Turtles in Perak

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THE TURTLES DESERVE BETTER

Few people realise that turtles land in Perak as they are more commonly sighted in the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia. I got to know that there is a turtle sanctuary in Segari when it was mentioned by one of my colleagues during our short trip to Pangkor Island recently. We decided to check the place out on our way back to Ipoh.

Since none of us have been to this place, we had to find out for ourselves its exact location in Segari.

Beautiful Drive

I was thinking during the journey that even if we did not find the place, the drive there was worth the trouble, as we were greeted with spectacular scenery along the stretch of road from Sitiawan to Segari. In fact, I was impressed with the road condition and the breathtaking view before us, that I temporarily forgot where we were heading!

At this point, everybody in the group was on the lookout for any sign of a turtle (the signboard, of course!) and eventually, it appeared before us. Great! We were on the right track. We meandered along the narrower path and eagerly anticipated where it would lead us.

We were soon greeted by a grand mansion-like structure, complete with a gigantic platform that looks out to sea. One of the kids blurted, “Is this a turtle hotel or what?!”  Honestly, all of us were dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say, until we noticed a signboard (which was not obvious at all) that said ‘… the property of Jabatan Agama Islam’. It was not the place that we were looking for but we did not want to give up yet. It didn’t help that we had promised the kids that they were going to see some turtles.

Then we saw it – the splendid stretch of beach shortly after the bend from the aforementioned structure. Our hopes were high again; it looked like the kids (and adults) won’t be disappointed after all. We were excited after that long ride (approximately 35 km from Lumut) to finally see ‘Pusat Pengurusan Penyu, Pasir Panjang Segari” in front of us.

Romantic Location – Almost Derelict

It couldn’t be more romantic; with the sea to our left and the sound of waves in the air, as we walked into the centre. We saw what looked like an exhibition area but to our horror, the cases were dusty and some exhibits were missing! It looked like many other poorly maintained establishments that we often see in our country. It was really an emotional roller coaster ride for us. The disappointment, then excitement and disappointment again – we were simply lost, not knowing what to expect next.

We decided to explore the place on our own. It was not going to be a wasted trip. There had to be something we could take home – at least some photographs! There were a number of ponds, some fenced, some not. The unfenced ponds housed several turtles each in them, and the kids were happy enough at his point with what they saw. The consolation is that the ponds looked clean and well-maintained, as opposed to the exhibition area.

Gaining Entry

Then God decided to be kind to us. In walked two gentlemen with a turtle in one of the men’s hands. I guess they saw how desperate we were when a few of us started to fawn over the little creature. Apparently this one was caught in the nets of the local fishermen and hence brought to the centre for further action. As he proceeded to place the turtle into one of the fenced areas, I asked if we could get a closer look at the turtles inside. He gave us a once-over and must have wondered what a strange mix we were. You see, our group comprised members of all age groups and colours, very unlike their typical visitors – families and student groups.

We were subsequently granted entry and it was amazing indeed, to see the turtles ranging from newly-hatched ones to two-year-olds. We were told by the kind gentleman that the centre sometimes buys turtle eggs from the locals which will then be hatched and released as part of their turtle conservation effort.

Tourist Attraction?

What’s sad is that this centre is supposed to be a main tourist attraction (according to its objectives) but there is so little official information on it. It is potentially an education and tourism main draw to the state of Perak and I wish more could be done to encourage this.

A quick search on the internet only resulted in mentions of it in some private blogs. And some of these bloggers also noted how they managed to explore the place upon a lucky encounter with some personnel on site – pretty much like our own experience. Visiting hours are from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, so this place deserves more publicity by the relevant authorities. It may not be a profit-generating enterprise but they have to realise that the benefits returned are immeasurable.

So, I suggest you give this place a try.  Although there is no public transportation available, it is easy enough to get there by car. If you use the road from Lumut to Taiping, you will come to Segari after about 30 km from Lumut. You will see a junction to the Lumut Power Plant. Follow this road for a few kilometres until you see a road going left. This little road will end at Pasir Panjang Beach where the centre is located.

It is highly recommended for half day trips especially for Ipohites. Forget about paying for expensive tours in faraway lands. Adventures should begin at home here in Perak.

By YUEN YIN FONG