Bali – Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre

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.

The super-long bridge that links Serangan to Bali main island

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.

Please donate generously to a good cause

This is the place where the hatchlings are bred until they are old enough to be released back into the ocean

Sick turtles (adult ones) are kept in this pool for observation

A sick green turtle

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.

This turtle lost its right fore flipper during an accident and is unlikely to leave the conservation centre (into the wild)

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.

The hatchery

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. 🙂

That’s me and the cute little creature

This is one of the juvenile turtles

This is a baby one

Useful Information – Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, the one we went : 

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

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Bali – Tanah Lot

Our original plan was to visit Tanah Lot in the evening as I heard it has one of the most beautiful sunset in Bali. However, my guide advised me against the idea as the place is usually very crowded in the evening and it will be very difficult to get a photo without passers-by. Besides, December is a rainy period in Bali and there is a high probability that we won’t get to see the sunset anyway. I agreed with his analysis and he was proven right again; read on to find out why. ◕ิ‿◕ิ

A typical facade in Bali

There are 2 entrances to the famous Pura Tanah Lot (aka Tanah Lot Temple) and our guide brought us to the one that is further away from the temple. If you look from where we were (facing the sea), Pura Tanah Lot will be on your left, and on your right will be a smaller temple (Pura Batu Balong) located at the end of an arch. As a tourist, I find Pura Batu Balong more scenic than its more famous counterpart. However as a devotee, Pura Tanah Lot is definitely more impressive. 🙂

Pura Batu Balong on top of an arch

Pura Batu Balong (Temple)

There are many “sea temples” in Bali and Tanah Lot is one of them. What’s spectacular about these sea temples is the scenic coastline and most of them are built on top or near a cliff. If you like, you can even go down to the beach at Tanah Lot for a dip. For us, a group photo at the midpoint is good enough. 🙂

Another temple at Tanah Lot

A group photo with the famous Pura Tanah Lot in the background

A closer look at Pura Tanah Lot (The temple)

So I said in the beginning of this post that it is not a bad idea to visit Tanah Lot first thing in the morning, right? It was about 10am when we reached the temple and as you can see from the photos below, it was already quite crowded. Can you imagine the crowd in the evening, when everybody will be there for the sunset? Besides, it’s true that the weather in Bali is unpredictable during the rainy season. It was scorching hot when we were at Tanah Lot and then thunderstorm came just before we left; all in a matter of 2 hours. I guess a hot and sunny morning is any time better than a (potential) rainy or cloudy evening. Thus, I am glad that we took the guide’s recommendation and switched our itinerary.

A small crowd at the “foot” of the famous temple, Pura Tanah Lot

It was quite crowded, actually.

Useful Information – Tanah Lot : 

Address and Opening Hours:

  • Address: Jl. Tanah Lot, Canggu
  • Opening hours: 7am ~ 7pm

Admission Charges:

  • Adult: IDR 60,000
  • Child: IDR 30,000

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Kuta  Tanan Lot : 1 hour

Best time to visit Tanah Lot?

  • I think the best time is during the low tide so that you could get real close to the temple. In our case, the tide wasn’t low enough and we couldn’t make it to the temple without getting wet.
  • Sunset will be good, but I think the crowd and weather should be considered as well.

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Indonesia – Bali

Call me ‘ignorant’ if you like, cos I think I really am. But I don’t think I am the only one. 🙂 Do you know that Bali is actually much much bigger  (about 8 times bigger) than Singapore?

Before my trip, I had the impression that Bali is probably about the same size as either Langkawi or Penang. I guess I have this perception since Bali is one of the favourite destinations for a short getaway, the 3~4 day kind, you know? Having been to both Langkawi and Penang, I would say that a 3~4 day trip is good enough to cover most of the attractions in those two destinations. But a trip of same duration could barely cover the southen and central Bali.

Discovery Mall at Kuta

Due to some reasons, we had to book a late flight to Bali and it was already late in the evening when we checked into the hotel on our first day. There was nothing much we could do except shopping at Discovery Mall which is in the vicinity of our hotel. As it turned out, this was the best shopping place for us for the entire trip. We went to Kuta Square, Bali Brasco Shopping Centre and Ubud centre, but we spent most, if not all, of our rupiah here in this mall – Discovery Mall at Kuta.

Discovery Mall at Kuta

The back of Discovery Mall overlooks the Kuta beach

For local products and supermarket, Kuta Square is the right place to go. But for international brands such as Billabong, Converse, Adidas and Nike, I think Discovery Mall is the best. Although Brasco Shopping Centre offers a lot more international brands like Burberry, Esprit and Fred Perry at heavily discounted prices (50~80%), we were not sure of its authenticity on the basis of “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. However, I did buy 2 pairs of Adidas shorts at S$7.50 each; looked authentic but the quality could be better. In any case, we left the huge shopping centre (Brasco) in less than 20 minutes. 

Another interesting aspect of Bali shopping is the number of shops selling the same things and no, I am not referring to the souvenir stalls. If you walk along the street of Kuta Square, you will find a lot of Rip Curl, Hurley, Quiksilver, etc shops and these shops offer the same items at the same price. The exception? It’s probably Ralph Lauren. If you observe carefully, you will notice that there are a lot of Ralph Lauren shops which look somewhat similar but not quite the same. In fact, there are at least 3 different types of Ralph Lauren merchandise under a similar branding. We checked out all of them, including a visit to the so-called authentic Ralph Lauren factory outlet (located on the outskirt of Bali). The authenticity of Ralph Lauren in Bali has always been a topic of interest and I am sure it will continue to be. Is it really too good to be true? Or are they genuinely priced lower for the local market? Anyway, I will cover these in a later post on their differences and how to differentiate between the International and local Ralph Lauren. Stay tuned… 🙂

My local guide, Eka

For this trip, we had a local guide (his name is Eka) who drove us around Bali and this is the best decision we made. Given the road and traffic condition, it’s definitely a bad idea to self drive, unless you are on motor-bike. Moreover, we were travelling in a big group (6 adults, 2 children) and getting around in a single vehicle (a mini-van in this case) was really a blessing.

Eka’s experience and easy-going nature were just icing on the cake as we had to make many changes to our original itinerary due to the bad weather. Eka never showed any signs of displeasure and in fact, he was very apologetic that we had to miss out on a huge chunk of our planned itinerary, even though the bad weather was no fault of his. Nevertheless, he made recommendations on the revision of the itinerary and I know some of the places were quite out of the way. He did it so willingly and made no fuss about the extra distance or hours; only to make sure that we covered the “important” attractions. Eka mentioned this in one of our email exchanges prior to the trip, “As long as you are happy, I am happy”, and he truly lives up to his words. For that, I thank you Eka.

Our Itinerary

As usual, here’s a summary of our itinerary for our 5-day trip and more details are in the subsequent posts. Just wanna share some of my thoughts on the itinerary, there are actually many temples in Bali and I wouldn’t say “if you have seen one, you have seen them all”, but most of them are really quite similar. So my plan was to go for a few iconic ones (sea temples, directional temples, etc) and to include some shopping. I didn’t include any river rafting activities, for instance, as I have a young one. Like I said, there are many activities that one could do in Bali and I would strongly recommend you to do some research and plan your holidays as per your interests and preferences. 

Day 1: Walked around Kuta area and shopping at Discovery Mall

Day 2: Tanah Lot, Serangan Turtle Conservation and Education Centre, Pandawa Beach, Uluwatu Temple. and the Kecak Dance.

Day 3: Ralph Lauren factory outlet, Wood Carver Village, Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Mt Batur and Luwak Coffee farm.

Day 4: Shopping at Ubud Centre, followed by a visit to Monkey Forest and a BBQ seafood dinner at Jimbaran beach

Day 5: Swimming in the hotel (Kuta Paradiso) and home sweet home.

Useful Information – Local Guide : 

Our local guide:

  • Name: Eka
  • Email: ekasastrawan_bali@yahoo.com
  • General observations:
    Eka speaks reasonably good English and is quite responsive via emails. If you plan to engage him, I would suggest that you drop him an email to book his time prior to your trip. Eka is also quite proficient with the handling of our DSLRs and he usually offers his help to take group photos. 🙂
  • If you do engage him, please help to send him my regards. 🙂

Estimated traveling time by car:

  • Kuta  Jimbaran : 30 minutes
  • Kuta  Tanan Lot : 1 hour
  • Kuta  Uluwatu : 1 hour
  • Kuta  Mount Batur : 2 hours
  • Kuta  Gunung Kawi (Poet Mountain) : 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Kuta  Ubud : 1 hour

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