A very long time ago, I studied Biology at university.
Now, as I stand in front of my classes saying “Repeat after me: How many cows?” it seems impossible to believe that at one time, I could tell you the difference between meiosis and mitosis, describe the neurological system of cockroaches, and determine the sex of a shrimp. While none of these skills has proved particularly useful in the real world, they do help to explain why I wanted to go to Borneo. I wanted to see LIFE. Animals, insects, plants, fungi – if it was alive, I wanted to see it.
And during my last two days in Borneo, I did just that.
We boarded a speed boat in Sandakan and headed out into the Sulu Sea. Along the way, we passed a village on stilts. It seemed a rather romantic way to live but I suspect that reality would prove otherwise…
Pulau Selingaan, is one of the islands in Turtle Island National Park, a marine conservation area cooperatively managed by Malaysia and the Philippines. In the Malaysian part of the park, visitors are only allowed on Pulau Selingaan.
The islands of the Turtle Island National Park are breeding grounds for the Green Sea turtle and the Hawksbill Sea turtle, both of which are endangered species. Females of both species come ashore every night to lay eggs. The eggs are collected and placed in hatcheries to protect them from predators.
The results of the previous few nights are displayed on a screen at the entrance to the meal hall.
Nobody was allowed on the beach after 6pm, and so we played cards in the meal hall, waiting for a turtle to come ashore. It was almost 10pm before we were told to quietly follow our guide to the beach. The park rules were strict: No flash photography, no crowding the turtle, no wandering off.
I noticed the stars first. I don’t think I have ever seen so many stars. And then I saw the turtle. Gorgeous.
She seemed completely oblivious to the fact that her eggs were being taken away.
Once she was done laying her eggs (83 eggs!), her measurements were taken for the Park’s records.
We were taken to another part of the beach so the turtle could make her way back to the sea without an audience. Once we arrived, we were shown these guys: a basket of sea turtle hatchlings.
It was amazing to watch them madly dash towards the ocean on their wee little flippers!
I wondered how many of them would survive? We could see small sharks swimming around eagerly in the shallows. Poor little guys.
The next day, we went to the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary. Amazing. We were greeted at the front gate by this guy.
Then there were the orangutan paparazzi…
One the way home, I picked up some orangutan treats for my staffroom. 😀