Laying Turtle Eggs at Midnight: Ujung Genteng, S.W. Java

After zipping along the coast on our ojeks, we returned back to our bungalow and now food was on our minds. Foooood. Jack asked the staff what was available to eat; they had been fishing that day and had caught a barracuda and some red snappers. Little Agung, my ojek driver, came onto our porch to show us our dinner options and no word of a lie, the barracuda was almost as tall as he was. As there were only three of us, the barracuda would have proven too much, even for our empty grumbling stomachs. We chose the red snappers, and as the staff prepared our food, we played a few competitive games of Bananagrams. After being smoked and seasoned, our red snapper dinner arrived an hour later along with some rice and sambal. Every morcel of fish was wolfed down and our previously empty grumbling stomachs were now happy, full and smug. We gave the remains of our fish to a pregnant kitty cat that decided to come join us on our porch for dinner. And like most felines, whether they be street or domesticated, she was rather fussy about her evening meal.

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Next on the agenda; the big mama turtles. We jumped back on our ojeks to make the journey back to the turtle sanctuary. The night sky was now a dark blue, almost black – and the only lighting available was the beams from the headlights of our motorcycles. The darkness made getting around the wetter, muddier parts a little trickier but we reached the turtle sanctuary pretty unscathed. The goliath roof turtle (who, if he was real, now requires an artist’s name. Da Vinci, perhaps?) welcomed us again and we drove up to the entrance. We were told that the big mama turtles (four in total) were being indecisive and were choosing their places to lay their eggs, and that we had to wait. Let the waiting games begin!

We sat on plastic deck chairs, sipping on a big bottle of Bintang. Fifteen minutes passed. Half an hour. An hour. Seconds melted into minutes which melted into hours which resulted in restlessness. Although outside, the waiting induced us all to suffer some sort of cabin fever. Jack started taking photos of himself jumping, Samantha started jumbling up words, and for some reason I started making weird puppy squeaks each time a nearby frog was almost stepped on. Jack asked one of the rangers if we had to wait much longer, who replied that one turtle was almost ready but she had then changed her mind because she wasn’t comfortable. Daaaaahhhhhhhhhh.

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I’m not sure, but I think it was reaching the two hour point before we were allowed to proceed to the beach. But you know what, the waiting was entirely worth it.

Two dark, dustbin lid sized turtles lay on our section of the beach. (The turtles attracted to the shores of Ujung Genteng are apparently Green Sea Turtles (chelonia mydas)). They had dug a hole already and had now positioned themselves, ready to lay the numerous amount of eggs they had arduously been carrying around for the last few months. We were allowed to get close, but any use of a flash when taking photos was strictly prohibited. We quietly lay close to one of the turtles as she slowly, and I’m guessing painfully, laid her eggs into the sands of the beach. What amazed me most was the sheer size of these turtles; if this one was sitting on my sofa at home, there would be no space for me to sit next to it. After a little research, I’ve learnt that their average size is around five to six feet long (1.5 – 2 metres). It was truly mind baffling that solemn, jumbo turtles like these produce those itsy bitsy, spritely little kura kura turtles we had seen earlier. What a transformation they must go through under the depths of the sea. Hopefully little Albert Hieronymus would be this size one day.

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It was a pretty humbling experience, to see something that most people would probably never get the chance to experience – and now knowing that those turtles had produced lives that would hatch and take their first breaths within the next month.

Back onto the ojeks we went and we arrived back home to our bungalow. It had been a long, but amazing day. I personally think the word ‘amazing’ is overused, and I therefore only like to use it when the situation truly deserves it. This day had well and truly deserved it. Having had only a few sporadic hours of sleep, the Bintang we had drunk before watching the turtles had made us all a little woozy and dazed, so it wasn’t long before we collapsed in our beds and fell into a deep sleep. Before going to bed, Jack asked me what my favourite part of our stay in Ujung Genteng had been so far. It was a tough question, and although the kura kura had been insanely inspiring, the waterfalls from the morning had been my favourite so far.
‘What about you, what’s been your favourite part?’ I asked Jack.
‘Haha umm well for today, yeh I’d say the waterfalls. But…..’ he smiled ‘…. I don’t want to say it too soon… you might change your mind tomorrow.’

I fell asleep highly intrigued and trying to imagine what our next day in Ujung Genteng had in store for us. Not much could beat turtles and waterfalls, right?

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*Tune in next time for deserted beaches and the final part of our trip around South West Java…

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Go Go Go!

Where: Ujung Genteng, South West Java, Indonesia.

Why: Turtles, waterfalls, beaches and surfing – without the millions of  tourists.

How: A seven hour, bumpy drive from Jakarta by car. There are no trains/planes available and the road is treacherous.

When: To get the best chance of seeing turtles come lay their eggs, the best time of year would be from June – July. Entrance to Turtle Beach in the evening costs Rp 10,000 per person (approx 50p).

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