7 days on the remote side of Redang, an area off limit to tourists, sipping river water, using candlelight at night, sleeping on the beach, hunting and fending off monitor lizards, tagging turtles, releasing babies, watching shooting stars, snorkeling, I can go on forever.
It was the 29th day of Ramadhan when I arrived at Kuala Terengganu. That night I discovered something special about Kuala Terengganu-- the people of Kuala Terengganu do not wait for laungan azan at 7:30pm to end their fasting. Neither do they watch the TV nor stare blankly at their watch. Instead they wait for a cannon fired from Bukit Pak Apil, which signifies the end of fasting. It is a much efficient way because the sound of the cannon can be heard up to 10 km away, and the laungan azan from different mosques can be incoherent and confusing at times.
|Look at the size of that fish!|
The journey to Redang island was a rough one and everyone was sleeping during the 45-minutes trip. Except me. As the boat broke one wave after another I saw something shot out of the water and glided for at least 5 meters in a straight horizontal path before landing back into the water.
5 meters! That's surely not a simple splash of water--it must be the flying fish, because I saw with my own eyes some fish-shaped creatures FREAKING FLEW over the waves!
There were so many monitor lizards on the island, thanks to the ample supply of food--baby turtles and human waste. These intrepid creatures were so relentless during our stay they crawled into the vicinity of our living quarters. And they're quick on their feet too.
All the staffs headed home for Raya holiday, leaving only two Research Assistants (RA) on the island to help coordinate our program. I was assigned to the kitchen to do the cooking. But I soon found out that cooking for 11 person was really an unpleasant experience.
|Le me cooking|
It was the first time in my life to see so many stars in the sky--literally billions of them, ornamented occasionally by shooting stars. And the cool soothing breeze made it even better. I was surprised there were no mosquitoes on the beach. One of our volunteers is pretty knowledgeable in astrology, so he started talking about scorpio, leo, and other horoscopes. Glad that I didn't speak of my disgust for astrology.
We were unable to snorkel on the first two days because the staffs were still on holiday. So we ventured out to the bay ourselves with the guidance from the RAs and saw some blacktip sharks. Again it was a first time for me, and those corals were just awesomely beautiful. There were triggerfish swimming right below me, like, wow. But I contracted sea-sickness and fumbled back to land.
The Redang HQ, however, was a bad one. There were so many tourists on the beach I was so pissed and eventually lost my mood. Fuck commercialization.
And in that pond you dip your feet, and come forth tiny crustaceans from the deep.
Turtle Rock hiking
We had our first turtle landing on the first night. The female took almost an hour to prepare her nest (ascending, body pitting, chambering), and then laid around 100 eggs.
While wandering around in the local wet market I saw several stalls offering 10 turtle eggs for RM15, which makes each nest worth about RM150. That's very disheartening considering the odds of baby turtles surviving to sexual maturity is only 1 in 1000.
By default, the odds of baby turtles surviving to sexual maturity is only 1 in 1000. That is the result of predation by monitor lizards, ants, crabs, and other animals, in addition to ailments and natural accidents. But when we add in the human factor--pollution, boat accidents, oil spills, turtle egg consumption--the chances of any hatchlings to survive to adulthood will drop further, say 1 in 100,000. If there were no turtle sanctuary in place the turtles will be gone by the end of the decade.
|The tragic case of Leatherback Turtle|