Travelling with no set plans, makes it easier to book cheap flights and to follow where they take you. To travel to Tokyo from India, the cheapest flights I found led me to Malaysia for a six day stop over. Who knew you could fit so much into such a short stay!
Malaysia offered luxuries not found in India such as footpaths and amazing public transport as well as surprising experiences like attending an art opening followed by an overnight trip to a small island to volunteer with a turtle project.
Volunteer Tourism is a growing concept, with many travellers wanting to give back to the communities they are visiting. The Juara Turtle Project on Tioman Island in Malaysia was my first experience of volunteer tourism and it was an impressive set-up.
The Project is relatively small with only two full time employees but the number of turtles released this year is 3689. Whilst this may seem a large number of baby turtles the actual survival rate is fairly shocking, with only about one turtle in 10000 surviving. Before the large human impact it was one in 1000. Volunteers are really crucial for Juara, not only do they provide most of the income for the project but they are the main workforce and often the face of the project.
The project has a small information area for island visitors to learn about sea turtles as well as one turtle, named Jo who was unable to be released with his siblings due to being born blind. Tourists visiting pay a small fee and usually a volunteer guides them around the hatchery. Volunteers quickly become turtle experts and are enthusiastic educators, spreading the word about the current dangers facing the turtles of Tioman Island.
The turtles on Tioman Island are in serious decline and the project is constantly fighting for their survival. Currently Mentawak beach where the hatchery is located and where majority of turtles are released from has several new developments in progress. This is disturbing as turtles will not hatch on a beach which has light and noise pollution. What is even more worrying is that turtles return to lay nests on the same beach that they were released from. If development continues with disregard for the turtles, all the hard work of the hatchery since its beginning will be lost as the turtles released will find their nesting beach too bright and noisy to return to.
If you are interested in a holiday which gives you a fuzzy feeling inside and you like tropical islands, then I highly recommend the Juara Turtle Project.
More information can be found at:
If you can’t get away to volunteer just yet but still want to help, they have a How to Help page too: