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Where To Watch Turtles Hatch in Malaysia

Baby turtle hatchlings are pictured crawling on the sand into the open sea
Baby turtle hatchlings are pictured crawling on the sand into the open sea | © zulkamalober / Shutterstock
Leatherback, hawksbill, green, and olive ridley—these are the four main types of sea turtle you’ll see nesting on the shores of Peninsula and Malaysian Borneo. And when you’re witnessing Mommy Turtle lay her eggs, please don’t squeal, don’t flash (your torches or cameras), and don’t pet (her).

Talang Satang National Park, Sarawak

This national park encompasses four islands and the coastline along Talang-Satang, where green and hawksbill turtles favor nesting. The green turtle accounts for 90% of turtle landings here, though three other species are also known to nest on the coast.

As part of the marine turtle conservation program, park wardens routinely remove eggs from nests and place them in protected hatcheries for up to 60 days, after which the baby turtles are guided back to sea.

Baby leatherback turtle © IrinaK / Shutterstock

Turtle Island Park, Sandakan, Sabah

Drop by between July and October, and you’re bound to witness hawksbill turtles landing on the shores of Turtle Island Park. The ‘Park’ itself consists of several islands, including Selingan, the Gulisan islands, and Bakungan Kecil. Turtles usually come ashore after nightfall, and visitors are asked to keep quiet and not use bright light for fear of scaring the turtles away.

To get to Selingan (the headquarters of Turtle Island Park), you’ll have to take a boat from the jetty at Jalan Buli Sim-Sim. Ask for the Sabah Parks jetty.

Turtle hatchery on the Selingan island © Dmitry V. Photo / Shutterstock

Tioman Island, Pahang

Tioman has pristine beaches, colorful reefs, refreshing waterfalls, and rainforest jungles so thick and lush you might mistake it for paradise. But the best thing to do in Tioman still has to be watching baby turtles hatch on the isolated Juara Beach, on the east coast of Tioman Island.

A turtle hatchery is operated by the Juara Turtle Project, who collect turtle eggs from new nests to incubate and protect them from poaching activities. At the hatchery, you can watch baby turtles struggle out of their white shells, ‘sponsor a nest,’ and even release them back out to sea. For more information on how to get to Juara, visit this page here.

Freshly Laid Turtle Eggs © Matt Jeppson / Shutterstock

Perhentian Turtle Sanctuary Beach, Terengganu

The clear waters and soft shores here are a haven for green and hawksbill turtles to land. After sunset, there are no lights on this beach, in order that the turtles will feel safe to nest. When you go snorkeling during the day, you may also catch sight of a few turtles frolicking around in the sea.

The Perhentian Turtle Project helps to conserve and protect newly laid turtle eggs, collecting and incubating them until they’re ready to be released back to sea. Did you know that when a turtle surfaces on shore, you should keep a distance of at least a couple of meters? Find out more here.

Green turtle hatchlings being released to sea © Ye Choh Wah / Shutterstock

Rantau Abang, Terengganu

You may have learned about Rantau Abang in geography class, since it was one of only six nesting sites around the world for the endangered Leatherback turtle. But times have changed since the 1950s, and where there used to be 10,000 nesting per year, there are barely any now.

Still, you can find out about the conservation and protection of these gentle giant creatures at the Turtle Information Center, and if you’re very lucky, like a few were in 2017, you may see a slow moving giant-shelled turtle making her way up the steep slopes of the beach for a quiet little nesting.

Kampung Kuala Abang ,Batu Pelanduk, Dungun located in Terengganu, Malaysia © IZZ HAZEL / Shutterstock

Cherating Turtle Sanctuary, Pahang

This is a small conservation hatchery run by charity and on donations, so don’t expect a lot of fanfare. Nevertheless, if you come by during the peak nesting season between July and October, you’ll be rewarded for your effort. Watch the hatchlings break out of their shells and release them back to sea—you, your kid, and the turtlets will all be smiling.

Baby Green Sea Turtle © SOUTHERNTraveler / Shutterstock