I was standing alone with my family in the middle of paradise. In front of us we could see the huge waves crashing in the distance. We didn’t get too near the edge of the ocean because the waves were powerful and rose up to the heights a surfer would dream of.
But we watched from the safety of the shoreline.
We watched local families search for their treasure- sea urchins. Ready to be eaten fresh as they were found. Their prickly shells discarded and the fresh meat devoured.
The little rock pools nearer the shore were filled with the remnants of the waves from when the shore line was further up the beach. They formed little bath tubs inviting the children to sink right into them.
As the sun set the sky turned from the blazing blue to the fluorescent shades of pink.
And then the night-time started to creep in. We turned our backs to the ocean and walked up to our home for the night- Bubble Bali Hotel.
We stepped past some washed up seaweed, and stepped over discarded rubbish churned out of the ocean and onto the sand.
Drinking bottles, contact lens cases, fruit wrappers, flip-flops… and a broken comb.
Sadly I picked up the comb. Gave it a wash and brought it back to camp with me.
I’d been meaning to buy a new comb because I’d misplaced my last one. At least by picking up this comb I was keeping it from returning to the depths of the ocean. Preventing it from travelling from shore to shore.
If the comb could talk I imagine it would have had many tales to tell.
Did it fall from the pocket of a fisherman? Has it swum next to creatures yet to be discovered? Has it shied away in fear as a shark swum next to it…?
Would a comb even feel fearful if it had the ability? After all it’s probably the strongest thing in the sea.
If ever there was a time to teach my four-year old son the importance of recycling and making sure we do our bit for the environment it was now. Our choices and the way we buy products greatly impacts upon the natural world around us.
That one stretch of beach was enough to prove that.
I explained to him why I picked up the comb.
And then I decided to talk to him about the importance of keeping Sally safe.
Sally was a turtle we’d released the day before.
A turtle that had hatched under the watchful eye of the Turtle Conservation and Education Center.
Visiting the Centre was an important part of our trip to Bali.
When we travel I like to make the experience educational for my children as well, and I felt after doing my research that this centre possessed the right kind of attributes I hoped to find in a rescue centre.
Bali is a hot destination right now, and that shows by the number of spectacular beach front hotels that have risen up ready to cater for the masses. Unfortunately these beach front locations are also the breeding grounds for the turtles that return to lay their eggs.
So in an attempt to protect the eggs and help to release a good number of turtles back into the ocean, the Turtle Conservation and Education Center collect the eggs and place them safely in their hatchery where they aren’t in any danger of being damaged or killed by the effects of tourism. They are well-known by the beach front hotels who work with them to protect the endangered species.
They also help to rehabilitate turtles that have been found injured and they work to free turtles that have been kept in captivity. They collaborate with the Indonesian government to bring individuals to court for the illegal offences surrounding the strict laws on turtles.
And of course they work tirelessly to educate the Balinese who until 1999 were free to eat turtles and use them in sacrificial ceremonial rituals.
Sometimes these activities still occur, and so the importance of this education is vital if the turtle species are to recover in the waters surrounding Bali.
Sally was the turtle we picked out of all the turtles ready to be released back into the ocean. She was named by our four-year old.
After watching all the baby turtles we picked her for the strength she showed, as we felt she was one of the most prepared ones ready to take on the challenges of the ocean.
Of course, Sally could easily be male, but until puberty there are no defining features to tell.
We scooped Sally up in a little red bucket, and along with three other couples we took our chosen turtles down to the beach front location, and released them into the water.
The survival rate for turtle hatchlings to reach puberty is 1%.
But with love, best wishes and some great strong glides through the choppy waves Sally headed straight out to sea.
She gave us a quick wave…
…and we watched her go.
The first out of all the turtles.
So whenever we see plastic now, or William sees the comb that I brought home with me from the litter on the beach, we talk about Sally. We talk about how we need to keep her home safe to give her the best chance of survival. We talk about how important it is to recycle. And we talk about how to properly dispose of our rubbish. We make sure we’re engraining into him about making the right choices when we shop and appreciating the things we own more.
Back on that beach though, we finished our evening by moonlight picking up handfuls of rubbish and bringing it back to our camp and putting it into the bin. We were playing a very small part trying to keep our Sally as safe as possible. We released her back into the ocean and so we felt an even bigger responsibility to try to keep her percentage rate of survival as high as possible.
I highly recommend visiting the Turtle Conservation and Education Center if you’re in Bali. It’s free to go and visit, and the staff will walk you around and explain the world of turtles to you.
To release a turtle, there is a small donation fee which helps to keep the centre running.
If you aren’t able to get to the Turtle Conservation and Education Center, there is also a turtle release programme on Kuta beach organised by the Bali Sea Turtle Society.
Of course you can see turtles in their natural habitat in a variety of places in Bali. If you want to responsibly swim with them, here are some popular places to do that:
USS Liberty dive site in Tulamben
Underwater temple in Jemeluk, Amed
The story of Sally will live on in our family for a lifetime.
Disclosure: This post is an entry in to the Trips100/Audley Travel blogger challenge.