What to do on a sunny Bali Sunday with kids? Visit the turtle centre on Serangan Island of course! This under-visited attraction makes for a perfect half-day outing from anywhere in south Bali — especially if combined with a meal out on the nearby beaches.
The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre (TCEC) was set up to function both as a hatchery and a protection centre for injured turtles that fishermen bring in. Last time we visited, the Centre was almost deserted — no so this time. There was a large school group and a half-dozen foreign tourists wandering through. The large pool (turtle-shaped, of course) had a good amount of water in it (unlike last time, when it was almost empty for cleaning) and the very large turtles seemed to be quite happy (almost smiling) as they swam around.
The second section has a dozen or so open-air tanks containing hundreds of turtles, some brand new, others up to about 50cm in shell diameter. The tanks are low enough for kids to look into and we were lucky enough to arrive when the staff were feeding the turtles, and while it wasn’t quite a feed frenzy, the kids did get a lot of enjoyment watching them munch away.
There’s also a small sandpit with some fenced-off circles containing eggs — not much to see here unless there’s some hatching going on.
Lastly, and we missed this last time, there’s a small enclosure for tortoises (or at least that’s what I think they were!) between the hatchling centre and the small shop. The kids also enjoyed watching these guys but they really couldn’t understand why the tortoises wouldn’t get in the water to cool down.
From the sunbaking tortoises, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to the small visitor centre where you can sign a guest book, buy some turtle-ish souvenirs and make a donation (there is no admission, but donations are welcome and appreciated — we gave 50,000 rupiah for the three of us).
While you can get a very simple meal here, you’re far better off to drive across the apocalyptic wasteland to the beaches on the far east coast of Serangan. It’s not very far at all, a gazillion trails without signage (despite the 5,000 rupiah “admission” cough, cough) wind across the island, so it will likely take five to 15 minutes to actually find the beach.
The beaches are lined by a bunch of shacks — they are shacks — with basic deckchairs and a smidgen of shade. Be warned that a few large piles of trash — perhaps ex shacks — mar the beach a little too. This is real surferville — lots of boards for hire and the Serangan breaks can get big and fast here.
Each shack is painted a distinct colour — my daughter picked “Meria’s” (yes, its pink) — and we settled in for a simple meal of nasi goreng and (cough, cough) chocolate and banana pancakes. It won’t win any haute cuisine awards; even for shack food it was just average, but Meria was very friendly. She claimed to be one of the first to have set up on this patch (some 20 years ago) and we’d be inclined to believe her, as the building looked to be at least 200 years old. When I went to take my boy to the toilet he pointed at the door and just said “No, Dad!”
But grotty bathrooms and shanty setting aside, it does have a real rustic charm to it — added to by the wasteland you have to drive through to get here.
The beach is bordered by groins to the north and south, but the surf can be powerful offshore so while it is okay for kids to wade in the shallows, you’d be wanting to keep a close eye on them.
Ours had a bit of a play in the waters, but were just as happy lounging on the lazy chairs and watching the remote control cars that were being driven around on the sand by a couple of Indonesian families.
Perhaps it was just because it was Sunday, but the crowd was really mixed: a local school group at the Turtle Centre, a group of people flying remote control planes half way to the beach (Will, aged three was VERY interested in that), then at the beach quite a few Australian and Japanese surfers mixing it up with local families, all in a very relaxed setting.
The beaches at Serangan at not Bali’s most beautiful, but combined with a visit to the Turtle Centre this is a relaxing and slightly off-beat way to spend a half day — if you have the time, we recommend it.
Getting to Serangan Island
You will need your own transport (car or motorbike) or a taxi (organise for the return trip) to reach here. It’s roughly a 15 minute drive from Sanur and closer to 30 minutes from Kuta or Seminyak.