the shore . There were major storms that evening so it took a lot longer than usual. Finally, she came (I think it was close to 1:00 am) and built her nest by flinging away loose sand with her flippers.
Most females return to the same beach every time they are ready to nest. Not only do they appear on the same beach, they often emerge within a few hundred yards of where they last nested.
Soon after she arrived (I called her Hazel) they measured her…
We then gave her some space and she unloaded her eggs – over 90 of them! They actually go into a trance-like state so they are not fully aware of the audience encroaching in her space. The eggs look like ping-pong balls!
Once she is finished, she covers the eggs with sand and carefully scoots back to the ocean to mate again, possibly with multiple males.
The eggs were labeled and transported to their very own hatchery “parking space”. Another interesting thing to note is that the hatchlings do not have sex chromosomes so their gender is determined by the temperature within the nest or hatchery. Warmer temps typically produce females (83-85 degrees Fahrenheit or 28-29 degrees Celsius).
At the end of the “show”, we were able to release some hatchlings into the ocean! We did this not by hand, but out of a basket. You also have to be careful to put them on the beach first – not directly in the water so the females will imprint and come back to the beach to lay more eggs in the future. I read a statistic that something like 1 in 1,000 hatchlings survive. I am pretty confident ALL of ours lived :-).
The following day, we packed our things and got back on the boat for Sabah, personally enriched by what we saw the night before. About 15 minutes into the ride, our guide John Mittan, captured this shot! We don’t know if was our girl but it truly completed the circle of life of a green sea turtle!
The experience will live in my memory forever, and if I forget details, I will always refer back to this post!