Turtle Research Project at Mantanani, Sabah, Borneo – Part I

Borneo Dream has been supporting Turtle Research in the waters around Mantanani, Sabah (led by Dr Nick Pilcher, Marine Research Foundation) earlier in 2012. Find a nlog below by one of team involved in the most recent Turtle research visit to Mantanani.

Turtle Research Project at Mantanani, Sabah, Borneo – Part I

"After weeks of anticipation, it was finally the day to depart for Mantanani for a very special project.

I met up with the team of volunteers at the Sutera Harbour Marina where we were to meet with Dr. Nick Pilcher (from Marine Research Foundation) at 9.00am. Others in the group of volunteers from Kota Kinabalu were Gil Woolley, Richard MacNair  and Ann Williams. Ann and I are volunteers from Borneo Dream.

We got around to Dr. Nick’s 4WD and helped him unload this massive net to load it up to the boat. Once on board Tortuga Madre (The large catamaran owned by Marine Research Foundation), Dr. Nick briefed us on getting around his double decker catamaran. A 3 bedroom catamaran with a kitchen, shower and an open deck on top. I was getting excited already. This would be a first experience for me on a liveonboard.

From the Sutera Harbour Marina, the trip to Mantanani will take approximately 3 hours. In which, sleeping seems to be the best and recommended option as prescribed by Dr. Nick. I sat myself down close to the net and went on to nap as the clouds started to hover Kota Kinabalu city as we depart.

It was about 12.30pm when I started seeing bumps and whatnots from a distant. “I see a couple of islands ahead!” Gil acknowledged that we are nearing Mantanani. I pulled out the camera and went trigger happy as we near Mantanani Besar. It would be mine and Richard’s first trip and Gil’s second.

As for Ann, this would be her many trips to Mantanani. Borneo Dream is the preferred scuba diving operator for Camp Borneo of Camps International since 2008. Ann Williams is a PADI OWSI (Open Water Speciality Instructor). To Ann, coming to Mantanani is always a pleasure. I soon found out what she meant. The clear calm water of Mantanani was indeed a view that sets you back in your seat and nothing but the view as companion. Oh the life.
However, I am on a mission.

Dr. Nick went through with us his plan. Simply, we were going to build a cage which is about 10m x 10m in size. Once that is done, we will go out and catch a turtle and place a transmitter on its back and put the turtle into the floating cage. The transmitter will provide data to help researcher like Dr. Nick to collect data. The purpose of the cage is to contain the turtle with the transmitter inside as releasing it back into the open sea would risk of losing the transmitter. This is a first of its kind research. The data to be collected by Nick, from this activity and other planned research activities, will hopefully help build a case to implement a protected area (Marine Park) around the waters of Mantanani, an important resting place for juvenile Turtles. As volunteers, we were to make sure everything goes on smoothly and the cage is built as required. Another one was to catch a turtle.

We boarded the small aluminium speedboat powered by a 300hp engine to Camps International on Mantanani Besar. As we head out on the boat, Dr. Nick shouted “Turtle! Take it, take it, take it!” Gil was quick to pull his shirt off and ready to jump into the water for a turtle. Only to realize it was just one of the many things Dr. Nick does to amuse his volunteers. Needless to say, our 6 days on Mantanani will definitely be an interesting experience.

The little boat approaches the island and there, greeted by Aida the Manranani camp manager for Camp Borneo the place is to be our meal stop during our 6 days stay thanks to the Camps’ generosity.

Another introduction to the project was done by Dr. Nick for the Camp Borneo students. All 5 of them will be supporting the volunteers with the project.

Right after lunch, work commences. We took the PVC pipes designed to hold the counter weights and net down into the water. We towed them closer to camps where we will be tying the net on to the pipes. The work progressed rather quickly with the help from all the volunteers including the gappers from CI. Part I of building the cage completed.

We sat enjoying the spectacular view of Mantanani Island on the top deck of the catamaran recalling the day adventures and had a good laugh. Like the time when Gil did jump into the water for a real turtle (and missing it) was hilarious. We (volunteers) just couldn’t believe we will be jumping off a moving boat!

Turtle 1 – Gil 0. The evening went on as we came up with endless “How Not to Catch a Turtle” joke and getting to know each other."

More story on the rest of 6 days on Turtle wrangling in part II soon!

*No Turtles, or volunteers, were harmed in the process of collecting the important Turtle research data