Natural wonders abound in Cherating, Pahang. Watching a turtle laying eggs is one of them, writes Hanna Hussein
IT’S half past 10 but the crowd of 60 at Monica Bay doesn’t seem bothered by the late hour. The atmosphere at Pantai Teluk Mak Nik, as it’s also known, is charged as though there’s a wild beach party happening but there are no bright lights nor loud music.
To me, the swelling number seems somewhat too big for this lesser-known Terengganu beach, about a half hour’s drive from Cherating in neighbouring Pahang.
NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The night had kicked off with a wonderful dinner at Legend Resort Cherating (see accompanying story).
But supper is taken to a higher level as we make our move to Pantai Teluk Mak Nik in Kemaman.
We are promised a spectacular nature show at Teluk Mak Nik Turtle Conservation Centre, one of the landing sites for turtles to lay eggs.
At the centre, we are both bewildered and curious. All I can see are coconut trees and the crowd. We are told to stick together and to keep quiet. Our guide, Pak Su, briefs us on the dos and don’ts but looking at the big crowd, I wonder how he is going to manage all of us at once.
As if reading my mind, he says: “We have a really unusual big crowd tonight but not to worry as there are six rangers on duty.”
The rangers, he explains, control the coastline and record the presence of sea turtles every night
Pak Su divides us into six groups and again asks us to be patient as we wait for the next move. The groups are then called out, one at a time and led towards the shore.
Thankfully, I don’t have to wait too long for my group to be called. I look at my watch. It’s already 10.50pm.
Led by a ranger, our party of 10 walk to the shore to witness — what is to me, the chance of a lifetime — a beautiful big green turtle laying eggs.
LABOUR OF LOVE
The mother turtle is already half-way into the nesting process as her dug-out hole is half full with eggs.
The hole is about 5m from the water’s edge. She positions her body with the South China Sea on one side and shrubs and trees on the other.
Pak Su tells us that there will be more male hatchlings in this batch of eggs as the mother has chosen a location near the trees.
“Eggs laid in the shade will usually have more males while those laid at the open beach will have more females,” he says.
As she lays the eggs, her tears fall. Those tears: Is it labour pain or is it her crying for the fate of her children? Or is it because of our intrusion? I can only wonder. Some ignorant, irresponsible adults fail to control their children who go near the poor animal and even touch its head.
But the mother turtle keeps strong and at about 11.20pm, she starts to cover the hole with sand to hide her eggs from predators. Then she slowly makes her way back to the sea.
BACK TO CHERATING
Turtles are not the only natural wonder at Cherating. The beach, located about 30km north of the capital of Kuantan, is also famed for its mangrove river and the mysterious Pulau Ular. It was so named because the locals believe that the island was once guarded by a snake.
For nature lovers, Sungai Cherating has a lot to offer, from various types of mangroves to fish and crabs.
Armed with a life jacket and lots of enthusiasm, I step into a boat for a 10km lazy cruise.
Less than 10 minutes of cruising, a big monitor lizard cuts the placid water surface, swimming to the mangrove-fringed bank. Excited to see more wildlife, we scrutinise each tree and are lucky to spot a gold-ringed cat snake, commonly known as the mangrove snake, snoozing on one of the branches. This beautiful black and yellow snake is venomous.
While this river shines during the day, Sungai Ibuk in Kemaman, about an hour's drive from Cherating, dazzles at night.
A sunset cruise takes me on a magical journey to watch the flickering lights of the firefly.
This lightning bug produces a cold light from its lower abdomen by friction of liquid. It is easy to distinguish the gender — the male produces a brighter glow while the female produces dimmer lights. It looks like Christmas with millions of twinkling lights lighting up the mangrove trees along the river.
But what is a beach holiday without hitting the salty water? We head for Pulau Ular, about 20 mins by boat from the resort.
The island is a famous snorkelling spot because the water is shallow and the waves are not strong, which is just right for beginners.
For those in the mood for some exploration, the island has a trail that leads to the top of a rocky hill that commands a magnificent aerial view of Pulau Helang and the surrounding waters.
Back at shore, Cherating beach has lots of watersports like the bandwagon and banana boat. Landlubbers can go on the All Terrain Vehicle in the woods. This is a must-try activity as not only it is electrifying and exciting but it also gives riders a chance to see nature and a fishing village.
THE turtle has existed since 100 million years ago.
It has a life span of between 80 and 100 years.
It travels over 1,600km in the ocean but will head for the same beach where it was hatched, to lay eggs.
It nests at night as it’s cooler and in darkness, it is less conspicuous to large predators.
A mother turtle lays about 80-100 eggs a night every year but only one or two will survive.
Turtles are on the verge of extinction. They are at great risk from man-made threats like nets, boat propellers, poaching activities as well as natural predators such as sharks.
Turtle eggs are considered a delicacy and their consumption will further cause the number of turtles to decrease.
Besides Pantai Teluk Mak Nik and the popular Rantau Abang in Terengganu, Cherating is Pahang’s turtle landing spot.
The Cherating centre implements the Turtle Conservation And Management Programme by establishing turtle sanctuaries to help increase their population.
LURE OF BEACH AND AZURE WATERS
WALKING on the beach with powdery sand while waiting for the sunset, I feel like I’m on an isolated island, far, far away from the mainland.
While the sound of the crashing waves is soothing, children’s laughter brings me back to Legend Resort Cherating.
Boasting a fine and white sandy beach and two gigantic swimming pools, the resort is ideal for a family retreat.
Families not only enjoy the azure waters of South China Sea, but they can also enjoy a host of activities at the beach.
There is a small booth, conducted by Mizi Watersport, offering thrilling activities such as the bandwagon, banana boat, All Terrain Vehicle jungle track, island trip, fishing trip and snorkelling trip at Pulau Ular.
Every evening at 4, horse rides on the beach are available.
The landscape surrounding the pool is what attracts me most. The tropical plants add character to the beach.
Sitting at the beach bar to enjoy ais kacang topped with ice cream and keropok lekor while watching a beach volleyball match is the best way to spend the day.
Legend Resort Cherating
LOT 1290, Mukim Sungai Karang, Cherating, 26080, Kuantan, Pahang. Hotline: 1800 88 8866. Website: www.legendresort.com.my
It is a three-hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur or 40 minutes from Kuantan Airport.
Family-oriented resort with many activities.
Sandy beach and its long list of activities like turtle watching and firefly cruise.
The Coffee House Terrace serves a all-day dining menu of local and continental dishes.
Dance to vibrant music as you groove the night away at the X’pose Disco.
Swimming pool, gymnasium, tennis courts, squash courts, sauna, table tennis, indoor board games, snooker table, video games room, pool table and function halls.
Friendly and outgoing.
248 rooms including deluxe premium room, junior suite and penthouse. Each room comes with private balcony and is equipped with standard facilities.
The resort is offering an attractive 3D/2N Fun In The Sun package at RM550++ which includes breakfast for four (two adults and two children), free lunch and dinner for children 12 years and below and free snacks for kids when they take part in organised activities.