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