Whilst in Thailand, particularly around the coastal regions, it’s almost impossible to avoid seeing and hearing about sea turtles. All of the boat trips focus their snorkelling imagery around them and the souvenir shops are littered with sea turtle related toys and gifts.
Eco Khao Lak Adventure
During our recent visit to Thailand we were keen to see some sea turtles in the wild however with that likelihood being so low we booked ourselves onto an excursion with Eco Khao Lak Adventure. This would take us to the Royal Thai Navy Sea Turtle Conservation Project & Centre which was a short distance from the Bhandari Hotel where we were staying in Khao Lak.
Our booking with Eco Khao Lak Adventure was a 2 part trip which first headed to the turtle sanctuary before then heading on to the Seaside Retreat to see elephants. We chose to book through this tour operator as they focus so heavily on ethical tourism and the good treatment of Thailand’s animals; as animal lovers this was really important to us so we were reassured that our money wasn’t funding any poor practices or mistreatment. If you’re interested in booking the same trip, visit their website here.
Thai Royal Navy protection
The sea turtle sanctuary is protected around the clock by armed personnel from Thailand’s Royal Navy. Within Thailand all sea turtles are the property of the royal family and as such they are treated with great care.
With the conservation efforts for the sea turtles being so strong here, last year the Royal Navy released over 12,000 sea turtles back into the waters around Thailand – incredible!
Why does the sea turtle sanctuary exist?
The sea turtle sanctuary exists for the simple reason of conservation by trying to protect this species of sea life and help it thrive in the ocean. In the wild sea turtles are at great risk due to the many threats that they face with only 1% of hatchlings ever reaching maturity. The sea turtles are also victims of human activity as they eat plastic which they believe to be food, get caught in fishing nets, get poached and obtain injuries from boat propellers.
On the beaches where they lay their eggs, the baby sea turtles are food for seabirds so are easily picked off the beaches, are food for other marine life when entering the ocean for the first time and they often don’t even make it to the ocean as they follow artificial human lights instead of moonlight and so get lost and die. Nurturing the newborn sea turtles at the sanctuary therefore ensures a greater chance of their survival.
What to expect from your visit
The aim of the sea turtle sanctuary is to look after sick and injured turtles and release into the oceans those which they are able to. You will therefore see many turtles of various ages and sizes during your visit.
On arrival at the sea turtle sanctuary you’ll immediately be met by a cafe where you can buy light snacks and cold drinks.
Sea turtle tanks
Just beyond the cafe are the numerous tanks that contain the sea turtles.
Each of the tanks here are set up in a different way. Many of them simply contain very small, newborn sea turtles which are being nurtured until they are mature enough to be released into the sea with an increased chance of survival. Other tanks contain turtles that are 3 months old, 6 months old, 1 year old and beyond.
In some of the tanks you’ll find that the sea turtles have a purple ink on their fins. This is an antibiotic that is used by the sanctuary to help the turtles get back to good health. During our visit we saw turtles that had damaged shells and damaged fins that were being looked after.
You are free to roam between the different tanks to see the turtles and read the information boards. Just note not to touch or allow children to touch the turtles as this isn’t allowed here. Your tour guide will also provide you with some information about the sanctuary which is really interesting.
Sea turtle sanctuary review
Our visit to Khao Lak’s sea turtle sanctuary was a really positive experience and certainly offered more than we were expecting. We saw hundreds of sea turtles and learnt a lot about the conservation efforts that were taking place here to protect the species; it was really positive to hear how many had been released.
Due to the number of sea turtles here some of the tanks did feel a little small for some of the bigger turtles (and there are some seriously big turtles here!) however there was construction work taking place during our visit to expand the site and create newer, larger additional tanks for the turtles.
If you are heading to the Khao Lak region this year we really recommend booking a trip to see the sea turtles combined with the elephant retreat through Eco Khao Lak Adventure. It’s a really enjoyable trip for both adults and children with a serious underlying message about sea-life conservation too.
Are you heading to Thailand and Khao Lak? Let us know your plans in the comments!