Travel Report: Juara Turtle Project – Tioman Island, Malaysia.
May 2015. My travel mates and I had just arrived in the village of Juara on the eastern side of Tioman Island. It had been a long and eventful seven-kilometre hike, but we were finally here! It was already late afternoon, so we keenly made our way to Juara Turtle Project, a sanctuary dedicated to the protection of Malaysia’s endangered sea turtle.
Juara Turtle Project ticks along with the help of volunteers from all over the world. When we entered the main courtyard that day a girl from North Carolina came skipping towards us from the small information centre. “You guys here for the free tour?” she asked with a smile. We hadn’t been aware of any free tour, but hell yeah, we were here for the free tour! What followed was a twenty-minute presentation of the various breeds of local sea turtle, along with why they’re endangered and what the project does to try and keep them safe.
Juara Turtle Project – Tioman Island, Malaysia.
You can find Juara Turtle Project on this beautiful beach right by The Coconut Grove Hotel. Leading us out onto the sand, our guide explained that there’s a great abundance of sea life around Tioman Island. This has long made it an area targeted by fishermen scouring the seas. As a result, large numbers of turtles have been killed off, either fatally injured in nets or sold in bulk to Chinese customers for soup production. Sea turtles use the beach to nest and lay their eggs. So poachers sweep the beach in the dead of night, as turtle eggs are a delicacy in some countries. In other nations, such as Honduras, they’re even considered an aphrodisiac!
No wonder the volunteers here snatch up the eggs themselves as soon as they can for safekeeping in the project hatchery. As you can see from this sign, there is much to consider!
Once the baby turtles are born, the volunteers immediately release them back into the sea for a life in their natural habitat. Therefore, visitors may find themselves disappointed by the amount of turtle action they actually get to see. However, on the day of my visit I was delighted to meet a female, adult sea turtle by the name of Jo. Sadly she s blind and unable to live in the wild. Consequently, she now resides in a large tank in the project’s garden.
The volunteers here also do a fine job of keeping the beach and surrounding area as clean as humanly possible. They regularly organise beach cleaning days and hold workshops with locals to raise awareness of plastic pollution. Drop your cigarette butt on their beach at your peril!
You can make donations in the visitor centre. This is also the place to meet other volunteers and buy some very cool JTP T-shirts, key rings and stickers. Don’t forget to say hi to the cute house kitten! 🙂
For more info on Juara Turtle Project, including how to become a volunteer, make your way to juaraturtleproject.com
To read more about my adventures here, check out my feature length article on Tioman Island.
I’ve also written more reports from around Malaysia.
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