One thing that you may know is that 6 out of the 7 sea turtle species in the world today can be found in the Indonesian waters. In other words, there is a good chance that you will spot some wild sea turtles when you are snorkelling or diving in Bali. And if you prefer to see these gentle creatures in a drier environment, there are also some conservation centres where you can have close encounters with them.
One thing that you probably do not know is that not all turtle conservancy programmes, societies, initiatives, etc in Bali are genuinely set up to protect and provide welfare for these turtles. Some are probably set up as a tourist attraction or tourist trap, in my opinion. If you do a google search for “turtle in bali”, you will find lots of information and most of the links bring you to this place called “Turtle Island”, which is accessible via a glass-bottom boat. The boat ride itself is about 20 minutes and the fare varies, aka, depending on your bargaining skills. Besides turtles, you can also see some other animals such as snakes, falcons, bats, pythons and many others on the island. These animals are part of the “wildlife” collection and are “domesticated”, i.e. you can take pictures with them (safely) for a fee. If these don’t sound fishy enough, go through all the reviews in tripadvisor (links provided below) and make your own judgement call.
Disclaimer: I have not been to the “conservation centre” mentioned in the tripadvisor and thus I can’t comment about it. The one that I went to is a real conservatory; one that is sincere in conserving and helping the turtles. How do I know? Read on and I am sure you will agree with me. And by the way, I went there by car, not via any fancy glass-bottom boats.
So the place we went is The Turtle Conservation and Education Centre (TCEC) of Serangan, on the resort island (Pulau Seranga) of Bali, just off Denpasar/Kuta area. You will definitely need a local guide to bring you there as there is no public transport, as far as I can see. That place was so deserted that we practically had the entire centre to ourselves when we were there.
I chose this centre over the more touristy “Turtle Island” as I want the kids to learn more about conservation and its importance, and not the “fun” experiences of a zoo. This centre is run by volunteers and there are no admission charges or whatsoever; everything is based on goodwill. Thus, do not expect any touristy stuff like photo booths, animal shows, cafe, etc. Instead, be prepared to learn more about the turtles in the region and why/how are the centre set up. During our visit, we had a volunteer from the centre who provided a guided tour and a fantastic question-and-answer session.
With the myriad of sea sports activities in Bali, it’s no surprise that accidents involving turtles are not uncommon. Some of these injured turtles will be brought to this centre for treatment, before being released back into the ocean. Some, however, may never make it back to the ocean. This huge turtle, for example, (see photo below) lost two of its flippers during an accident and will not be able to survive in the wild on its own. Thus, according to the guide, it will never leave the centre. It’s quite sad, actually.
Other than treating sick or injured turtles, the centre’s other responsibility is to collect the turtle eggs from the wild for hatching. Unfortunately, it was not the right season when we visited the centre and the hatchery was empty.
Like the more touristy “Turtle Island”, this centre also allowed us to hold and feel the turtles. Turtles are really cute creatures and they didn’t really struggle (as signs of distress) when we held them in our hands. And of course, we also didn’t hold them for an extended period of time. 🙂
Useful Information – Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, the one we went :
- Website: http://www.ioseaturtles.org/pom_detail.php?id=45
- Email: E-mail: email@example.com
- Opening Hours: I believe there is no standard opening hours and no rest days as well. Better check with the local guide first before going.
The Other Turtle Conservation, aka Turtle Island via a 20 minute glass-bottom boat ride :
- Trip Advisor Thread 1
- Trip Advisor Thread 2
- I think both of the threads above and many of the complaints about the tourist traps, cruelty towards the animals, etc refer to the same place, aka the so-called Turtle Island. I am not sure where’s this turtle island cos I have not been to that place. But I am sure that place is not the one I went.
Estimated traveling time by car:
- Kuta → Serangan : 40 minutes