Having enjoyed the sights, scents and sounds of Balinese life more than we thought possible, we knew we wanted a memorable end to our time in Indonesia. What’s more memorable than joining forces with a true force to be reckoned with? The Bali Sea Turtle Society combine people power with that of turtles to create an experience like no other. Could we save the sea turtle, save the world? We were about to find out.
I had heard enough about Kuta when researching our trip to know it was not going to be a place I had any desire to spend a significant amount of time. However, when I read more about a Kuta-based organisation who arrange frequent baby sea turtle releases enlisting the help of visitors as volunteers, I knew it would make for a worthy visit. Afterall, nothing can enhance to appeal of a place quite like baby animals.
Bali Sea Turtle Society is an inspiring and selfless organisation who are utilising the island’s ever-growing stream of tourism to give something back to its local inhabitants. Their conservation program works by relocating sea turtle eggs from the beach to a central hatchery; by doing this the eggs are protected and therefore hatching rates increase. After 45-60 days, the eggs have developed and once the turtles have naturally hatched they are released into the sea the next evening with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
Thanks to the BSTS regular updates on their Facebook page, tourists can check in to see when and where the next baby sea turtle release will be taking place. Judging by the numbers on the day we were there, it’s an activity that’s really making waves in the education of the importance of conservation.
From our experience attending a Kuta Beach release in July, the process was entirely smooth and one I cannot recommend getting involved with enough. As a volunteer, you first need to establish if there is a release happening whilst you’re in the area. If so, the next step is to head to the Bali Sea Turtle Society centre which is easily found alongside Kuta Beach either by following the location on Google Maps or by looking out for the frankly ginormous plastic turtle. You can’t miss it. Once there, you need to queue up for a turtle token by 4 pm to be in with a chance of actually releasing one: there are limited numbers and in peak season it’s definitely oversubscribed so get there early to avoid disappointment. Once you’ve got your token (which are technically free but they graciously accept donations) you’ll be sent away to wait for a short time before a klaxon brings the group back together and instructions are relayed.
A queue forms again and this time once at the front you are provided with a Tupperware box. No takeaways in sight here, the purpose of the plastic container is to house your new tiny turtle friend who is scooped from a pool of turtles and handed over to you to meticulously care for and transport to the beach. I have never felt responsibility like it. Though they be small they can certainly flip and attempt to swim with quite some gravitas. Turtle power has never made more sense and the fear of dropping a turtle has never been more real.
Once the masses of volunteers have aligned on the beach and are supervised by the staff, Mr Turtle (yes this is actually how he introduced himself) will instruct on the correct release procedure and on his count, it’s time for the babies to begin their lives at sea.
I have never seen anything like it.
I’m fairly certain there wasn’t an orchestra crescendoing in the background (lest us forget, this is Kuta) but it certainly felt like a peak film score moment. To watch hundreds of tiny turtles fearlessly flip their way through grains of sand before floating majestically away with the tide was euphoric. Genuinely euphoric.
It may only be a small step (or flip) in helping the environment but oh did it feel like a worthy one. There and then I was questioning all my life choices and was basically ready to leave London behind to become Miss Turtle. While not entirely possible just yet, it gave me a new level of restored faith in humanity and the people who dedicate their lives to helping the lives of others.
The Bali Sea Turtle Society are doing incredible work and after enjoying their island and all it had to offer, giving back a little at the end of our trip felt like the exact right thing to do. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Bali definitely look them up and see what work they’re doing at the time, I guarantee it will be a holiday highlight to remember.