We arrived in Sandaken after a 6 hour bus journey that took us past Mt. Kinabalu and some other great scenary. We also had 3 very different films to watch. The first was The Reef based on people going to Turtle Island but the boat crashes and they get eaten by sharks. The second film was Malaysian with no subtitles and the 3rd was a random Jackie Chan movie where half way through he becomes characters from Street Fighter 2 computer game. Random but funny!
Once we arrived we easily found a place to stay and then tried to find somewhere to book our trip to Turtle Island, but everywhere was closed as Sunday and Monday were Malaysian public holidays! We had an earlish night and Kris hoped he would wake up to good news about the Ireland Wales rugby match...and he did (thanks Mum Dever).
Knowing that we could book our trip for half the price by going direct to tour operator for Turtle Island, we headed out of town hoping to find their main office. We found Crystal Tours and booked our trip for half the price our hostel wanted to charge us!
We decided to spend the rest of the day at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation centre. We had to get a taxi there as the buses were so unreliable - 'it may turn up, it may not'. We got there early hoping to do some forest walks but it peed down and the information centre was closed (public holiday!!!), so we sat on a bench waiting for feeding time 2 hours later! Just so you know...Orangutan means 'Man of the Jungle'.
When we say 'feeding time', we mean the rangers put out food for wild Orangutans and they can come and get it if they want. Luckily for us, they did want, and we got to see about 4-5 with babies attached to 2 of them. They were so cute and funny to watch! They were so human like, it could've been a (small) man (with long arms) in an orange suit!!!
The funniest bit had to be watching one of the female orangutans that didn't have a baby 'flirt' with the only male. She kept lifting up his head and kissing him on the lips (see photo). Well the other female orangutans who already had babies were having none of this, and soon broke up the party!! It was like an episode of Jeremy Kyle!! Only with unintelligent apes...actually it was exactly like an episode of Jeremy Kyle!! (- that's unfair, the apes are intelligent).
We attempted to walk to the bus stop rather than catch a taxi back to save money. After 30 minutes of wrong turns and being followed by an annoyingly stupid dog we gave in and got a taxi back which luckily drove past us!!
The next morning we walked to the pier for 9.15am to get the boat to Turtle Island. It was a smooth 1hour boat ride to a gorgeous little private island that is only used as a turtle sanctuary. We had free time until 6pm so took a leisurely 10minute walk round the island, that's all it took!! We went snorkeling in the hope of being able to swim with a turtle (something Emma's always wanted to do but has yet to). The coral and fish were impressive, but no turtles unfortunately.
Our guide told us how the evening would work and a bit about the green turtle that would be coming ashore. They can arrive as soon as it's dark but have been known to arrive as late as 1-2am! We'd finished dinner by 7.30 so we were preparing for what could be a very long wait!! Luckily.for us at 8.30pm the ranger rushed in to tell us a turtle had arrived. Our table of 4 rushed down to make sure we got a good spot (there were about 20 altogether on the tour). On the beach was a huge green turtle laying her eggs. They measured her shell as 110cm. When the turtle had finished laying the eggs it was time for us to leave her to get back to the ocean. The ranger had already collected all of her eggs and we watched him burry them in a secure area, away from predators, that include humans as people illegally sell them as they are considered a delicacy to some (chinese).
After that it was time to release the baby turtles that had cracked out of their shells that evening. We were at the front again (we have learned that you have to be pushy or get pushed out with things like this!). There is a no touching rule, unless the turtle is going completely the wrong way and not towards the water. Funnily enough a few of the babies were going at a slight angle away from the sea so Emma felt they really needed her help and picked up about 3 to help them on their way. Only 1% survive to adulthood, so out of the near hundred that were released only 1 will make it! I'm sure it will be one of the ones Emma 'helped'!
There are 7-8 islands that make up this area where turtles come to lay eggs, Malaysia owns 3 and the Philippines own the rest but they work together which is good. Although the Rangers did hint towards the fact that some of the eggs found at markets may be from some of the Philippines owned islands.
It was a good trip and we saved ourselves a lot of money by booking direct, we spoke to 2 other couples who's faces dropped when we told them how much we paid!
Its time to head back to Kota Kinabalu. Don't really want to as we've exhausted everything there is to do in town, but its a base for other attractions.