Saturday, 31 May 2014

Turtle Week: The Grand Finale

The final day of Turtle Week was action packed, with all our fundraising activities culminating in a 5 hour continuous reef clean.The time of 5 hours was chosen because that is how long a Green turtle can remain underwater whilst resting. A dedicated team of staff, interns and guests took out a boat and worked hard to  make the reef a safer place for turtles.  For five hours we had at least four people in the water. It was a tremendous effort, with 15 people taking part, taking in turns it to get underwater and clean the reef.  Not only was this a great fundraising activity, but it is also extremely important work. Removing plastic from the reefs needs to be done, not just to preserve the reef, but also to prevent turtles from ingesting it - which ultimately will be fatal for them. 

The evening saw the closing ceremony and a big party on the beach. A bar was set up and our Scuba Junkie band made the trip over from Semporna. We also set up a barbecue, selling delicious steak sandwiches, burgers and veggie kebabs, with all the money raised going straight into the Turtle Week fund. As the festivities were getting under way, Rohan took to the stage and announced our final total. We raised over 7500RM this week, an amazing effort from everyone involved, and we are truly grateful to everyone who contributed. We also announced the winner for our raffle, and the lucky Nadia won a 3 day 2 night stay with us at Scuba Junkie. The evenings activities went down a treat, as staff, interns and guests celebrated the fantastic amount of money raised. It was a great party and great way to end a week in which everyone had worked so hard. Everyone danced around in the sand as the band played a selection of covers. It was an incredible week, and we look forward to the next one. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Turtle Week: Day Six

Day 6 of Turtle Week was no less fun and action packed than the previous days. The morning began with the arrival of the Community College, who are based in Semporna. The Community College promotes possible job futures for children aged 14-16, and gives them a healthy introduction to skills in tourism and customer service that can be very beneficial in finding employment in Sabah. Nora, their teacher, has been a huge collaborator with Scuba Junkie for a number of years now, and has been incredibly instrumental in pushing for conservation to be a part of the Community College’s curriculum.

It wasn't just the kids enjoying Arts and Crafts!
The morning began with the 11 Community College students giving a presentation on turtles to the children of Project Sha (Sharing Help Awareness), an initiative set up to provide  the 4-16 year old children on Mabul with education to which they may otherwise have been denied. The presentation provided an introduction to the 4 species of turtle we encounter in Sabah; the leatherback, the green, the hawksbill and the olive’s ridley. They then gave the eager young children a healthy list of reasons why conservation is so important in protecting these species and why relatively easy methods such as proper waste disposal can have such a dramatic impact. It was a brilliant effort from the Community College, and the young children of Project Sha absolutely ate it up!

Things start getting messy 
Next up, time to get a little messy with some arts and crafts! With our Scuba Junkie staff having provided a giant turtle mural for the kids to decorate, they all got stuck in with some finger painting to add their own personalized touch. As well as this, our staff had made a number of turtles using discarded plastic bottles for the kids to decorate; another way to demonstrate how recycling can be put to good effect! With that amount of paint and excitable children around, face painting was inevitable, and soon enough everyone from Nora to the Project Sha kids, to even Rohan the resort manager, had their faces adorned with turtle patterns.

After a few more games with the kids, it was time for the Community College students to hand out goody bags as a thank you for everyone who got involved. We are incredibly grateful for the effort put in yesterday, and really hope that sessions like these can inspire the future generations to be more aware and therefore proactive about conversation and the environment. Thanks again guys!

With the Community College kids taking a break for lunch, our staff and interns, along with some customers keen to get involved, managed to find time for another successful reef clean. Whilst these reef cleans will not stop the litter problems at the course, they are a great way to maintain an aesthetically pleasing and healthy coral reef system. In just one hour our team was able to collect a number of cans, bottles, plastics and clothes that had been discarded into the water and which prove to be daily hazards to the turtles that frequent our reefs.

After lunch, our resort manager Rohan gave the Community College kids a slightly truncated version of his Turtle presentation, to provide them with conservation information about turtles just as they had done for the Project Sha kids. After that, it was time to go snorkeling! Our experienced staff and intern team first provided the kids with a detailed snorkeling briefing, informing them of proper kicking techniques, how to clear their snorkels and for the more experienced amongst them, how to duck dive. We also stressed the importance of responsible snorkeling techniques, such as not touching the coral or interacting with the marine life. With many of the children being inexperienced swimmers, it was a fulfilling reward for the scuba junkie team to be able to help them overcome their fears of water, and a great thank you for their efforts earlier on in the day.

Snorkel Time!!

Finally, in the evening we welcomed our 
guest speaker Nattalee Lim from Reef 
Check to give a presentation the 
importance of protecting the coral reef 
system, and what we can do to get 
involved. This fascinating talk illuminated the complexities of 
conducting a reef check analysis. Part of which involves laying down a 100m transect line, and noting the number of 
various indicator species and substrates 
to analyse the health of the reef system. 
She also touched upon how the changing health of the reef will affect us.
We are incredibly grateful to Natalee 
for making the journey down from Kota Kinabalu to Mabul. 

It's the final day now, but remember, you can still donate online at
Every little counts, and it's not too late! 

Facts about Kemps Ridely Turtles

  • Kemp’s ridley turtle is the most severely endangered marine turtle in the world; in the 1980s only a few hundred females were observed nesting, although the population is now showing signs of recovery
  • Along with the olive ridley, Kemp’s ridley turtle used to exhibit mass synchronised nestings known as ‘arribadas’ (Spanish for ‘mass arrivals’), where thousands of females came ashore on the same beach to nest at the same time
  • The nesting season peaks in May and June and unusually amongst turtles, nesting occurs during the day
  • Adults are carnivorous bottom-feeders, eating a wide range of prey including fish, jellyfish, although crabs are the mainstay of their diet
  • Kemp’s ridley turtles have an extremely restricted range; found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico and some way up the eastern seaboard of the United States 
  • They are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List 

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Turtle Week: Day Five

Gearing up for the Reef Clean
It’s hard to believe that it is already day five of Turtle Week! The time has flown by with a flurry of activities. Once again we had a team of beach and reef cleaners out in full force yesterday. Everyone involved put in a phenomenal effort, and we collected many bags of plastic, food wrappers, bottles and even discarded clothes! This work is integral to Turtle conservation, and over the next few days we will be working with children again, educating them in the importance of what we are doing, and what they can do to help.

Settling down and watching 'Turtle: An Incredible Journey'
It was a peaceful evening in the resort, as everybody settled down in the bar to watch the documentary 'Turtle: The Incredible Journey'. This fascinating short film follows the almost unbelievable journey of a loggerhead turtle, from when she first hatches on a beach in Florida, to over 20 years later when she lays her first nest – on the same beach that she was born. It follows her as she travels from the Gulf Stream and ultimately around the entire North Atlantic to Africa, only to return many years later to the Florida beach where she was born. The imagery is absolutely stunning, and the audience were treated to some beautiful shots of an array of marine life. From Humpback whales, to Blue Sharks, to dolphins, to Sperm Whales, the footage is truly amazing. The film shows the tiny loggerhead hatchling clinging to a raft of sargassum weed that sits at the surface. This provides a protected area for the turtle to sleep, eat and gain strength. The sargassum weed follows the Gulf Stream. This is a journey that many loggerhead turtles will take. Of course, as with any journey there are obstacles to face. The raft of sargassum is taken off it’s course, and the hatchling ends up in the stagnant Sargasso sea. With no winds, and no tides, the turtle is stuck. She feeds and grows stronger, and after gaining enough strength eventually returns to her path to the Gulf Stream. The story continues, and we see that other obstacles that young turtles face are not all natural. From choking on oil that has been spilled into the ocean, to being caught on longlines, the journey this turtle undertakes, along with all others, is a treacherous one. The ending of this tale was a happy one, with her successfully returning to her beach to lay nests. But it is important that people understand that this is not always the case; just one in one thousand hatchlings are expected to survive. The documentary opened many people’s eyes to the threats turtles face, and the dangers that we have created for these beautiful and graceful creatures.

With just two days left, we have almost reached our goal of 7000RM! We are on the final stretch, and every little counts. Please take a look at our Just Giving page, and read about the sponsored 5 hour underwater clean we will be doing. Every little counts, even just a dollar, a pound, or a euro would be greatly appreciated.

Facts about Loggerhead Turtles:
  • The loggerhead is one of the most widespread of all the marine turtles and also the most highly migratory, with individuals known to cross the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
  • This turtle's common name comes from its relatively large head, which contains powerful jaws
  • Adults are primarily carnivorous, using their powerful jaws to crack open crustaceans such as crabs and even seemingly impenetrable molluscs such as the queen conch
  • Nesting occurs in more temperate regions than for other sea turtle species and the largest breeding population is currently found in the southeastern United States from North Carolina throughout Florida
  • Classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Turtle Week: Day Four

Cleaning up the Reef!
The morning after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party was a slightly quiet one on Mabul island. Staff were working hard on setting up the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, which we hope to open very soon. The centre will provide an area for us to care for injured and sick turtles. Come lunch time, and with everyone extremely hungry after a mornings diving, Scuba Junkie once again provided delicious pizza. With all the money going straight to Turtle conservation, it's even harder to resist! 

In the evening we had an old friend come by for a presentation. Christian Loader gave a talk on taking photographs of these beautiful animals, and the various situations in which he has seen them. Christian works for Scubazoo, a videography and photograpahy company based in Kota Kinabalu. They regularly film footage for the BBC, recently they worked with David Attenborough in Danum Valley. They have also released several books documenting marine life around the world. For those interested in photography he explained the various setting he used to achieve his beautiful pictures, whilst the rest of us gained some insight into the complexities of achieving such incredible photos. Sadly it was not all about how to make something more aesthetically pleasing; we also got to see the darker side of Christian's work. He showed us photos of turtles that were sick from pollution - where benign tumours begin to grow all over their body, leaving them unable to feed or swim properly. He then show images from areas in Papua New Guinea, where the rare Leatherback turtle is found for just a few months a year. Graphic images showed locals hunting the turtle by harpooning it through it's shell. They cut the flippers of the turtle so it is unable to move, and beat it until it dies. As Christian explained, it was traumatic to witness and to shoot. However, footage of these events in vital in educating people around the world about what is happening. According to Christian, the one saving grace of the experience was that the villagers used every part of the dead turtle - in part for food, and by burning the shell they produced useful oils. 
After the presentation it was time to announced the winner of out daily competition - 'Guess the amount of Turtles seen today'. Once again Roisin won! The second time this week, must be the luck of the Irish! She guessed closest to our count of 104 turtles seen about Mabul, Semporna and Sipadan. Our guests Roisin and Nikki have contributed a lot these last few days; they been entering the competitions, adopting turtles and helping out with beach and reef cleans. Thank you so much guys! 
Congratulations again Roisin!

Facts about Leatherback Turtles: 

  • They are listed as critically endangered on the IUCN list
  • Its shell is flexible and covered in a thin layer of leathery skin.
  • The leatherback turtle is the world's largest turtle; the largest recorded individual weighed a massive 916 kilograms
  • With the widest distribution of all the marine turtles, the leatherback turtle is found throughout the world's oceans. It has been recorded as far north as Alaska and as far south as the tip of South Africa
  • The leatherback turtle can dive to great depths. Leatherback turtles equipped with depth recorders dove to over 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) deep. 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Turtle Week: Day Three

It was a fun filled day on the island on the third day of Turtle Week. It began as a relaxing day. Staff and interns went out on a reef clean in the morning, then indulged in some arts and crafts in the afternoon - decorating the resort for the evenings festivities. We also had people making turtle phone charms and key rings out of old plastic and ring pulls from cans. A very creative way of recycling! These little charms can be bought for just 10RM. 

Tiny Green Turtles!
In the evening, just as everyone was settling down for dinner, a turtle nest started to hatch! There was a flurry of activity as staff informed everyone what was happening. Guests abandoned their food and rushed down to the hatchery, wanting to see as much of the action as possible. Those who had already adopted a turtle were allowed into the hatchery, getting a closer look at the hatchlings as they were carefully placed into a bucket before being taken to the shoreline. As the tiny turtles were released, guests were asked not to use flash on their cameras, and to make sure they were standing well out of the way as the hatchlings sprinted to the water. Those who had not already adopted a turtle were keen to get involved, and many decided to adopt them right away. The final few turtles were released and everyone headed back to the resort to have some food. Those who had decided to adopt turtles collected their T-Shirts and gave their information to have their certificate sent to them. Just as everyone had started to
Collecting the hatchlings so they can be taken to the shoreline
calm down over the excitement of seeing these incredible creatures scurry to the sea, a second nest showed signs of hatching! Suddenly the surface of the sand was breaking, tiny turtles poking their heads out of the sand, and trying to begin their journey to open waters. Once again, everyone headed down to the beach to see them be released. It was a truly magical experience for everyone who was involved. Those who had adopted turtles were able to release them, which is something not many people can say they've done! All in all, over 100 turtles were released from the hatchery to make their way into the ocean; a truly special and incredibly timely celebration of Turtle Week!
Carefully moving them out of the hatchery

Turtle hats and bandannas!
The evenings festivities didn't end there. It was time to head to the bar for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed party! Outlines of turtles had been cut out, colouring pencils and strips of card provided so that everyone could make their own turtle hats. If that didn't take your fancy then we had strips of fabic so you could make yourself a bandana, just like the ninja turtles! And what was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles favourite food? Pizza! So we had pizza on sale in the bar, with all the money going straight toward Turtle conservation. As an added bit of entertainment, we also held an open mic night. Customers and staff all got involved, singing and playing guitar. It was an excellent night, a great treat for everyone, staff, interns and customers, who have been working so hard these past few days. 

Open Mic Night

Everyone getting involved

Dancing the night away!

We're now over half way towards our target of 7000RM!! Thank you so much for all the contributions!! If anyone who cannot be here would like to donate, just visit our page at Just Giving:
We are doing a sponsored 5 hour Reef Clean, every little helps!

Facts about Olive Ridley Turtles
  • They are the smallest of the marine turtles 
  • Although they do also nest alone, olive ridleys are known for their remarkable mass nestings, when many thousands of females congregate on the same beach; the event is known as an 'arribada', which is Spanish for 'mass arrival' 
  • These astonishing mass nestings can involve up to 150,000 females and there may be more than one arribada on a single beach; this overcrowding means that turtles are often crawling over each other to move up the beach
  • Predators such as jackals and crabs will feed on turtle eggs, whilst birds attack hatchlings on the beach and fish wait in the shallows. These arribadas probably function to increase hatchling survival by overwhelming predators with sheer numbers
  • They are listed as 'vulnerable' on the IUCN list 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Turtle Week: Day Two

Off to School!
Day two of Turtle week on Mabul was all about the Beach and Reef Cleans! A team of staff and interns were put together, and any guests who fancied getting involved were welcomed to the group. They were given a full briefing on how to safely conduct a reef clean, so as not to harm themselves or any underwater critters, and off they went. Beach and Reef cleans are an extremely important part of Turtle Conservation. Too often dead turtles are washing ashore with their stomachs full of plastic. One of the main sources of food for a Green Turtle is jellyfish, and it must be too easy for them to mistake a plastic bag for a tasty snack. The beach clean was before lunch, and the support shown by guests was amazing, and we are extremely grateful to everyone who got involved. We collected many bags of rubbish throughout the day! Amazing work everyone! 

Showing them our informative posters
We also had our enthusiastic staff continuing their conservation presentations in Semporna for the local school – SMK Abdulla II. Once again they got the eager kids involved and spoke to them about Turtles, providing them with a range of information, from turtle conservation to biology. They were also given a ‘Treasure Hunt’ – a list of questions they had to answer, these answers were found in the informative posters that Scuba Junkie had produced a put up in the school. The answer sheets were put into a raffle, and the lucky winners got a Scuba Junkie T-shirt, wrist band and pen.

Prize Winner!

It’s not just in Semporna that we have been working to educate children on conservation. We also had
Getting kids interested in Diving
a range of activities with the kids on Mabul as well. A group from the school on Mabul came over to the resort to take part in some fun activities, and to also be provided with some educational information. They began by colouring their very own turtle hats, showing them the different species of sea turtle that exist today. They were then given a treasure hunt – a list of questions of which the answers to were posted on informative posters around the resort. They also got involved with the beach clean, getting stuck in to the less glamourous side of conservation with great enthusiasm and collecting many bags of rubbish. Our staff and interns were also involved again, reiterating to the kids why these beach cleans are so important to turtle conservation. Next up, one of our instructors gave them a short Turtle Presentation, detailing turtle biology, and the threats they face – locally and worldwide. Their day was finished off with a turtle documentary. The kids left excited, armed with a load of new information on their favourite new critter. An action packed day for everyone involved! 

Treasure Hunt!
It didn’t end there! In the evening it was time for a pub quiz, and we’re happy to report it was a great success, raising over 400rm towards Turtle conservation with 14 teams taking part. Questions ranged from diving, famous quotes, to – of course – turtles! A big thanks to everyone who got involved and congratulations to the top 3 teams! Prizes for the pub quiz included Scuba Junkie T-shirts, beers, and shots! The prizes didn’t end there, we also announced the winner of our daily ‘Guess the number of Turtle’ competition. We saw 102 Turtles whilst diving around Mabul, Sipadan and Semporna. 

Our winning teams: Congratulations guys!!

Congratulation John! Who guessed the correct number of Turtles seen that day

We’ve raised over 2000rm already, we are not even half way through the week! So a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed so far! If you’re in the area, come and get involved! Adopt a turtle, buy a delicious turtle cocktail, or take part in one of our competitions. There are great prizes to be won, including a 3 day 2 night stay at our Mabul Beach Resort! If you can’t come down and say hi, you can still get involved. We are doing a sponsored 5 hour continuous Reef Clean at the end of the week, and any contributions would be greatly appreciated! 

Hope to see you soon! 

Facts about Flatback Turtles:

  • Flatback turtle eggs incubated at temperatures below 29ºC will be male, whereas eggs incubated above 29 ºC will be female.
  • Unlike other sea turtles, flatback turtles do not spend anytime in the deep ocean preferring to bask in shallower water.
  • Each nesting season, the female lays between two and three clutches, 15 days apart
  • The flatback turtle is found only in the tropical waters of northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, and nests only in Australia
  • Flatbacks are preyed upon by Saltwater crocodiles, the largest reptile on earth. Adult females have been observed being attacked by crocs while attempting to nest.