Aug 27 2013
Ko Tao is named after the turtle, but this is due to the island’s shape, rather than an abundance of real live turtles. But there is a place you can see them these days…
Research suggests that there once were quite a few turtles coming to Ko Tao’s beaches to nest, but as the number of visitors has risen over the years, turtle numbers have declined. Three years ago, however, turtles did come ashore and lay eggs on some of the more remote beaches, such as Laem Thian.
These eggs were removed to be kept safe from poaching and general visitor footfall, and as there was no facility to care for the turtles on the island, they were taken to Chumphon to hatch and grow stronger — the bigger and stronger the turtles are when they are released, the better their chances of survival in the sea. These turtles were successfully released and this has been repeated in subsequent years.
Right now conservation efforts are going one step further, with green turtles from Pattaya having been shifted to Ko Tao to be kept till they are just over a year old and then released. They are being cared for in New Heaven Dive School, which is heavily involved in marine conservation, in Chalok Ban Khao.
The turtles are kept in tanks and need to be moved to one to feed on raw fish each day at around 16:30. There’s no zoo-like barrier so you can really get up close and personal and watch them swim around, chase each other, snap, eyeball you or generally laze around in the flow of the water.
This is a grassroots project undertaken out of love for the ocean and its inhabitants and the project really needs the support of visitors. While there is no entry charge and the team will take their time to chat to you about turtles, their survival and progress — you will see their passion, dedication and excitement.
Please spare a few baht, which will be used towards feeding hungry mouths, healing sick turtles and funding their tagging and release program. Each turtle is tagged (with internationally recognised tags) as researchers hope to collect data on where these turtles end up in the future too. The turtles are likely to be there into early 2014.
Taxis will know how to find the dive centre, but otherwise as you go into Chalok, pass the 7-Eleven on the right and keep on the main road. Once you go around the bend you will see Koppi Coffee Shop on your left and New Heaven Dive School is directly opposite.
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