On Serangan Island, south of Sanur in Bali, there is the Turtle Sanctuary, which houses quite a lot of turtles, and even some snakes and iguanas. I visit the place with some friends of mine, and even though I love turtles, I had mixed feelings about the place.
The over all impression that I got from the place was a positive one, although there were a lot of things that could be improved. I wish I had more informations and real facts about how the place is run, but since I don’t I can only tell you about my experience.
My first impression was that the place was more of a zoo. I’ve been to turtle sanctuaries and rehab places around the world, and this is the first time that ALL turtles were on display in such a way that every single person could handle them. And there were a lot of people.
Of course I love turtles, and I have seen thousands, especially diving in Bali or other places, but I had to admit that day, that that was the very first time I had ever touched one. It is common diver etiquette to never touch marine life, so I had never done so on purpose. So when I was immediately handed baby turtle, I was a little shocked.
How the place is run is, everyone starts at one end in a line, starting at the ocean side where they have a few huge turtles in shallow sea pens. A couple workers turn and position the turtles so each person can get a selfie with it, and then they move on to the next.
Next up are a bunch of cements basin/type things filled with water, and each with different turtles in them. Some had tiny babies, some had wounded adults, and everything in between. My problem was, that most of them didn’t actually seem hurt, and I couldn’t help but wonder if these were caught just for these paying tourists amusement, or were they really saved?
Or were they originally saved, but kept a lot longer then they needed? I really don’t know. I was already off-put by the hundreds of people each taking a turn handling or holding each turtle, so I had to wonder why they were actually here.
I could be totally wrong though. I guess it just went against my nature to see the turtles being used as zoo exhibits for entertainment. I even refused to hold them myself, even though I wanted to so bad.
Later on I got to thinking. Nearly all of the tourists that day were Indonesians, and I read later that turtle meat and eggs were still eaten in many parts of the country.
That got me wondering if the sanctuary/exhibit was actually maybe a good thing, if it brings awareness and education to a people that had previously seen these as unimportant things to kill.
Because once you have seen a baby turtle or held one, I guarantee you will never want to kill one again. So maybe this whole thing did have its benefits. Maybe in its own messed up way, they were turning turtle killers into lovers. Who knows.
Is this their real objective? I doubt it. Anything that can make money in Indonesia, does. I think things like this are good for business, and the people doing it don’t care about much else. I’m just finding a silver lining.
But again, I could be totally wrong. Maybe this place is also making a huge impact on the local turtle population, and I just didn’t know about it. I hope someone has more information and can tell me in the comments below!
Also read: 101 Awesome Things to do in Bali