Visit the Sea Turtles’ Nursery in Con Dao

The long beach on Bay Canh island (Ba Ria - Vung Tau) is one of the 14 spawning grounds of sea turtles in the archipelago and is also the site with the biggest number of turtles to lay eggs.

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Photo: Patrick Scott
Photo: Patrick Scott

Bay Canh Island is an eco-tourism island being the largest marine turtle conservation area in Vietnam. This island also has beautiful beaches and incredibly beautiful coral reeves offshore.

The breeding season for sea turtles is around April to October, but the peak season is from July to September every year. Visitors can only visit the island on an organized tour by the National Park for a maximum of 4-6 hours. An overnight trip is possible too.

Photo: Zoom Travel
visitors witness toddler turtles crawling into the sea within a few tens of meters. Photo: Zoom Travel

For nature lovers, this is an ideal destination to learn about Mother Earth and become more cautious about living in harmony with the environment.

Watch for turtles laying eggs

Bay Canh is a protected area of ​​Con Dao National Park, so visitors must apply for a permit (free of charge) at the national park on the main island of Con Son.

With a license, you can rent a boat with the price from VND 1.5 million (US $43.75) for two ways to go and return. After 45 minutes by boat, visitors to Bay Canh Islet.

Then, you follow the mangrove forest trail, about 700 m to the Bay Canh Ranger Station. On the way, you can see the wild chicken, ebony squirrel, colorful butterflies.

The island is covered by mangroves with ​​about 5.1 ha, with 24 mangrove species, mainly double mangroves, parrots, parrots, lime, guava, and eagle.

Photo: Patrick Scott
While visiting the incubation camp, you may observe baby turtles hatching. Photo: Patrick Scott

When the tide is high, the mother turtle begins to wander on the ocean waves near the shore to find a place to lay eggs. In the silver moonlight, visitors will see mother turtles slowly crawling ashore through the beach to find her place. To lay eggs, sea turtles must follow these steps: find the beach, dig a nest, lay eggs, and cover the nest to remove traces.

The mother turtle will choose a fine sand area near the groves, dig her nest at about 50 – 60cm deep, about 20 cm wide, and start laying eggs. After completing the nest, the mother turtle uses the front foot to fill the nest with a length of 5-6 m to remove traces and camouflage from their nests. The average mother turtle lays about 80 eggs, but there are also cases of more than 200 eggs in Con Dao.

Waiting for the mother turtle to leave the nest, visitors will watch the rangers perform their conservation works, taking eggs to an incubator. Eggs will be incubated for 6 hours before transferring to a sanctuary. When returning, half of the eggs will be placed in a strong-lit sand-pool, while the other half will be placed in a covered sand-pool.

This is to balance the “gender” for baby turtles because it is decided by the light and temperature when hatching. Turtles’ eggs will hatch after 45 – 60 days.

You will see each turtle trying to get out of the shell and jostle each other to climb the incubator’s mouth to crawl toward the sea. Rangers will put the turtles in the basket and bring them down to the sandy shore when the water level is high at dawn.

The next thing to do is to release them at sunrise. Dawn is the only time they can navigate the way to the sea at other times.

Photo: Patrick Scott
Tourists listen to the local guide. Photo: Patrick Scott

Before the baby turtles enter the sea, they turn back to record the image of the place where they were born, so that when they mature (about 30 years later), the sea turtles will return to the same area of birth lay eggs.

With a survival rate of 1/1000, protecting and assisting their hatching process is critical to increasing these rare creatures’ populations. Marine turtles are included in the Red Book of Vietnam as well as around the world for conservation.

Zoey Nguyễn