Hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) or Penyu Karah or Penyu Sisik in Bahasa Malaysia are named for their narrow, pointed beak. Their shells also have a unique pattern of overlapping scales that form serrated edges. Their thin, highly coloured shell has elaborate patterns which are highly sought after as jewellery and ornaments, which resulted in the Hawksbill being critically endangered.
They found throughout the world's tropical oceans, especially among coral reefs and they feed on sponges with their beaks, but also enjoy jellyfish and sea anemones. The largest population of Hawksbills can be found at the Turtle Islands in Sabah where an average of 500 to 600 turtles nest each season. In West Malaysia, Malacca's shore sees 200 to 300 turtles
The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) or Penyu Agar is the only herbivore among the different species. They are among the largest sea turtles and can grow up to 180kg in weight and 120cm in length. Their name comes from the colour of their cartilage and fat, and not their shells as commonly believed.
This endangered species is the most abundant in Malaysia and they nest on the coastlines of Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak. In fact, during the nesting months, you can watch green turtles in Cherating, and even release the baby turtles at the turtle sanctuary.
Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) get their name from their shell which has a leather-like texture. They are called Penyu Belimbing in Bahasa Malaysia. These gentle giants are the biggest sea turtle species with the largest individual ever recorded was a male that grew to 256 cm long and weight a whopping 916 kg.
They are one of the most migratory turtle species as they cross both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They have been recorded migrating from nesting beaches in South East Asia all the way to California during summer and fall to feed on jellyfish. Leatherbacks are listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, but there are many populations that are critically endangered.
The Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) or Penyu Lipas is the smallest sea turtle species. It grows to only about 70 cm long and 50 kg in weight. Their shell has an olive green colour - which lends them their name. The species is the most abundant of all the sea turtles in the world but are listed as vulnerable because they have a very small number of nesting spots around the world. Olive Ridleys often migrate thousands of kilometres to nest and feed.
Cherating Beach, on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia is a regular nesting ground for sea turtles. There's even a turtle sanctuary on the beach which acts as a hatchery, and a conservation and information centre. They incubate and hatch turtle eggs in the centre to protect them from predators and humans looking to steal their eggs. While they do get multiple turtle species, approximately 90% of the turtles here are green turtles.
If you're staying in Club Med Cherating, you can participate in turtle watching during the nesting months, and visit the sanctuary to learn more about turtles. We can also arrange for you to join the Cherating turtle release where we release baby turtles into the sea. See you at Cherating!