Ever since I returned from the SEATRU experience I have dreamed of going back there again. However, the last time I checked, the volunteer fee had increased to over a thousand ringgit so I had no choice but to search for an alternative. A couple of clicks later I found this: Lang Tengah Turtle Watch (LTTW).
|The camp site. Photo: Jinting Lee|
LTTW is an organization aimed at protecting sea turtles on Lang Tengah island. The base of the LTTW is situated at Turtle Bay, Lang Tengah. Unlike SEATRU, however, the LTTW does not enforce no-visitors-allowed policy, which means visitors and hotel guests from resorts nearby are free to come and go as they like. Also unlike some of the more prominent turtle conservation centers/programs in Terengganu and Perak, the LTTW does not have any baby turtles hatchery because it aims to protect turtles by letting every breeding process unfolds naturally.
|Turtle eggs during our pre-hatch check. Photo: Heng Kai Voon|
The living condition of LTTW volunteer program is somewhat similar to SEATRU, albeit slightly more primitive i.e. we had to fetch water from a well for drinking and bathing; we used dry toilet and urinated in the jungle; we had limited electricity; we showered in a fenced up area that had no door; and we had to collect firewood to feed the fire to ward off mosquitoes (caution: there were TONNES of mosquitoes there at LTTW, compared to no mosquitoes at SEATRU, so I fell into some kind of mosquito-shock).
|That's me getting my back treated for sandfly and mosquito bites.|
Okay, a couple of things to note:
1) The volunteer fee for LTTW is RM560 per pax per week (inclusive of accommodation and food).
2) For university students who are majoring in environmental/zoology/marine biodiversity courses, you could get your fees waived (depending on availability of funding). Contact LTTW to know more.
3) You can stay for a minimum of 1 week to a maximum of 3 months.
4) It's best if you can cook. Otherwise, please bring some canned food (halal) so everyone can share.
5) Daily activities include pre and post-hatch nest check, lunch preparation, hiking/snorkeling session, cliff jumping (this!), dinner preparation, camp cleaning, night patrol, and of course, turtles watching and star gazing.
6) To get to Lang Tengah island from KL, first take a bus from KL to Kuala Terengganu (RM 44, transnasional bus). From there, take a taxi to Merang jetty (not to be confused with Marang jetty) where you catch the 10am Ameen Boat Service to the island. If you drive, you can park your car at the car park near the jetty at RM10 per car per night.
7) Returning to the mainland from Lang Tengah is straightforward: just let the person-in-charge at the LTTW know when you need to leave, and they will call Ameen Boat Service to get a boat for you.
8) The best time to visit is between April-September, during the dry season. You have to send an email to Raphe (firstname.lastname@example.org) with subject entitled Volunteer Program. Raphe is the co-founder of the LTTW and he's really helpful :).
9) Cellphone coverage is limited at LTTW, but you can charge your camera and other electronics using the solar panel.
Okay, last but not least, let's see some pictures!
|Sunrise at Batu Kuching, Lang Tengah|
|A friend published a book on his experience in LTTW|
|One of the most commonly-sighted animals at the LTTW base-Tokay Gecko|
|This is where we normally chill|
|Lek Meng and Tasha the turtle|
|This tree belongs to one of the most ancient of species that dates back to the days of dinosaurs.|
|Lek Meng makes really tasty noodles!|
|These are the solar panels that we had to move out into the sun every morning to charge.|
|Post-hatch nest check|
|The milky way is so clear you can see it with naked eyes!|
|The sleeping chamber.|
|One of the sites that we went to was inundated by rubbish. In fact, the pictures cannot do this place justice--there was so much rubbish we couldn't fit the entire scene into an image.|
|The rubbish consisted of fishing nets, buoys, and plastic bottles.|
|According to the LTTW staff, the rubbish float in during the monsoon season and get stuck between the rocks. Years of neglect gradually stock up enough rubbish to become a small rubbish hill.|
I was thoroughly appalled by the rubbish slope I saw on the island. It's even more disheartening that the dump site was situated next to one of the finest snorkeling sites of the island. It's easy to notice the extend of coral bleaching on the island--Turtle Bay itself was
littered covered with dead corals washed up on the beach. The death of the corals will have a cascading effect further down the food chain, and will eventually affect the health of the entire marine ecosystem. Left unchecked for many years under the sun, the rubbish pile shown in the pictures above could contaminate the sea and subsequently kill the corals or other aquatic animals.
Pollution on the island aside, the LTTW is still a fascinating program to participate in.
If you have any more question, just drop a comment in the comment section and I'll get back to you as soon as I can ;).