Saturday, August 04, 2012

Tanjung Datu National Park, Sarawak

aerial images courtesy of Michael Tsan/Sarawak Forestry, turtle images Veronica Ng

We were fortunate enough to be invited as guests of the Sarawak Forestry Board to the stunningly beautiful Tanjung Datu National Park for a 3D2N stay in the jungle without electricity or internet. To get there we had to endure a 2 hour bus ride to the coastal town of Sematan, then an hour’s boat ride to the jump off point of Telok Melano.

Telok Melano is a traditional Malay fishing village that operates a Homestay Programme where guests stay with local families, so a visit to the park becomes an enjoyable cultural experience as well. A designated tour operator administers the Homestay Programme - please contact the National Parks Booking office in Kuching for full details. From Teluk Melano it was another 10 minutes by boat to Tanjung Datu.

Tanjung Datu may be the smallest of Sarawak’s National Parks, at just under 14 sq km, but it is also one of the most beautiful. The park comprises a narrow ridge of rugged forest-covered hills fringed by pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and patches of coral reef.

The rich mixed dipterocarp forest reaches almost to the water’s edge in some places, and this close proximity of rainforest and coral reef - the two most diverse natural communities on our planet - make Tanjung Datu a very important reservoir of biodiversity.

Located at the south-western tip of Sarawak, Tanjung Datu is one of Sarawak’s less accessible natural parks, but its relative remoteness is one of its main attractions. The beaches really are undisturbed, the corals offshore are untouched and the forest trails are virtually untrodden. This seclusion has helped to preserve a wide range of unusual plant species.

The unpolluted crystal clear waters of the South China Sea support a wide range of marine life, and the coral grows close inshore. This makes Tanjung Datu a good location for snorkeling and scuba diving, although scuba divers have yet to explore its full potential.

We were richly rewarded for taking up this offer when we got to witness firsthand the release of day old baby turtles from the hatchery into the sea. At 6am on our last day there, they were released facing the beach, but their inbuilt GPS kicked in and they all did a 360° turn and headed for the open sea.

What was about 20 steps for us humans must have seemed like 2 kilometers to the little babies as they determinedly huffed and puffed their way unerringly to the sea.

Each and every one of us was completely silent, wrapped up in our own private thoughts and it was definitely an emotional moment for us when the first tiny fella hit the sea for the very first time in his life and swam strongly out to claim his destiny.

For me it was a spiritual moment - I was awestruck at the contrast of the tiny baby turtle against the mighty sea, yet comforted in the knowledge that God looks after each and every one of his creatures.
We were briefed on Sea Turtle Conservation by the Acting Deputy General Manager of Sarawak Forestry, Mr Oswald Braken Tisen.

Turtle eggs from nests susceptible to predators such as wild boars, monitor lizards, snakes and ghost crabs are relocated to the hatchery to reduce the high levels of natural mortality. The turtle hatchery at Tanjung Datu is a fenced-off area close to the beach which is protected and monitored by park staff.

Sea Turtles are amongst the world longest living creatures, with many reaching a lifespan of more than 100 years. Graceful swimmers that spend most of their time underwater, they have survived almost unchanged since the Triassic period, some 200 million years ago. However, the breeding habits that have served them so well for so long are now contributing to their extinction.

Sea turtles mature slowly and only start to breed between 15 to 50 years of age. Females usually produce eggs once in every four or five years. Studies have shown that sea turtles largely migrate back to their beach of birth, sometimes across distances of more than 3000 km. The peak seasons for sea turtles nesting range from the month of May to September each year.

Sea turtles are highly endangered due to their slow reproduction rate, combined with over harvesting for meat and eggs as well as habitat destruction.

Sarawak Forestry allows you to actively participate in turtle conservation efforts by spending four days at the turtle conservation station on Pulau Talang-Talang Besar. This program aims to create awareness among public on the importance of sea turtles conservation and at the same time to encourage knowledge sharing on this noble conservation efforts.

This program offers volunteers hands on experience on sea turtles conservation work. During your stay, you will join a team of dedicated professionals whose mission is to carry out sea turtles conservation programs on the island and thus help to conserve one of the world’s most endangered species.

Volunteers will be given opportunities to involve in:

    Beach patrolling
    Transferring turtle eggs to hatchery
    Releasing of hatchlings
    Data recording
    Nest analysis
    Research, education and conservation activities.

National Parks Booking Office,
Visitors Information Centre,
Jalan Tun Abang Haji Openg,
93000 Kuching Sarawak,
Tel: (+6) 082 248088 Fax: (+6) 082 248087
Online booking:

Tel: (+6) 082 610088 Fax: (+6) 082 610099
Toll free line: 1 800 88 2526

For more details, surf to

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