After our stroll along the island’s coastline, we realised there was one more thing our island home had to offer – turtles! Pulau Kepayang not only provides accommodation for those desiring the beach life for a few days, but it also runs and manages its own Turtle Conservation Centre, which other tourists come to see whilst island hopping.
As we were guests there, entrance to the conservation area was free, but we made a small donation to aid their efforts in looking after the turtles. Walking through the entrance, signs and pictures hang on the wooden walls of a shack, and lead you out to the heart of the conservation project. Albeit small in size, the conservation area contains around seven or eight square pools, all home to our green shelled friends. A few of the closer tanks contained smaller, baby turtles. My eyes lit up upon seeing the tiny creatures.
‘Kura Kura!’(Turtles!) I excitedly pointed out to Jack. (Ever since learning the word six months ago, kura kura has become my favourite Indonesian word.)
No bigger than the palm of my hand, tens of itty bitty, Lilliputian sized turtles swam spritely through the shallow water of their enclosure. Some a little intimidated by our hefty presence, they flipped and flopped away from the shadows our luggish selves cast upon the water.
Towards the end of the area, larger adult turtles gracefully breaststroke around their enclosures. Many of them the size of a dustbin lid, they looked like wise old, kindly creatures. Who knows, most of them were probably older than us.
The centre also has a coral rejuvenation project. To the side of the turtle enclosures, there is a small grid where the conscientious employees at Belitung Adventure grow coral to replenish the coral reefs that grace the sea around Belitung. At the risk of sounding rather unworldly, but I had had no idea that it was possible to regrow coral, especially out of the water. It being so integral to the marine ecosystem, I wondered why other parts of the world weren’t investing in this more.
For a small donation to the project, you can choose a little kura kura or a larger penyu (big turtle) to release back into the wilds of the sea. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am a crazy animal lady, so I couldn’t pass up on such a wonderful opportunity. We enquired with one of the conservationists, but were informed that someone had reserved to release fifty of them later that week. Despite not being able to release one myself, I was happy that most of the turtles there would be able to go and live happily in the tranquil Belitung waters.
We returned to our Nemo Bungalow and took a few moments to relax on our beachside porch. Whilst eating some more fried squid and chatting to Jack, I noticed something long and black moving slowly in the shallows of the sea near the beach, only metres away from us. One end of it was poking up out of the water – I assumed it was a long palm branch that had maybe broken off during the storm a few hours ago. I pointed it out to Jack.
‘I thought that stick was an animal then,’ I laughed, feeling slightly foolish.
Jack looked at it and stood up. He walked over to the edge of our porch and squinted.
‘It is an animal, ‘he said.
‘WHAT?!’ Completely astounded, I shot up to my feet and within a nanosecond was standing next to Jack.
The part poking out of the water was in fact, a head. A black, rounded head that seemed to be trying to navigate its ways through the sharp rocks hidden by the shallow tide.
‘Are you sure?’ I asked Jack. ‘What is it?’
‘Yes, look, it’s moving against the current. It’s definitely alive,’ he said.
It was perhaps a metre, maybe a metre and a half long, black and had flippers. The head looked more seal-like than fish-like – but to this day, I still don’t know what the animal was. It meandered through the rocks and stayed close to the shallows. What is he doing here? I thought.
Jack asked the staff there whether seals ever frequented the area (with my limited marine knowledge I had never heard of seals existing in Indonesia before) and they said no. A friend has since tried to find out for me, and the closest he got to was perhaps a juvenile porpoise. I unfortunately possess no photographic evidence of the intriguing creature – it was a situation of either stay and watch, or go find my camera and miss the whole thing, so I guess it will always remain a mystery.
Before the day drew to a close, a misty rainbow hung serenely in the sky. Tonight was our last night on peaceful Pulau Kepayang – tomorrow we would have to wake up early for the 6am boat back to mainland Belitung, to then catch our flight back to the chaos of Jakarta.
We woke up for sunrise; ribbons of blushing, crepuscular pinks, purples and golds paraded in the sky and the hot white sun rose from the sapphire horizon. Ready in the boat to sail through the glossy sea, we waved farewell to Belitung; land of granite giants, starfish, lighthouses, hidden beaches – and for four escapist days, our island home.
Go Go Go!
Where: Pulau Kepayang, in Belitung, Sumatra.
Flights: There are daily flights from Jakarta to Tanjung Pandan Airport in Belitung. The flight lasts around 50 minutes. We paid approx. 1.2million RP for a return flight.
Accommodation: We stayed with Belitung Adventure on Pulau Kepayang (sometimes called Pulau Babi). We paid 300,000 RP (approx. £15) per night for a beachside bungalow. They arranged pickup from the airport and ferry to and from the island for free. For more information: http://www.belitungadventure.com/?lang=en and https://gogogadabout.wordpress.com/2013/12/08/meeting-the-granite-giants-arrival-in-belitung-sumatra/