Going Back to Nature in Cherating – Part 2

When we woke up the next day, the sun was out in full force and we only had one intention – to check out the Turtle Sanctuary about 10 minutes away from where we stayed. It was also next to Club Med Cherating and us being the proverbial nosey-parkers decided to drop by and see what the big deal was about Club Med. But we were in for a disappointment. More of that later. You’ll see why.
The Turtle Sanctuary is a Government-run entity and we weren’t really hoping for magic. We just hoped to see some turtles. Anyone can drop in to this non-airconditioned Malay house made to look like a mini museum with info on turtles because it is free. The place seemed rather empty that Tues morning. And the blazing sun didn’t help any.
The mini-museum displayed not only information on turtles but also information on dugongs, molluscs and corals.

But it was in a disarray, with exhibits which looked like they had been immersed in formadehyde a bit too long. The information on turtles however were eye-opening because I always believed leatherback turtles came to Cherating to nest.
Not so!
Besides leatherback turtles (penyu belimbing or Dermochelys coriacea), other turtles which came ashore to lay eggs at Cherating were the green turtles (penyu agar or Chelonia mydas), olive ridley turtles (penyu lipas or Lepidochelys olivacea) and hawksbill turtles (penyu karah or penyu sisik or Eretmochelys imbricata). Of these four, the most famous one is of course the leatherback turtles.
We had the great opportunity to befriend the lively, chatty Asma, the officer at the museum the day we were there and was she a treasure trove of information. I think the best information is the information one digs out of the locals and Asma was naturally a girl from the nearby kampung not too far away from the turtle sanctuary.
The unfortunate news is that Asma will no longer be there if you do happen to go to her place of work as she said she was resigning soon.
Besides the museum exhibits, the next best thing about coming at the right time was to touch and play with the just hatched baby turtles! Turtles would come ashore between April and October to lay eggs and visitors could come at night to see this spectacular event. Nature is rather unpredictable so it wasn’t a sure thing that you would be able to see a turtle nesting when you want it. But you could leave your name and phone number and if there were turtles at night, the sanctuary officers would notify you.
Turtle watching begins after 9pm but visitors are never allowed unsupervised on the beach. They need to wait at a special hall and when the turtle had come ashore, only then would visitors be allowed to get on the sand.

Eager beavers can also rent the blue tents for RM30 per night to camp out and wait for nature’s little miracles to happen.
Asma mentioned that there are still turtle egg poachers who sell their finds for RM2.50 per egg. When asked if there was anything to be done, she shrugged, saying that turtles are safe within the 3.5km stretch of the Cherating beach, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.

To keep it from moving, pat its head and it will soon be as docile and quiet as a puppy!
What was most amazing was we got to hold and pat the baby turtles. If you ever hold one of these magnificent animals in the palm of your hand (well, they fit perfectly!) you will NEVER have the heart to buy or eat turtle eggs. If you think it’s a delicacy, think again: each turtle egg contains 10 times more cholesterol compared to the chicken egg. According to this news report, marine turtles are protected under the Fisheries Act 1985 and this includes their flesh and eggs.

Watch, touch and hold baby turtles!
It was certainly educational to learn about marine turtles despite some really tacky-looking exhibits.
We walked the stretch of the beach adjacent to the turtle sanctuary just to take a peek into the famed Club Med Cherating. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go very far. The bear of a guard was stationed to drive away pesky tourists I guess. And when we asked for a brochure from the guard house, he didn’t have any. Well, so much for PR and goodwill. I suppose Club Med gets more guests than it can handle and it can afford to be hoity-toity about things like these.
We decided to lunch a bit before we made our way to the old Cherating beach to check out some batik shops which Asma had heartily recommended. The Peninsular Restaurant was something we had spied the night before when we explored the beach area. Situated at the front of The Legend Hotel, it caught our attention because it was a Chinese restaurant. We were longing for rice and typical Chinese food after just one day (ok, laugh all you like but that just proves we’re Chinese to our tummies). Another peculiar thing about The Peninsular was its menu was bilingual – English and German. Guessed there must be loads of Deustch-speakers around the beach.
What was supposed to be a much-awaited meal of rice and dishes turned out rather disappointing. The fried la-la was tough, the tofu was too bland and the steamed siakap we ordered failed to make us drool. So if you are ever in the vicinity of this place, well, avoid it. Maybe Germans don’t know the difference between good Chinese food and wannabe Chinese food.
Tummies full and feeling quite adventurous, we drove to the old Cherating beach which was in the throes of a siesta… no one seemed to be about.
to be continued…

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