Turtles in Borneo

Turtletopia: Diving with Sea Turtles in Borneo

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The single best thing about staying on Mataking Island during our honeymoon was the presence of turtles. Turtles, turtles everywhere! Previously, if I ever saw one turtle on a dive, I would be ecstatic. Two would just about put me over the moon. So seeing as many as 20 during one 45-minute submersion was just more excitement than this girl could handle.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

I’d literally be floating around underwater trying to spot macro life beneath the rocks when BAM! I’d glance a foot below my body to see a leatherback dozing beneath a rock. Or three. Or more.

It wasn’t just leatherbacks either. The area is also home to hawksbills and green turtles (though I find it incredibly challenging to tell the difference between the three kinds, if we’re being honest).

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

They blend in quite well to the marine landscape, so there’s no telling how many of them we didn’t spot.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

They’re such funny creatures, too. Nothing really seems to bother them. You can swim up within a foot, and they’ll just blink at you stupidly then go back to pretending you don’t exist. And while it may be tempting to grab a fin and go along for a ride—I know I always want to give their shells a good stroke—this is a no-no in the underwater world, as it can actually kill them when they can’t surface quickly enough to breathe.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

On our first night on the island, SVV and I joined in on a night hike. While the island is tiny, the staff like you to stick to organized treks at night, as there are things like armor-clad centipedes and giant coconut crabs lurking below the palm trees. We were actually out to hunt down the latter but kept coming across turtle tracks instead. Then, we got incredibly lucky. Instead of mere tracks, we found a mama leatherback in the middle of laying eggs! We stood there for a good 15 minutes as she finished what she started, and I’ll be honest: I felt like it was an extreme invasion of her privacy!

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

Then, we helped to collect the eggs, which also seemed wrong; after all, she spent so much time digging a hole and burying them.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

But due to the presence of lizards, massive iguanas and other things that go bump in the night, it’s best to replant the eggs at the resort’s turtle hatchery so the babies have a better chance at survival. So unbury, collect, replant we did.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

We were on Mataking for five days, which turned out to work in our favor. This is the one trip where good luck followed me, as one of the final afternoons we were there, a batch of babies in the hatchery came out of their shells to say “hello!”

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

I think in a future life, I’d like to come back as a marine biologist. I can’t think of a topic that fascinates me more.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

All those who happened to be there to witness this were invited to help release them into the ocean.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

SVV and I had been fortunate enough to have a similar occurrence in Guatemala two years ago but were still ridiculously elated nonetheless. Because really there’s hardly anything cuter than a freshly-hatched turtle, wouldn’t you agree?

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

We continued to sit there and watch for close to half an hour as the bobbing heads eventually faded over the horizon. Only a few out of every “litter” of turtles makes it beyond their first few days thanks to pesky seagulls and other avian creatures, but I’d like to think all of our guys survived.

diving in Borneo | Camels & Chocolate

At least we hope and pray our own adopted baby, Chuck (SVV does not have great panache for naming creatures, apparently…his 12-year-old feline, for example, still goes simply by The Cat), made it through alive.

Turtletopia from Camels & Chocolate on Vimeo.

COMMENTS
  • October 18, 2010

    this was amaaaaazing!! what an incredible experience, thanks for sharing

  • October 18, 2010

    Arghhhhhhhh! Tiny tiny turtles! Cutest thing ever! The eggs look rather worryingly like powdered donut holes (wouldn’t want to mix THOSE two up if you hadn’t had your coffee yet) but the tiny tiny turtles are so sweet! Too bad you couldn’t slip one in your pocket and bring it home as a pet….

  • October 18, 2010

    Holy hell. Those little things are the cutest babies I have ever seen!

  • October 18, 2010

    I LOVE TURTLES> And those babies? SQUEE!

  • October 18, 2010
    Briel K.

    Aww the babies are so cute! The one that is being held actually looks like a little bird! 🙂

  • October 18, 2010
    k

    turtles are like my most favorite animal. i made one of your pictures (all the turtles in the sand) my computer background. i’ll give you all the credit for such an awesome pic!

  • October 18, 2010

    Awwwe, baby turtles make me smile. 🙂

  • October 18, 2010

    awww…these baby turtles remind me of my girls when they were first born. ugly but cute at the same time 🙂

  • October 19, 2010

    Wow! Wow! Wow! You are so privileged! Turtles (and tortoises) are the most magical animals.

  • October 19, 2010

    Wow, those baby turtles are adorable! What a great experience… were you expecting to see them (is it birthing season?) or was it a surprise?

  • October 19, 2010
    Sid

    You are sooo lucky. You’ve experienced soooo many awesome things.

  • October 19, 2010

    Love it! Especially all the turtles you saw diving. They’re definitely one of my favorite creatures to spot underwater. I found Hawaii (at least the Big Island) to be a bit similar with the sheer number of turtles. We’d just stop at a random beach to snorkel while road tripping around the island, and we’d end up seeing handfuls of turtles. I went there hoping to see one, because at the time I’d never seen any in the wild, so I was thrilled.

  • October 19, 2010

    How beautiful! Both the babies and the experience. That’s something I would truly love to experience one day. So lovely!

  • October 19, 2010

    CUTE! Really cute. Now I want a turtle experience of my own!

  • October 19, 2010

    They are too cute. I’ve never seen a turtle that young. Great pictures!

  • October 20, 2010

    Those babies made me go all goo inside. I need to go squizz Benjamin now until he pops. Squee!

  • October 21, 2010

    Oh gosh, I simply love turtels! I have seen my first one while snorkeling around Pulau Tioman / Malaysia and then more on my trip to Belize. Such wonderful animals!
    As I am going to Costa Rica in about a month, I am keeping my fingers crossed to see some more turtles there – however, above the water, not below. Wish me luck! 🙂
    Viele Gruesse, Kristina

  • October 22, 2010

    There’s something about turtles that is so beautiful – They nest on Zante in Greece where I go to visit my sister but we went on a boat trip and didn”t see a single one – they’re getting so scarce. I’m very jealous that you managed to get so close to so many. Love the video.

  • October 28, 2010

    What cute pictures! There is something really bizarre about the unobservant nature of a turtle: because they have no natural predators, they never learnt to be afraid, I think. Did they take the eggs before the creature had left the sand? Or just while she was recovering from her labours? They don’t really care about that, either…

  • December 13, 2017

    I really regret not scuba diving in Borneo and instead spending all my time with the Orangutans. These photos look epic and I will definatley be heading back to Borneo at some point to see the turtles.

    • December 14, 2017

      I bet the orangutans were awesome, as well! We only spent about an hour with them at a sanctuary in KK, as we didn’t have time to get all the way to the tip of the island considering we were spending a full week in the Celebes Sea diving.

      • December 15, 2017

        It was amazing and I did get to see Green Turtles this year in the Maldives along with Whale Sharks so I did get to tick it off my bucket list. Would love to see the turtles nest and hatch though. Was the place you went in KK this place by any chance? https://www.thesonofthom.com/shangri-la-rasa-ria-in-borneo/

        • December 15, 2017

          Yes! That’s where we stayed our first two days, then we went over to Gaya (which was super weird!) for another few before flying to the other coast.

          • December 15, 2017

            Amazing place. Where has been your favourite place to travel so far?

            • December 16, 2017

              In general or just in Borneo? In Borneo, that would definitely be Mataking Island!! The diving is phenomenal.

              • December 17, 2017

                Will bear that mind next time I go. I meant in general. If there is one place you could go back again and again where would it be?

                • December 17, 2017

                  Ha, that’s an impossible question! I’ve been to 50 states and 130+ countries. Some standouts include: Scotland, South Africa, Portugal, Australia, Grenada, Hawaii, New Zealand. (Sense a theme? I’m definitely a warm weather/island girl!)

                  • December 17, 2017

                    Not sure how Scotland fits into that warm weather catergory! Just reading your blog post about Lisbon, I am taking the wife on a surprise birthday trip in January next year.

                    • December 17, 2017

                      Ha! It’s got islands, though, so fits one out of two of those categories 😉

                      You’ll LOVE Portugal! We’re actually holding a workshop for writers and photographers in Lisbon next summer, and I’m so ready to go back.

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