Are you in Bali or planning to go to the island anytime soon? Although there are many people who have traveled to Bali several times, not many know there is a sea turtle conservatory on Serangan island named Turtle Conservation and Education Center (TCEC). Here you can have a personal experience with turtles.
Endangered sea turtles
Sea turtles are among the endangered species on Earth. This is mainly due to the destruction of their habitat by human activities, like factory waste, oil spills, and extreme turtle hunts, either for human consumption or entertainment. Unlike terrapins (freshwater turtles) and tortoises (those who live on land), sea turtles can only live in the salt water. They have flippers instead of legs to enable them to swim more effectively in the sea, and they can’t hide their head and flippers in their shell.
Get up close with sea turtles
Upon your arrival at TCEC, you will be greeted by an English-speaking staff, and he/she will take you on a tour of the conservatory. You will learn what they do in TCEC to conserve sea turtles. They go to the beach to find turtle eggs in order to be brought to the conservatory for safe hatchings (otherwise they may be eaten by fish or other predators). After the eggs hatch (normally it takes 8 to 10 weeks for them to hatch after being laid), most baby turtles are kept for about a month before being released back to the sea. If they happen to find wounded turtles that have lost their flippers, due to predators or boat propellers, or have swallowed human waste, like plastic bags, they will take them to the center to be treated, rehabilitated, and brought back to the sea.
In the center, you will see turtles of different sizes from baby turtles smaller than your palm to giant turtles with shell of about 1-meter diameter, which is almost 3.5 feet (the biggest one has lived in the conservatory for more than 40 years!). If you come during the turtle breeding season (March to September), you may get the chance to see the eggs hatch, and the tiny turtles emerge from the eggs. You will also get the chance to feed the turtles with sardines. Some manage to use their bare hands to grab a piece of sardine for the feeding, but for some it’s just too slippery, so they use a fork provided by the center.
Adopt a turtle to be released
The highlight of the visit is releasing a baby turtle, which is usually about a month old. It costs 150,000 IDR (11 USD) for each baby released. Scoop some sea water from a baby turtle pond by using a container (the container is provided by the center), pick the baby you would like to ‘adopt’, and give it a name. Then a staff member will take you to the nearby beach that is 300 meters (984 ft) away. The staff will ride a motorbike, and you will need to follow him from behind with your taxi or shuttle car. If you take a taxi, tell the driver to wait for you, as taxis very rarely pass through the area.
As you get to the beach, you can set the turtle free. You don’t need to be too close to the sea for the release, because the baby will follow its instinct and waddle towards the sea. It is expected to come back to lay eggs in 20 years! Back at the center, you will be given complimentary photo prints, taken by the staff when you and your little turtle are on the beach, and a certificate for the turtle release with your name, and the turtle’s name, printed on it.
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Donate the way you like
It’s free to enter the conservatory, and the 11 USD you spend for the adoption is valuable as the money is used to fund all the conservation efforts done by the conservatory (e.g. turtle hatching and feeding). There is another way to support them; put your donation into the donation box (in the pool area), and/or buy souvenirs from them. They sell small turtle handicrafts of different colors (mostly key chains) for about 2 USD each.
Less known, yet the best turtle conservatory in Bali
Previously, visitors had to ride a boat to the island but now you can go to the island by land as there is a new bridge connecting Serangan Island and mainland Bali. With the bridge, it takes only less than 30 minutes, depending on the traffic to get to the island’s turtle conservatory from Denpasar city. However, due to the badly maintained road to TCEC, be ready for some bumpy rides.
The conservatory itself isn’t so popular among the locals (perhaps due to the rough road to TCEC). They know Serangan Island as a fishing village where tourists usually do water sports at its beach, but not many know there is a turtle conservation there. For that reason, you won’t see too many visitors, and unlike most other destinations in Bali, you aren’t going to meet pushy hawkers who try to sell souvenirs.
So if you ride a motorcycle or drive a car yourself, and ask the locals, they may direct you to the other turtle conservatory nearby in Benoa. Another reason you may want to go TCEC on Serangan Island is because this is the one supported by WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Indonesia, besides the local government. It’s better to go there by your hotel’s shuttle car or taxi as most of the drivers know the location, which you need to make sure beforehand, otherwise they might take you to the one in the Benoa area.
Accumulate your 'karma'
In some cultures, releasing turtles means accumulating good ‘karma’ (a Buddhist term for the 'law of cause and effect’), that will lead you to a better life. This makes sense as releasing a turtle means saving a life. Whether you believe this or not, this is a fun activity that you can rarely find elsewhere, and it can possibly be the highlight of your Bali tour.
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