What’s not to like about seeing cute baby turtles being given a good start in life and older injured ones nursed back from ill-health?
The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre (TCEC) at Serangan Island south of Sanur is doing both those things plus the important job of educating both the local community and schoolkids to help end the turtle trade and support conservation. Turtle meat (and eggs) has long being consumed in Bali, and is still used in certain religious rituals, by employing and educating locals they hope this will be past tense.
Serangan Island is no longer an “island”, land has been reclaimed and now it’s just a bump on the coastline (ahhh, we remember the days when you could only go by boat...), and the area is somewhat developed, but local turtles still think its a good place to lay their eggs (mostly between July and October), the centre collects the eggs from the busy tourist beaches, and raises the hatchling until they are ready to start the big journey into the ocean alone, know in turtle conservation speak as “the lost years”.
The centre keeps the young turtles for one month to give them a little bit of an edge, and holds back any runts or sickly hatchlings until they are a bit stronger (whether they should be released as soon as they are hatched, is cause for debate in turtle conservation circles but TCEC follows advice from The Turtle Hospital, Florida USA), and this gives you (yes you, dear reader) the opportunity to “adopt a turtle”.
Sorry you can’t take one home, but for 150,000 rupiah you can take part in their release into the sea. Release programs run when they have hatchlings (obviously) usually between the months of July and October, generally mornings from 09:00-10:00 and afternoons 15:00-17:00. If you are keen to take part in this programme, call first to check there are some babies to adopt.
The centre is still well worth visiting even if you don’t take part in the release. The turtle species that prefer this dot in the ocean are olive riddley, and hatchlings are predominately this species, but several other sick and injured adult turtles of various species are cared for in the tanks here. When we visited there were green sea turtles, hawksbill, and a species we’d never encountered before, the strange-looking forest softshell turtle.
Some had been bought in by fishermen, caught in nets with chunks of shell or flippers missing, and some had been intercepted by the police from illegal trade. They are nursed until well enough to fend for themselves in the wild then released. At the centre tourists can see the hatchery, basically a shaded sandpit with the clutches of eggs buried, marked with a small netted enclosure—not much to see unless you are lucky enough to see some hatchlings crawl out of the sand, and several large tanks for the cute growing hatchlings and rescue turtles.
You can’t touch or pick up the turtles, but you may see them being fed a diet of seaweed or seagrass (jellyfish, the preference of some breeds are difficult to come by). The tanks are clean with plenty of water—scrubbed out every week or more often if needed. There’s also a small enclosure for tortoises.
Staff speak good English and are happy to explain and answer any questions you may have. An education room runs the school programme, so if you have a bunch of kids in tow (school excursion?) the session lasts about an hour.
The centre runs on donations only, there’s no entry fee (we added 50,000 rupiah to the box) or you can pick up a turtle souvenir. The centre trains locals to produce cute turtle crafts made from easily found materials such as coconut husks, broken shells and even plastic as an economic alternative to the turtle trade.
Unlike some turtle “con”-servation centres in Bali, which are doing nothing towards the environment except lining their own pockets (be aware we heard there is one of these near TCEC—make sure you’re at the right place), the Turtle Conservation and Education Centre deserves your support. Don’t expect anything flashy at TCEC, its business is conservation, not entertainment.
We think it’s a terrific excursion if you’re in the Sanur or Kuta area, and kids will love it too. Several local warungs line Serangan's beaches and offer a pleasant break for lunch. Combine with a trip to the (somewhat unkept) Mangrove Information Centre for a half day excursion.
How to get there
You’ll need your own transport or a taxi or ojek (organise the return trip) to reach here. It’s roughly a 15 minute drive from Sanur and closer to 30 minutes from Kuta or Seminyak. You could cycle from Sanur in about half an hour. A local check point to Serangan Island charges 4,000 rupiah for cars and 2,000 rupiah for motorbikes entry fee.
By Sally Arnold.
Last updated on 8th February, 2017.
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