Travelers usually visit Malaysia to experience the culture, explore the city life and relax at the many gorgeous beaches. While these beaches play an important role in the country’s tourism industry, they also serve another important purpose; nesting grounds for sea turtles. Malaysia is the proud host of four out of the seven sea turtle species found around the world, the Green turtle, Hawksbill turtle, Olive Ridley turtle, and Leatherback turtle. Some of these species can still be spotted during the nesting season. If you are lucky, you may even see the eggs hatching and baby turtles returning to the open sea!
Four Types Of Sea Turtles
Considered to be the most beautiful of sea turtles for their colorful shells, the Hawksbill Turtles spend most of their time in coral reefs, rocky areas, and shallow coastal areas. Their diet is very specialized, feeding almost exclusively on sponges from crevices of the reef, and sometimes sea anemones or jellyfish. During nesting season, the Hawksbill Turtle can lay around 200 eggs.
The green sea turtle is the second largest after the Leatherback and is the only herbivore amongst the different species of turtles found in Malaysia. They got their name from the color of their cartilage and fat, and not their shells. Classified as endangered, the Green turtle is a common turtle species in Malaysia, seen nesting on the coastlines of Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Perak, Sabah, and Sarawak.
The largest of all sea turtles, the Leatherback turtle gets its name from its shell, which has a leather-like texture. These gentle giants can grow more than 6.5 feet (two meters) in length and weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms)! The Leatherbacks can consume nearly their own body weight on soft-bodied invertebrates like jellyfish and tunicates per day.
Olive Ridley Turtle
The Olive Ridley turtle is the smallest sea turtle species. It grows to about only 70 cm long, with a weight of just 50 kg. The olive ridley is mostly carnivorous, feeding on jellyfish, snails, crabs, and shrimp. They will occasionally eat algae and seaweed as well. Like all sea turtles, females nest on the beach where they were born and lay around 50 to 200 eggs in each nest before returning to the sea.
Best Places For Turtle Watching
Rimbun Dahan Hatchery
Located along the sweeping beachfront of Pantai Chendor, Rimbun Dahan is a turtle hatchery managed by the late Pak Su’s children. This hatchery is an environmental conservation center where endangered sea turtle eggs are incubated until they hatch and are released back to sea. You can see first-hand when Pak Su’s children release the baby sea turtles during nesting season and even watch adult sea turtles returning to laying eggs. Kids will also have fun witnessing these majestic creatures up-close and learning more about their habitat.
Lang Tengah Turtle watch
Lang Tengah Turtle Watch is a non-profit organization with the mission of protecting the nesting population of Green and Hawksbill Turtles. The volunteers work hard to incubate the turtle eggs and save their eggs from poachers by doing evening patrols and egg relocation when necessary. Besides turtles, the volunteers also take part in shark monitoring, coral restoration, and cleaning the beach.
Redang camp is a private beach located on Redang island where you can camp out and experience nature. Although Redang camp itself is not a turtle conservation area, Redang Island is known for its beautiful beach where you can go snorkeling or diving and interact with these beautiful sea turtles up-close and personal. As the turtles are used to being near humans, they are very friendly and will come up to you in search of food (you can buy small squid to feed) or for some playful attention.
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the hatcheries for a higher chance to see the sea turtles are during the peak nesting season between July to October which also happens to be during the school holidays! Plan ahead and make a trip to visit these turtle sanctuaries with the whole family to witness this magical moment first-hand. We will be posting more information on this campaign on our Facebook and Instagram pages so, like and follow us for more.