Turtle and animal lovers will find the Pahang turtle sanctuary a fascinating and joyful place to visit.
Known as the Turtle Sanctuary and Information Centre, it is located at Cherating, Pahang, fronting the lovely, white sands of Chendor Beach (Pantai Chendor).
With a vast coastal area fronting the South China Sea, the Malaysian state of Pahang regularly sees four (4) main species of sea or marine turtles that come to land or nest in various localities and beaches stretching the length of the coast.
The 4 main species are the Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles.
In Pahang, five (5) major landing and nesting rookeries for sea turtles have been identified. They are located at Pantai Chendor (Chendor Beach), Cherating, Tioman, Sri Buat Island and Rompin beaches.
Green turtles comprise the main species (more than 90%) found in Pahang and at Chendor beach.
Landings of sea turtles to the beaches are usually between the months of April to September.
Of the five major turtle sites in Pahang, Chendor Beach is the most important nesting site for marine turtles in the state. Hence the location of the Pahang turtle sanctuary there.
Tioman Island (Pulau Tioman) and its surrounding islands have Marine Park status, and thus being a sanctuary for the coral reefs ecosystem and community, the sea turtles there and their nesting habitats are also protected.
When did the turtle sanctuary in Pahang start its operations?
Well, it actually started its operation as a small turtle hatchery long ago in 1972.
However, recognising the importance of conserving and preserving the dwindling turtle population, in 1997 the Pahang State Government allocated and set up the new 0.33 hectare site as a center to provide turtle protection and to ensure systematic management of turtles in that area.
The main activities carried out by this Pahang turtle sanctuary center include collection of turtle eggs and relocation to the hatchery as part of the turtle hatching program. The turtle hatcheries can be seen near the beach.
The hatcheries are monitored round the clock with the eggs incubation period of 50-60 days. Turtle hatchlings usually emerge at night, and of course they all look very, very cute.
To prevent them from being killed or eaten by its natural predators like monitor lizards, birds and fishes, the hatchlings are immediately released to the sea.
This turtle centre also carries out research programs on turtles, and provide video shows and information to educate the public and promote public awareness on the critical importance of conserving and protecting turtles.
It was opened to the public on the 1 June 1998, and was officially opened by the then Pahang Menteri Besar, Dato' Sri (now Tun) Haji Mohd Khalil bin Yaakob on 24 September 1998.
Situated along Pantai Chendor, the sanctuary covers an area of 0.33 hectares, affording protection to the turtles landing and nesting sites stretching 3.5 kilometers of the beach.
Well, yes, hatchlings usually emerge from eggs late at night, and turtles only land and nest at night and early morning.
So there are facilities for camping at this Pahang turtle sanctuary area to watch hatchlings emerge, besides observing the new turtles landing or nesting, at night.
Tents are available for rental at RM30 per night, with nightly space charges of RM15 for small tent, and RM20 for big tents on the camp sites.
Other charges for facilities like electricity, water and toilet, range from RM30 for 4-10 persons to RM150 for 50 or more persons.
These rates and rules are subject to changes, so do check with the administration.
Visitors are prohibited from fishing, jogging, swimming, or engage in sports or games or any activities which can be a disturbance, threat or interference to the turtles landing or nesting spots at the Chendor beach reserved sanctuary area of about 3.5 kilometers in length.
The prohibition is enforced from 6.00pm to 6.00 am.
No person is allowed to take, disturb or touch any turtles and their eggs for whatever reason. And if found guilty of the offence he/she shall be fined up to RM1,000 or 6 months jail or both.
The Pahang turtle sanctuary, managed by the Malaysian Fisheries Department, is actually located besides the entrance to the famous Club Med, Cherating on the northern side.
A lot of Club Med patrons and foreigners visit this center to understand and watch the hatchlings and turtles, mostly the Green and Hawksbill variety swimming in the small pools at the place.
To get there, take the main Kuantan to Kemaman (Terengganu) road, and if from Kuantan, after about 45 minutes drive, you will reach Cherating.
From the main road entrance, it is about another 500 meters to the sanctuary and beach area.
Visiting hours to this turtle sanctuary are from 9.00am to 12.00pm and 2.00pm to 5.30pm (Tuesday to Sunday) while on Friday the hours are from 9.00am to 12.00pm and 3.00pm to 5.30pm.
The centre is closed on Mondays.
So, if you are visiting delightful Pahang, and if you are a turtle lover, don't forget to take a trip to this Pahang turtle sanctuary centre.
Admission is free.
But if you wish, you can donate to the centre so as to help save the turtles of the world.
As always, from me ...
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