Let’s go and watch turtles nesting!

Updated 31 October 2012

Let’s go and watch turtles nesting!

From June to October, the beaches around Ras Al-Had in Oman attract an increasing number of tourists. These aren’t here to enjoy the sun, sea and sand, but to watch green turtles lumbering up the shore to lay their eggs at night.
Green turtles have been thronging Omani shores for more than 7,000 years.
Ras Al-Had, near Sur, is a primary nesting habitat for green turtles. It is also known for well-sculpted mountains and archaeological sites which skirt the beach. With the completion of the new Quriyat-Sur highway, access to the Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve has never been so easy.
In 1992, the government of Oman signed the International Convention for Biodiversity. In a determined bid to promote the conservation efforts a Royal Decree established a Turtle Natural Reserve in 1996. The protection of turtles in the Indian Ocean and South East Asia became a priority for the government of Oman.
The facilities at the Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve in Ras Al Had have been upgraded and the reserve expects a 20 percent increase in visitors. During last year’s season, 9717 tourists watched the turtles nesting at the beach. Vijay Handa, general manager of the turtle reserve said, ‘Keeping in mind the increasing demands for accommodation at the reserve, we are adding 12 luxury air-conditioned tents on a hillock near the beach. Our multi-cuisine restaurant Sambuk dishes out lip-smacking breakfast and meals.’
Ras Al-Jinz Turtle Reserve recently opened a Turtle Visitors’ Center. The museum is especially dedicated to the life cycle of the sea turtle and the archaeological findings at the site.
The night turtle watching tour, escorted by professional guides, starts at 8.45 p.m. while the dawn tour takes off at 3.45 a.m. Nesting takes place only at nights.
The reserve and the nearby beaches host about 30,000 green turtles annually which migrate from the Arabian Gulf, remote pockets of the Red Sea and the Somali coast. The turtles return once in two or three years to the same beach for nesting.
During the reproductive season, adult turtles travel to the vicinity of the nesting beach, where they roam the waters up to several months. The migratory corridor serves as a mating station, also called the internesting habitat.
The green turtle is one of the most endangered species in the world. They live in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. These turtles spend their entire lives in the water, but the female species have to come on to land for nesting
As the turtles come on the beach, they rest for a moment, take a deep breath and start excavating a nest in the sand by using their fore flippers. An extraordinary sight to watch!
Half an hour later, a carefully crafted egg chamber is ready. The turtle starts laying the eggs and soon the nest is filled with approximately 120 soft white eggs, resembling ping-pong balls. She covers the pit with sand to hide the eggs from predators and slowly makes her way back into the water.

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Philippines’ tourist island Boracay shuts down for rehabilitation

Updated 25 April 2018

Philippines’ tourist island Boracay shuts down for rehabilitation

  • Boracay is just one of more than 7,300 islands in the Philippines, but it draws 2 million visitors annually
  • Some residents complain that officials have turned a blind eye and say those tasked with solving Boracay’s problems were complicit in creating them

BORACAY: With postcard-perfect views of the Philippines’ most treasured island behind them, laborers hammer away at the walls of the Boracay West Cove resort, demolishing them one chunk at a time.
The resort is being reduced to piles of rock and steel rods, the first in a wave of demolitions of illegal structures on the tourist island of Boracay on the orders of the Philippines’ no-nonsense president, Rodrigo Duterte.
Boracay is just one of more than 7,300 islands in the Philippines, but it draws 2 million visitors annually, just under a third of the country’s total tourist arrivals last year.
But with an estimated 1,800 businesses competing for space and clamoring for a share of the annual $1 billion that Boracay generates, mass tourism is pushing this tiny 10-square-kilometer island to the brink of collapse.
“What Duterte wants, Duterte gets,” said Phillip Penafor, a local government worker overseeing the demolition of the West Cove, which was built on protected forest land.
Duterte weighed in unexpectedly in February, raging that Boracay’s famous turquoise waters smelled “of shit,” and warning of an environmental disaster from unchecked growth and a failing sewage system that made it a “cesspool.”
On April 4, he ordered the closure of the island to outsiders for six months from Thursday to undergo a process of rehabilitation, for which a complete plan has yet to be drafted.
Tourists and non-residents will be denied entry and boats will be barred from going within 3 kilometers of the island. A few dozen police, including riot and SWAT teams, have been doing exercises on the beach to prepare for resistance that residents say is highly unlikely.
The local government has started demolishing some of the 900 illegal structures on the island and preparing to widen a 7-kilometer spine road clogged with trucks, motorbikes and vans.
Their priority is expanding an overburdened sewage system, and dismantling a network of pipes created illegally by businesses and resorts to divert their waste into storm water drains, through which it all ends up in the sea.
The government expects the closure to cost the economy about 2 billion pesos ($38.1 million) and is preparing a “calamity fund” of a similar amount to help an estimated 30,000 people whose livelihoods are affected.
Despite that, Duterte’s abrupt push to fix Boracay is being broadly welcomed by residents and even businesses, although they would have liked more time to adjust.
“It’s good for our future. The problem is, we’re not really prepared for this,” said Ciceron Cawaling, the longtime mayor of the nearby town of Malay, which oversees Boracay.
“We were caught by surprise by his declaration. This all arose in a matter of seconds.”
Located off the northern tip of central Panay island, Boracay was once an idyllic destination for divers and backpackers lured by its tranquility and powdery white sands.
But the island has seen explosive growth in recent years, partly the result of surging numbers of tourists from Asia, particularly China and South Korea.
Local authorities have struggled to cope with that growth, lacking manpower and resources to enforce laws and carry out inspections to curb environmental violations.


Some residents complain that officials have turned a blind eye and say those tasked with solving Boracay’s problems were complicit in creating them. The local government denies that.
The entire White Beach on the island’s west coast is lined with resorts, restaurants and shops offering souvenirs, tattoos, massages and watersports, some three or four buildings deep.
Visitors go parasailing and ride speedboats, and gather in crowds for sunset selfies on the beach, where dozens of moored boats obstruct views of the water.
Even before Duterte’s intervention, the local government was taking some steps toward a makeover for Boracay. In November, it hired a well-known urban planner, Felino Palafox, whose firm has handled 1,200 projects in 28 countries.
Palafox is proposing the introduction, after the six-month rehabilitation, of regulations and modern infrastructure to manage tourism and make Boracay environmentally sustainable.
His plan includes having only electric vehicles, building a wide road with a tram and a 7-kilometer pedestrian footpath, and setting back buildings from the beach. Building heights would be restricted and businesses would be given incentives to install solar panels and plant trees.
The plan is being considered by the local and national government but no decision has been made yet.
Palafox said he was consulted about Boracay in the 1990s and again in 2006, but his advice was ignored. He’s confident that with Duterte in charge, this time will be different.
“It’s still salvageable if we have good supervision and monitoring and we knuckle down,” he said. “What we have now is very strong political will.”
But some residents complain they were given no chance to comply with laws that are only now being enforced.


Canadian Allan Lieberman has called Boracay home for three decades. Despite having legal papers and permits issued by local authorities, he’s demolishing his 10-year-old cliffside resort, in anticipation of being evicted for occupying a plot that was supposed to be protected forest land.
He thinks it was time for him to leave anyway.
“Boracay? I hate Boracay,” he said, as a team of workers behind him took down solar panels and wooden poles. “There’s nothing of the old Boracay left. Even if restored, its soul has gone.”
Resort owner Delnora Hano has lived in Boracay just as long, and remembers when there was no electricity and accommodation was bamboo huts.
She says the temporary loss of business and jobs is worth it and lauds Duterte for stepping in.
“It’s the right time to intervene, there are problems that can be fixed now,” she said. “It can be done, the island can survive.”



In a survey of the Boracay’s sewerage facilities, the vast majority - 716 of 834 - residential and business properties were found to have no discharge permit and were presumed to be draining waste water directly into the sea.



The Philippines’ tourism department said that as many as 18 ocean liners, carrying more than 50,000 passengers and around half that number of crew members, were due to visit the island in 2018 before the closure announcement.