We gathered at Batu Caves at 7-ish in the morning. Some of us decided to take photos at the temple (read: Euan had a photoshoot) while the rest didn’t to conserve energy by not jogging up the steep stairway to heaven flight of stairs. My car (Adham, Keat, Brian and me) wanted to eat McDonald’s for breakfast, so we pushed off to Cherating later then the rest. However, we beat all of them to TCS (thanks to Adham’s driving skills) .
To our surprise, TCS wasn’t as big as we thought it would be. It is located beside a multipurpose hall, equipped with a pond and a showroom about all the different species of terrapins. - We had a talk hosted by Aliah and helped them scrub the pond clean. Pak Wazir, the local volunteer explained to us about how terrapins lay their eggs and showed us how deep they can get too. We then had lunch prepared by Pak Wazir’s daughter, which was really scrumptious! I had a good time bonding with the local kids, Iman and Ammar who both conveniently explained to me about their whole family tree in detail XD We then tagged our adopted terrapins and brought them to the river to be released.
My terrapin, Squirtle was definitely the clingy type. It kept coming back to me for the longest time! But after having a pep talk session in ghanu, it finally decided to leave me for the river, ready for its new adventure in adulthood. Afterwards, we drove to our homestay which was about 20 minutes from TCS. After sorting ourselves into our rooms and unpacking, we got ready to go out for dinner. Aliah brought us to a really nice restaurant area near the beach. I ordered nasi dagang, the famous local cuisine which is a must-try if you haven’t had it before. After having a nice chat over our delicious food, we drove back home and had our first reflection session with Bella.
We made our way to Cherating beach to clean up any rubbish left behind by tourists, fishermen, etc and sorted the garbage into different categories; paper, plastic, metal, glass. We even found face masks in the pile of junk, which suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed a new entrant for sea garbage. - We also visited the Cherating Turtle Conservation Centre to learn more about the different species of sea turtles and how they are head-started before being released into the ocean. - Afterwards, we drove to Rimbun Dahan turtle hatchery and painted some murals to spruce up the place a bit. I was in the same team as Bella and Brian, two very talented artists! We painted a giant green turtle (which actually turned out to be a hawksbill turtle..whoops!).
Later, Along introduced us to Zorro, a mature green turtle with a blind eye (hence the name) and about 12 baby green turtles. She explained to us how baby turtles have a food storage which will last them for 2 weeks, where they will swim as far as they can from the beach they were born in. She also explained the ‘imprinting process’ where baby turtles take in the scent and the imprint any landmarks of the beach so that females can return to lay their eggs. - Along surprised us with a baby green turtle of our own to be released into the sea. Thankfully, mine was less clingy this time around. We then headed for a late lunch before heading to a firefly tour. We were briefed about fireflies and how they produce luciferin in producing light for communication. We then boarded a boat to view the beautiful fireflies along the river. What was most spectacular was when our tour guide flashed his red light with an irregular pattern, supposedly calling out the fireflies, soon enough the twinkling insects resting on the mangrove branches came surrounding us. It felt as if the night sky bathed the air with its stars. Truly a romantic setting. What was really not romantic was the fact that an innocent little firefly got stuck in my hair XD - After 45 minutes, the tour ended and we drove back to our homestay for another reflection session with Bella.
Day 3 was all about mangroves! We made our way to ecocare Kerteh to spend the whole day there. A short talk was given by Kak Wid and Abang (insert name here) about the different types of mangroves and how they reproduce. The interns at ecocare also kindly explained to us with the help of posters and preserved tree specimens. We then proceeded to make some mudballs – balls of mud (obviously) mixed with effective microorganisms; specifically lactic acid bacteria. These mighty balls pack a lot of power in cleaning the river and mangrove banks, by maintaining the underwater ecosystem to promote healthy interdependency between different species. We were split into 2 groups, and together we all made 20kg worth of muddy goodness!
The interns prepared some for us beforehand, as the mudballs must be left in the sun to harden. We each took about 4 balls each to be thrown into the river. We all had a lot of fun, experimenting with different methods to project the balls into the river. Pak (insert name here) was the best, it looked as if he threw his mudball into the depths of the universe! After that, Pak (insert name here) gave us a tour of the mangrove swamp. I personally loved it, as we got to get our feet wet while exploring the different flora and fauna that make up the whole mangrove ecosystem. I also loved the part where Brian fell in the swamp… heheh . We then had lunch and some delicious keropok lekor! Another must-have in Terengganu.
The muslims then went to perform our prayers, and shortly after that we went to plant some mangrove seedlings. Kak Wid explained to us the correct method to plant them in the soft mud, and how to prepare polybags to propagate new seedlings. I named my seedling Seedot (if you get the reference, we can be best friends 😊) . Afterwards, Bella booked 2 dorms for us to change in. We showered and changed into new clothes before setting off for Kuala Terengganu. We stopped by a restaurant by the beach, aka Bella’s chill spot with her friends from her undergraduate years. As always, we finished off the day with a reflection session.
We had an early start to the day by having breakfast on the road. We then headed to the pier to board a boat to Pulau Redang. The journey was really breath taking! With clear waters and the sun gleaming on the lapping waves, it was as if I was in Maldives! The view was even better when we reached the reached SEATRU’s research centre on the island. We were greeted by Syam, Loki and their intern who conveniently explained to us about their research centre and what they do. There was even an outdoor classroom for academic sessions at the research centre. We were then divided into 2 groups to excavate some turtle nests to see some sea turtle eggs.
My group was fortunate enough to excavate 2 nests, as the first one had newly hatched sea turtles! Apparently, it normally takes them about 7 days to climb all the way up the nest. The intern in charge of my group was super helpful in explaining how they patrol at night to monitor any turtles laying their eggs. We ended the session by handling some more baby turtles (because who doesn’t love more cute little baby squirtles, am I right?).