LOMBOK ISLAND: TURTLE HAVEN

17 January 2024

Welcome to ‘Turtle Haven’, where the azure waters of Lombok Island embrace a hidden sanctuary for one of the ocean’s most cherished inhabitants: turtles. Nestled among the pristine shores and vibrant coral reefs of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands, Lombok Island embrace a hidden sanctuary for marine life enthusiasts and conservationists, but also for the turtles themselves.

Turtles have long symbolized longevity, endurance, persistence, and the continuation of life. In “The NeverEnding Story,” it was Morla, “Looney Tunes” called him Cecil, “Crush and Squirt” helped find Nemo, and the world was taken by storm in the 1980s by the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” Turtles are beloved throughout history in legend and popular culture.

Long before the first humans visited Lombok, sea turtles were among its first visitors along its shores. The majestic Leatherback, Green, Loggerhead, and Hawksbill sea turtles, have been nesting on Lombok’s beaches for centuries. Discover more about Lombok Island, a Turtle Haven.

 

THE NESTING PROCESS

Sea turtles mature after about 20 years. Leatherback sea turtles undertake the longest migrations between breeding and feeding areas of any sea turtle, some averaging 3,700 miles / 6000 km each way. They dutifully return to the beach where they were born when they nest. They lay an average of seven nests in one season. Each nest averaging 80 eggs. After an incubation period of 55 to 75 days / 2-3 months, hatchlings emerge from the sand and make their way to sea. They often use moonlight as their guide.

The nesting process consists of several stages. The female turtle emerges from the sea at night and ascends the beach, searching for a suitable nesting site (somewhere dark and quiet). Once at the chosen nesting site, she begins to dig a body pit by using all four flippers.

THE NESTING RITUAL

Nesting is an ancient ritual for female sea turtles. Every year or two they return to the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. This is the only time they will spend on land. They make their way up the beach, past high tide, and find a place to lay their eggs. Once they find their spot, they use their back flippers to dig a nest in the sand. This whole process of digging the nest and laying her eggs usually takes between one to three hours. Once she is done, the mother turtle will slowly take herself back to the ocean.

Usually, turtles lay their first clutch of eggs about three to six weeks after mating. Once the eggs have been laid in their nest, it takes them about 45 to 70 days (2 to 3 months) for the turtles to hatch. Once the turtles have hatched, the hatchlings remain in their nest cavity after hatching to absorb the yolk from the eggs. After the yolk sac has been absorbed, the hatchlings emerge to begin their own journey and make their way into the ocean.

 

FAST FACTS ABOUT BABY TURTLES

THE SEX OF THE EMBRYO
Research has shown that the sex of the embryo can be dependent on the temperature of the nest. Sea Turtles use the earth’s magnetic field to guide them on their long journeys at sea. Sea Turtles do not nest every year, but rather every 2-5 years. It is estimated that only 1 in 1000 hatchlings survives to maturity as hatchlings can also die of hydration if they don’t make it to the ocean fast enough. All species of sea turtles are endangered and need our protection.

80-180 EGGS
Depending on the species and size of the turtle, a clutch will contain between 80-180 eggs. During the nesting season, the female turtles will typically lay between six and ten clutches of eggs. In most turtle species, eggs are laid annually. Few species are laying eggs every other year, and some twice in one nesting season. The sea turtles generally nest in three to four-year cycles.Some turtles, such as Leatherback Sea Turtles, lay around 110 eggs per clutch, whereas other turtles will only lay around 50, such as the Asian Giant Softshell Turtle.

NEST LOCATION
Turtle nests are located in the sand if the mother is a sea turtle, and in dirt and along the sides of river banks and areas near swamps or ponds if the mother is a freshwater turtle. Sea turtles usually nest near where they hatched – within 5 to 35 miles / 8 to 50 KM of their hatching sites.
Some species will even go as far as to dig several holes so they can act as ‘false nests’ to deter predators from the real nest. After laying eggs in the hole and covering them with dirt or sand, the mother turtle leaves.

PREDATORS THREATENING TURTLES
Many predators prey on eggs and hatchlings, the main ones being fish, dogs, seabirds, raccoons, and ghost crabs. Due to the multitude of predators, more than 90% of hatchlings are eaten before they can reach adulthood. Flatback turtle nests are in danger of being preyed on by monitor lizards, dingoes, and foxes.

 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER HATCHING

After hatching, the newly born turtles may take between 3 to 7 days to dig their way to the surface. They will usually wait until night to emerge from the nest. By emerging at night, they are less exposed to daytime predators and are less likely to get dehydrated. On some occasions, nests will produce hatchlings on more than one night!

After sea turtles hatch, the babies will crawl clumsily into the ocean and swim out to sea. But what happens after these baby turtles swim off is not exactly known. Scientists refer to this period in the turtle’s life as the ‘lost years’ because they don’t have concrete evidence of what happens to them.

Scientists are trying to find out though by tagging and tracking baby turtles via satellite. From the results they have published, it seems that baby turtles spend their adolescent years traversing long distances, floating in seaweed beds, and hanging out at the ocean surface. Because they want to avoid predators like sharks and seabirds, the baby turtles will likely stay away from the continental shelf. Scientists also believe that floating communities in giant mats of seaweed might be a good place for baby turtles to hide and blend in to avoid predation.

To conserve energy, some turtles can catch a ride in streams or heavy currents, taking them far away from where they were hatched. As well as that, turtles are cold-blooded. The temperature in the ocean can vary a lot, so if things get too cold for them, their metabolism can slow down. If turtles can manage to stay warm, their metabolism kicks in and they start feeding more, meaning they grow faster, so the temperature can also help turtles grow and survive.

 

SAVE THE PLANET

Due to changes in the global climate, the temperatures that turtles encounter will likely shift and change, and there may also be changes in the ocean circulation patterns. This could be dangerous for young turtles.

To help protect sea turtles and their habitats we must reduce marine debris that may entangle or be accidentally eaten by the turtles. We can also participate in coastal clean-ups and reduce plastic use to keep our beaches and oceans clean. In addition to that, it is important in our everyday lives that we reduce waste as much as possible, such as by using reusable water bottles and shopping bags.

Together we can make a difference!
Save the planet! Save the Turtles!

Hoping to raise awareness of the endangered Sea Turtles at – Lombok Island: Turtle Haven – and around the world!

 

Ben
Owner and Co-Founder of The Lombok Lodge Hospitality ®

Mail: ben@thelomboklodge.com
Chat: https://wa.me/6285100622926

Categories
Lombok

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