Turtle Conservation and Education Center
Bali's Turtle Conservation and Education Center, located on the island of Serangan just east of Kuta, is a sanctuary for turtles who may not otherwise survive.
There are six species of sea turtle native to Indonesia, but they are all at risk. Many of the beaches where they lay their eggs have been taken over by sun loungers and beach bars. Even if they find a quiet spot away from tourists, the eggs are vulnerable to stray dogs and poachers. Although there has been a crackdown on trading, possessing and consuming turtles in Bali over the last two decades, there is still an underground trade for the animals.
Fortunately, this conservation center is there to help by protecting unhatched eggs and rescuing injured turtles. Since it was established in 2006, the organization has done a great job of raising awareness in the local community, so that newly laid eggs can be brought to safety.
The center is by no means a tourist attraction; it's set up predominantly as a sanctuary for turtles with an additional education facility where schools and other groups can hear the important message about protecting these animals. That said, visitors are very welcome at the center - they rely on donations, after all.
Upon arrival, you'll be asked to sign a guest book but there is no fee to pay - just the option to donate towards their work. One of the staff will give you a tour of the facility, explaining as much or as little as you want to know about the turtles there and the work they do. You're then free to wander around at your leisure.
Once baby turtles hatch, they are kept at the conservation center for about a month before being released back into the wild (see below for how to get involved with a release).
The center is also home to rescued injured turtles. We saw one that had just had a growth removed from its head and another which was learning how to swim after having one fin amputated.
As well as sea turtles, there are some freshwater terrapins in a pool outside which you may feed with the vegetables provided.
How to find the turtle center
Bali's is located on the peninsular island of Serangan, accessible from the bypass between Kuta and Sanur.
There are other turtle "attractions" in the area, so if you hire a driver, make sure you're taken to this one which is a genuine, ethical organization.
It's not a big place so you probably won't want to spend more than an hour there, unless you're really into turtles. There is a little cafe on the premises where you can stop for a drink and a meal or snack, too.
Turtle releases in Bali
If you are interested in being part of a turtle release in Bali, it's best to follow Bali Sea Turtle Society
on Facebook. They can't plan too far ahead and usually announce afternoon releases on the morning of the same day. Participation is free but donations are welcomed.
Head down to their building on Kuta Beach around 3pm and pick up a ticket for the release. Return an hour or so later to exchange your ticket for a baby turtle in a tub of water, then wait on the beach for the coordinated release. It's a beautiful experience seeing hundreds of tiny turtles waddling their way towards life in the ocean.
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