Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
During the day, the turtles of Derawan Island come to swim under the pontoons. At night, they lay their eggs in the still warm sand.
A small peaceful village
In Derawan, a small island on the east coast of Borneo, Indonesia, life is simple and rustic, facing the sea.
The village, with its wooden houses on stilts, must count less than two thousand souls. One makes the turn of the island on foot without hurrying in less than one hour.
I spent ten peaceful days there...
Derawan is the island of turtles! A small WWF center, located at the Danakan losmen, where I was staying, takes care of their conservation.
In the evening, we see young people working for the center leave, with a long metal rod to search the sand and a flashlight.
Every night, they walk the beach to harvest turtle eggs.
When they find some, they put them back to hatch, under cover, in a small incubator installed near the Derawan Dive Resort.
A few weeks later, when the eggs hatch, they release the baby turtles at nightfall.
I was lucky enough to attend the event, along with Paul and Becky, my English friends, and Margot, another French girl who was staying with us at the Danakan losmen. One of the young guys from the WWF Center had given us an appointment, saying that they would release the little turtles at 9pm.
Once is not usual in Indonesia: for the release of turtles, time is time... And we arrived just in time on the beach to see the tiny creatures dashing fearlessly towards the waves.
It's a moving spectacle to watch these dozens of baby turtles wander the waves in the dim light.
You have to turn off the lamps, limit the photos because of the flashes... It disturbs the little animals, which then start to climb on your bare feet, magnetized by the light. Above all, don't move, so as not to risk crushing them!
The immense, dark sea soon takes them. Barely 1% will survive. They have no shortage of predators. At this age, they are easy and fragile prey.
Small turtle will become big, as long as God gives it life ...
Derawan, the turtle island
In Derawan, evening and morning, when I take the fresh air on the terrace of my room on stilts, I hear the breath of the turtles which come to breathe on the surface.
Every day, you can swim with them, observe them with just a mask and a snorkel. The turtles of Derawan are not very shy.
It's true that we pamper them here.
At the Danakan losmen, as soon as new tourists move in, Harris, who runs the guesthouse with the nice lady who calls herself Mama Rina, hangs a banana leaf on the end of a string to attract the turtles.
Obviously, they love it, because it works every time! One or even two turtles soon approach and shamelessly graze on the leaf.
On the pontoon, the newcomers, young and old, are ecstatic.
After a few days, you get used to it. But if the astonishment dulls, the wonder remains.
I made some dives on the Derawan reef, very close to the pontoons.
Not very good view, "muck-dive" atmosphere (with lots of nudibranches and nice little creatures to flash). But, each time, there too, we are almost sure to meet one or several turtles... I will post a small underwater movie soon.
The abundance of turtles in Derawan almost makes you forget that they are endangered.
This is the second time that I witnessed, in Indonesia, initiatives to protect them (remember the turtle nursery of Pemuteran, Bali). Drops of water in the ocean, unfortunately...
Indonesian law prohibits the fishing of turtles, either for their meat or their shells. But illegal fishing continues. Moreover, in Derawan itself, there are stores and hawkers who offer various trinkets made of turtle shells.
I invite you to watch this short movie from WWF below. It reviews the threats to turtles in the Coral Triangle, which covers the seas of the Indo-Pacific zone dear to my heart.
Even if you don't understand English, the beautiful underwater pictures are enough. You will also be able to see the scene I described above, when the baby turtles rush to the sea... The initiatives carried out in the Berau region (the area where Derawan is located) are cited as an example.