shanlung (shanlung) wrote,

Turtle watching at Raz Al Jinz and Riamfada independence

On Thurday morning, we would be leaving to see the nesting ocean green turtles and be back only on Friday evening.

I left a lot of mash for Riamfada. Extra water dishes were laid out in his room. A bowl of cut fruits and carrots and veges. A cat bowl of sun flower seeds, and another pile of sunflower seeds placed on a high chair. Our goodbyes said , and then we were off at 930am to rendevous with 5 others at their villa and continue on this trip.

Finding them and their villa at Al Amerat was not that easy.

"You turn right from the world roundabout (roundabout with a big globe of the world on it) and after the 2nd roundabout drive till you see "Way 36" ".

"I see 'Street 36' but not 'way 36' "

"Ah yes! You should be on street 36 and not way 36"

" Look for villa with lots of palm trees"

Problem most villas there had lots of palm trees.

"turn left on tarmac road between villa with palm trees.

"look for cream villa with green windows"

Lots of cream villas with green windows.

But we got there and united with them. Paul and wife Marie-angel came with us.

So we drove on. We travelled inland and climbed the outskirts of the Eastern Hajar Mountains. The mountains appeared as a ghost in the distant horizon towering over us. We then passed the town of Quriyat which appeared below us on the end of a sandy plain.

I then lead them on the new uncompleted freeway to sur. It was partly opened to travellers with the warning we travelled on it to our own risks. I cannot complain as the banks of toll gates were un-manned and was free. The radar speed monitors were not up either and it was a beautiful road to drive on.

We made our first stop at Bima sink hole, a huge sink hole about 70 meters across at the top. The limestone cavern below collapse eons ago, and sea water from the shoreline about a km away came in. Lovely cool place to swim in, and shoals of tiny fishes nibbling at flakes of skin on legs and between the toes.

We continued on via the village of Tiwi near Wadi Shab (gorge between cliffs). We hoped to get lunch there, but one of our party is allergic to heavily spiced food and we continued to Sur for a late lunch.

Our destination was Ras Al Jinz, the most Easterly part of Oman and just beyond Sur. Shortly after leaving Sur, our GPS that we called Marianne got into a catatonic fit. Kept asking us to make U turns. I stop the car in a hamlet near Sur and this Omani gentleman walked to us and I explained our problems. He said thats no problem and since he was going our way, we could follow him. He got into his car, and at the part that Marianne asked us to make U turns, stopped his car to explain us how to go on.

Omanis are just so incredibly warm and helpful. I suspect he deliberately drove to show us the way as he then got back into his car to go back where he came from.

There was then a wonderful drive on a great road that skirt the shimmering waters of the Gulf of Oman. Even if this part was not mountainous, the desolate sweeping views of raw scenary brokened occasionally with splash of green from low tussock herbs were breath taking. This road was not 'recognised' in Marianne brains who seemed to 'know' the roads of Oman 6 years ago. Which was why she went catatonic earlier on.

It was 60 km later that we found ourselves in Turtle Beach Resort at Ras Al Hadd where we would stay for that night. This was a very rustic and basic place. A very comfortable place in beautiful setting, at the edge of a small white sandy beach with crystal clear sea lapping the shore.

We reached that place in fading light of late afternoon. Just enough time to check in, chill out a bit, have our dinners before driving the 22 km to the Turtle Conservation center at Ras Al Jinz and the turtles birthing beach there.

To minimise disturbances to the turtles, you need to book a day in advance at that center or you be refused admittance. People who had not made their bookings had to drive back to where ever they were staying at Ras Al Hadd. Groups of 30-40 were escorted by guide and minders from the center to walk to the beach about 15 minutes walk away behind high sand dunes.

It was a half moon that provided enough light to walk by, aided by the red light torches of minders. We waited away from the beach to the sound of crashing breakers while other minders walked on the beach to locate a nesting green turtle laying her eggs. We were then taken to form a semi circle around her. No flash cameras were allowed.

That turtle was about 1 meter long. We were told she was not exceptionally big, as older and larger green turtles nested there. It was a holy moment to see her in the depression in the sand that she made slowly dropping egg after egg into a deeper hole she made. We kept away from her head.

I looked down the beach, to see a few other tractor like tracks made on the sand by other turtles. I walked on in solitude, which I wanted, away from the group of people I was with. Then the guide called out to me, to join back with the group. I understood, and came back. I knew I would be careful about not disturbing other turtles. But if the group was allowed to split and all wandered about on the beach, turtles just emerging from the water line might be spooked enough to abort their nesting.

Great as this spectacle was that night, I could not help revisiting the memories I had of an even greater event. Very sadly, that event which I took for granted at that time, will never ever be repeated again.

That was back in 1969, the year I completed my A levels. I drove with a group of friends to Ratau Abang in Trengganu on the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia late that year. That was in an old Ford Anglia, made much older by me and my friends, but gave us all as much if not more pleasure and fun than a Ferrari would have.

In that late evening, we found ourselves to be the only people on that beach, other than for 3-4 fishermen from a nearby village. They had a small fire brewing coffee and roasting cuttlefish. I exchanged my cigarettes for their coffee and cuttlefish and waited with them in convivial quiet conversations waiting for the leatherbacks to climb onto the beach.

My emotions at the first sight of those gigantic turtles as they came up was indescribable. They were huge. They appeared larger than the 3 meters that they were described to be. I felt I was in the presence of Volkswagen sized creatures. In rituals that they had done since time immemorial, climbing and setting the next generations of their kind on their birthing beaches.

Then with the 2nd, and the 3rd, and the 4th , and the 5th , they all crawled up to lay their eggs which were taken as they dropped by those fisher folks. There appeared to be no end of them and their tracks as they hauled themselves up the beach. I think we saw well over a hundred of them coming up and laying their eggs within the hour when the first started. In thoughtless stupidity of those times, we sat on those turtles without seemingly no impact on them when they moved back to the sea. We hold their flippers to be thrown effortlessly by them when they moved.

The hundreds was only the start of that night. And the tail end of the breeding season. How many more of them came before dawn broke we never would know.

About 7 years ago when I went to that beach again with some friends, there must have been 2000 people on that beach waiting to see those leatherbacks.

In what was the peak of their season, not a single leatherback appeared.

I do not blame the fisherfolks that night that took the eggs. They were simple kindly people surviving as best as they could. They did not eat all those eggs.

There is this advertisment on the TV. And the message that give is so meaningful. "If the buying stops, the killings will stop too."

After all, if you eat their eggs in the past, you robbed the future of their present.

And if you discard your plastic bags , which washed down to the ocean and appeared like the jelly fish the leatherbacks feed on, they eat them. The plastic blocked their intestines and they die needless deaths. Because of the 'convenience' those throw-away plastic bags that offered us, less and less and less leatherbacks, and other creatures will appear for us and our children.

If we allowed unbridled 'developements' on seashore without proper environmental assessment because it is good to make money, Earth and her creatures pay the price first, followed by us and our children later on.

That evening in 1969 will never be repeated again. None in Malaysia will see those leatherbacks anymore other than in photographs.

In the darkness at Ras Al Jinz, little turtle hatchlings were sometimes seen scrambling in the sand towards the sea. Where with luck, they might be back in years to come to do their part in their cycle of life.

The tour was over and we were guided back to the center. I told my wife and Paul that it was a pity that night was Thursday night and not Wednesday night. The Taurids meteor shower was supposed to be spectacular and peaked on Wednesday night. My wife said then she thought she saw a shooting star. I turned my head to try to make out the constellations better against the half moon to find Taurus constellation to locate that radiant.

And in that moment when my head was turned away, my wife saw two shooting stars, confirmed immediately by my friend Paul. Those must have been fireballs as otherwise they could not been easily seen by half moon light.

I felt sheepish I missed that totally. But happy that my wife and friend saw them. I knew the magic of seeing shooting stars. And if you have not seen them before, look up on a dark night. Perhaps you might be lucky when I was not.

We got back late to our resort that night.

The next morning, I swam just off the beach of that resort. The water was crystal clear. There were patches of corals in waist deep waters just off shore. I regretted not bringing with me my optically corrected diving mask with snorkel. Even so, a simple swimming google I borrowed from MarieAngel was enough to open the sights below the waves.

I saw together with my wife the shoals of fishes, brilliant orange angel fishes, banner fishes, false Moorish Idols darting about. Little porcupine fishes, box fishes swimming about. A small cuttlefish tried to hide in camouflage. Two beautifully patterned moray eels moved in and out of their coral outcrop hidey holes.

If this was just off the beach, I wondered how the other areas would be like further away and with less disturbances. Needless to say, I know I will be back here again.

Paul and Marie Angel decided to stay on and go back with the other car at 5pm.
I would have stayed on later too, but we did have our Riamfada and kitty to worry about.

We left at 230pm in the afternoon. And reached back about 6pm, just shortly after the light faded. The kitties greeted us when we drove back. I rushed into Riamfada's room eager to switch on the light in that room before he went to sleep.

I saw he finished one pile of sunflower seeds. The other pile of seeds was totally untouched. He finished half the mash I left for him, and the bowl of cut fruits and carrots were chewed on. That pleased me. I had thought he would eat all the sunflower seeds. Obviously, he liked the mash enough to eat that as well as sunflower seeds. Problem was the mash was full of proteins. So the mash would not keep over well and turned sour in a day if not refridgerated.

In the next mash making, I will try to dry that to see if that will keep better. That will be in case Riamfada had to be left in his room for more than 2 days. Do remember that the bird shops here do not have commercial parrot pellets. And even if they have, I think I trust Tinkerbell Mash a lot better then those pellets.

Riamfada appeared pleased to see me after two days. He bend his head for headrubs. But he was not that pleased. He pointedly refused to step up. And requests for recalls were snubbed by him. He showed his independence.

I was in his dog house. I could only smile at him and took it easy. We all have our ups and our downs. I was not going to force him. He is my equal. Besides, how on earth can you hope to force a flighted parrot? Inside me, I was happy to see this independent streak in him. At least he was not as bad as Tinkerbell. You recalled she would fly to me to shit on me if I left her behind for a couple of days.

The next morning, his good nature self reappeared.

He did all his step ups and all recall flights to me in morning, afternoon and in the evening.

And again this Sunday morning, and afternoon when I got back for lunch.


If what I wrote help you and you like to help, give a thought
for the wildlife sharing our planet.
Do write that cheque to Gerald Durrell wildlife trust

or to any wildlife conservation body of your choice

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