Under the cover of darkness, a rare visitor to the shores of Ko Samui makes her way along the beach. Slowly, but surely, she moves along the sand looking for the right spot. And then she finds it. Using her flippers to create the nest, the green turtle lays her first clutch of eggs. That initial clutch, laid in mid-February 2020, contained more than a hundred eggs. The female turtle returned to the same Ko Samui beach just over a week later to lay a second clutch of 141 eggs. And there was yet more good news in the early hours of March 9 when the green sea turtle returned to lay more eggs at a site close to the other nests (see video below). All being well, the first clutch of eggs are expected to hatch sometime between March 28 and April 12*.
*Update April 8:
The first batch of eggs hatched with 92 baby turtles making it to the sea.
*Update April 29:
Two more batches of hatchlings have now emerged from their eggs bringing the combined total to more than 200 baby turtles. Two more nests remain with more hatchlings expected to appear within the next few weeks.
The green turtle chose a quiet location on a private beach in front of the Banyan Tree resort on the south-east corner of Ko Samui. The action has all been recorded on the resort’s CCTV cameras and it was a member of staff from the Banyan Tree who reported the initial find to Thailand’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
Wildlife officers from the department were sent to the site where they found the turtle and her nest. Steps were immediately taken to protect the nest from the tides and predators such as lizards. Members of staff from Banyan Tree are now playing an active role in monitoring all of the nests and protecting the eggs.
At around three feet long (one metre), adult green sea turtles weigh in between 17-28 stone (110-180kg). When females have found a nesting area, they can return at approximately fortnightly intervals to lay their eggs before leaving the nesting area and returning to their foraging grounds. The typical gestation period for eggs is between 45 and 60 days.
This is an unusual, but welcome event for Ko Samui because green turtles usually choose secluded beaches on the opposite Andaman Coast to lay their eggs. But turtles are making a comeback on Ko Samui and it’s thanks to a combined effort from environmentally aware individuals and businesses on the island including the Banyan Tree resort.
Turtles return to Ko Samui
Marine experts say that the development of Ko Samui has led to a depletion in the number of turtles. These incredible sea creatures need quiet beaches to lay their eggs. The turtles also have to contend with the chance of getting caught up in fishing lines and trawler nets. This is in addition to the ongoing problems created by ocean pollution and plastic bags, which the turtles sometimes eat thinking they are jellyfish.
In 2010, Banyan Tree Samui worked alongside the Marine and Coastal Resources Research Centre to release five turtles into the sea in an attempt to replenish the waters around Ko Samui. The young turtles were born on the aptly named Ko Tao (Turtle Island) where green turtles are more common. Ko Tao and Ko Samui are both located in the Gulf of Thailand and it was important for biodiversity that the turtles were released in the same waters rather than taking them over to the Andaman Coast.
The recent news on Ko Samui is an encouraging sign that the steps taken by Banyan Tree and other environmentally aware organisations are making a difference. The General Manager of Banyan Tree Samui, Remko Kroesen, said, “In this day and age when we hear so much about endangered marine life, it’s a fantastic feeling for all of us at the resort to feel we are giving something back.”
Banyan Tree Samui committed to responsible tourism
The Banyan Tree Samui is one of an increasing number of businesses in Thailand that are committed to responsible tourism. The resort employs a dedicated corporate social responsibility (CSR) manager, Thepsuda Loyjiw. As a marine biologist, Khun Thepsuda knows a thing or two about turtles and is passionate about protecting these sea creatures and other indigenous species found in the local area.
The work carried out by Khun Thepsuda is backed up throughout the Banyan Tree resort which supports sustainable projects and responsible tourism. Banyan Tree has adopted sustainable hotel practices which includes a brand-wide pledge to reduce and ultimately eliminate single-use plastics from their operations. The forward-thinking environmental policies of Banyan Tree Samui has resulted in the resort being awarded Gold Certification by EarthCheck, the world’s leading scientific watchdog for the hospitality industry.
Banyan Tree has raised awareness of climate change through tree-planting events and also initiated a coral rejuvenation project. The resort lives up to its ethos of ’embracing the environment, empowering people’ and plays an active role in supporting young people from the local communities via mentorships and scholarships. This extends into connecting travellers with local heritage and culture to ensure tourism has a positive impact.
Protecting Thailand’s turtles
Like their sister resort on Ko Samui, the Banyan Tree Phuket has also played a role in sea turtle conservation. The Andaman Coast resort has supported Laguna Phuket’s sea turtle conservation programme for more than 20 years and helped to raise funds and awareness for the Phuket Marine Biological Centre. The marine centre carefully studies turtle nesting behaviour and migration patterns via microchips and satellite tracking devices attached to the turtles. Laguna Phuket continues to raise funds for nursery ponds dedicated to the rehabilitation of juvenile, injured and disabled sea turtles. Guests staying at Banyan Tree Phuket can get involved by visiting the centre to observe these beautiful creatures and learn more about them.
Thailand still has much work to do on environmental issues, but changes are happening. The positive news from Ko Samui follows similar news last year when beaches in Phuket and Phang Nga were declared protected turtle incubation sites following the return of turtles to nest there for the first time in more than six years. And following the closure of Maya Bay on the Phi Phi islands, marine life that had not been seen there for years has also begun to return.
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