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Friday, 1 February 2013

Green Turtles at Pantai Kerachut, Penang National Park


Firdaus and me in front of the Penang National Park office


1. Last Saturday (26th January 2013), I took the opportunity of the long holidays of Thaipusam to take my beloved nephew Firdaus for a visit to the Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang). The park is located at the north west of the Penang Island (Teluk Bahang) and our journey from the University Science Malaysia (USM) to the Penang National Park took us about 45 minutes of driving.




The walkaway leading to the trekking route to Kerachut
2. The uniqueness of the Penang National Park comes to the knowledge of mine when I first watched the Travel Channel show hosted by Samatha Brown about her visit to the sea turtles sanctuary at the Kerachut Beach. It was really a very good show. Ever since then I've been meaning to be there myself to have a closer look of the site as I never saw a real live turtles before in my whole life.


3. The weather was beautiful that day and those that travels along with me to the National Park is as you know my beloved nephew Firdaus, close relatives of mine Syafiq and my good friend Afzan who’s currently studying at the USM. It is such a coincidence that one of my close friends that went for the long month course in Ipoh with me last October is attached with the Wildlife Department and as soon as he heard that I was interested to visit the Penang National Park, he quickly contacted his associates at the centre. He managed to get me Renjer Safwan to accompany me and to lead the way to the Kerachut Beach.

4. We reached the main gate of the Penang National Park at about 2.00 pm. After finishing registering our name at the National Park office and bought drinking supplies, Renjer Safwan leads our short trekking heading to the Kerachut Beach. From my observation, most of the Penang National Park visitors are foreigners, mostly with their families trekking the reserve forest.



Firdaus and me


5. The trekking was quite light to me, but Syafiq was having a hard time catching up breath but Afzan was enjoying his own time and intimate moment with nature. Firdaus as usual was very jovial, jumping and running around daring us to catch him to be the first reaching the site. He also had that long kid conversation with Renjer Safwan. I love that kid so much, no doubt about that. :)


6. We stopped a couple of times along the track and periodically Renjer Safwan explains and tells us the story about some of the historical site during the old days when buffaloes were used by locals to haul timber from the hill top to the foot hills and leave a unique timber track of its own which was quite similar to a small drain. Most of the locals that reside around the areas are Acehnese that migrate from the Sumatra. I'm not surprised as P. Ramlee himself is an Acehnese descendant.
The trekking route


Firdaus and me at one of the resting site
Remnants of the old route used by the 1940 Acehnese loggers
Renjer Safwan showed us the old hill route carved out by the loggers with hand tools back in the 1940s

7. We reached Kerachut beach around 4.00 pm and the view was really magnificent and truly splendid coupled with the favourable weather conditions, Firdaus was truly happy and instantly he went to the river teeth looking for mud skippers. Renjer Safwan told us about the devastation of Kerachut beach after it was hit by the Tsunami in 2006 and I reckon most of the west coast near the Andaman Sea also experienced the same kind of damage.


Pantai Kerachut


Firdaus at the river teeth, Pantai Kerachut 

8. After we took some snapshots and have a quick rest at the Kerachut beach Wildlife post, Renjer Safwan brought us to the place we’ve been meaning to go, the sea turtles sanctuary. It was located about 200 meters from the Kerachut beach wildlife post and was manned by the Fisheries Department staff.


Firdaus at the scenic Pantai Kerachut


The fine smooth sands of Pantai Kerachut

9. I was really happy when we reached the sanctuary centre. I later was privileged to be briefed by the staff there on the point that the Fisheries Department has carried out steps for turtle conservation since 1990s. The main species of turtle that are conserved here are the Green Turtle (Penyu Agar/ Chelonia mydas) and the Olive Ridley Turtle (Penyu Lipas/ Lepidochelys olivacea).

10. There are three main beaches in Penang were managed and restored for turtle landing. This is to maintain the natural habitat for turtle to land and lay eggs. Kerachut beach, Teluk Kampi beach and Teluk Ketapang beach which are within the Penang National Park.

11. What really intrigues me was when the staff explains to me the uniqueness of the turtles here which differs from other turtles around Malaysia. The Green Turtles differs from the Leatherback Turtles that are often found in Terengganu. One of the traits is that Green turtle came back to the beach of Penang National Park to lay their eggs all year around and not on seasonal based like in the east coast.

Green baby turtles younglings

12. The staff later explains to me that Green turtles itself is a unique reptiles. It matured age for it to spawn is no less than 15 years minimum. To reach that matured age, it travels around the world and will only come back to the origins where it was once hatched when it want to lay its own eggs. Perhaps there’s a noble in that turtle trait that we should learnt and embedded in us as a human. Never forget your own origins wherever you go. I do tell that to Firdaus.

Me and Firdaus

13. We spent around one hour listening to the lecture. We were also told that not only turtles that usually swim the Penang National Park waters but also some dolphins. The centre also was frequented by scientist and researchers around the world.


Firdaus with the one year old green baby turtle


Green Baby turtle, so cute!
Firdaus and me at the gate of the turtles sanctuary center

14. After spending our quality time at the turtle’s sanctuary, it’s time for us to bid goodbye to the staff. Renjer Safwan arranged a boat for us to go for sightseeing around the Penang National Park bay. It was really a good boat ride as the boatman brought us to the unique site of rock formation and superb faunistic site along the coast. We were also shown the nest of the special Penang eagles that have a distinct white coloured on its chest. It lives in a huge nest and I was told that the eagles use it and reused the nest passing down to its generations. Talk about inheritance!



I love you kiddo!


That's us having fun on our way back 
Scenery from the boat


Scenery from the boat - the eagle nest


The rock formation along the coast - the rabbit


15. The boatman later brought us to the Monkey beach where most of the foreign tourist came to have a good swim. It was really beautiful with shallow water that is suitable for bathing and swimming. I was told that the site was once inhabited by Malay locals that migrated from Aceh (it was known as Kampung Aceh), however due to its remoteness it was later abandoned. But the site still has remnants of the old history with its Malay cemetery still stood by with the passing of time somewhere near the Monkey beach. On our way back to reach the Penang National Park office and its main jetty, I was brought to see the fish stakes developed and operated by the local Chinese businessman. Most of the fish reared here are grouper and sea bass.


The rock formation along the coast


The monkey beach


The monkey beach


Fish stakes belong to locals


16. We reached the main jetty around 6.00 pm and it was really a good visit. I learnt something from the visit especially our tour of the turtle’s sanctuary. I believed Firdaus also learned the same thing as I am. Penang truly is beautiful and it holds so many treasures that are waiting just to be explored. I love it so much, and it became much more meaningful when you explored it with your loved one and in my case with Firdaus. 
We had fun! 

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