Esra Osman: Turtle Island Adventure
The idea of living in a postcard, one with turquoise oceans and white sand, seems like too much of a fantasy to be true; however, the Perhentian Islands was as close to that as could be. Just from looking at a picture online of the Perhentian Islands was enough to make me bury my head in my revision notes with the belief that there was light at the other side of the tunnel. Still, completing this experience was a lot more than just observing the paradise scenery, and it really was paradise, as saving Sea Turtles, caring for the delicate coral reefs, and being involved in conservation and community projects in the local village was rewarding in itself.
My initial thought of saving Sea Turtles was truly far too basic and naive for what it should have been; learning that the population of Green Turtles has decreased by 80% in the last 50 years was shocking. This is where it became apparent why I was there. I had the task of spotting Sea Turtles in their natural habitat and protecting the Sea Turtle population. This involved night patrols on the beach and if a Turtle was spotted, we had to protect the Turtle from local poachers while it laid its eggs, and then incubate a proportion of these eggs in the hatchery. The reason we only took a proportion of eggs is because the government officials, from the Department of fisheries, would come in the morning to collect any eggs that were laid, and so the missing proportion was not supposed to be obvious; plus there was suspicion that these government officials were also poachers. Once the eggs were in the hatchery, we nursed them until they developed into beautiful baby Turtles before we released them into the dark ocean at night.
The second part of my trip was based in a village, although I must admit it was a very pretty village, there was still work to do. Taking part in the project was a real wake-up call for me and the other volunteers. It became clear that this postcard scenery of clear blue water and beautiful coral reefs that attracts so many tourists is actually the reason for the drop in the health of the coral reefs islands, and the weakening of the villagers’ Malaysian culture. It was down to us volunteers to do our bit in saving the natural-beauty of the Perhentian Islands. Together we improved the environmental and cultural awareness amongst tourists and villagers, and assisted with the economy of the village. On top of this we taught the children at the local school English. As corny as it sounds, the children of the Perhentians are the future and by teaching them the importance of protecting this gorgeous island we made a difference to the future statistics of turtles and corals.
I learnt a lot about myself on this trip, from the embarrassment of not knowing exactly what Bouldering meant, that is until I was actually experiencing it without any equipment and already half way round the edge of the island, it was safe to say that I tested my adventure levels. Once I got over the initial shock of climbing huge rocks in the stunning heat, it was the most relaxing swim I had ever had snorkelling back to the bay. Although I most likely would have chickened out of this experience had I known the meaning of bouldering, I am so happy I went through with it and would not change a thing.
On my return flight home I found myself reminiscing on what a beautiful experience I had just completed, I started thinking about my career plans. Being born and bred in the UK was all I knew, and because of this I planned my career in this UK-bubble. However, my thoughts on this are now very different. While visiting Kuala Lumpur I met many British residents who had migrated to Malaysia. Just viewing the way they lived was a real wake-up call to me. Of course every graduate knows that climbing up a ladder is the complete norm, but learning that you can get there much faster elsewhere is a real eye-opener and one that I ought to have a long think about when considering my next career step.
Thanks Esra, we are glad you had a wonderful time!