Pulau Bangkaru, the second biggest island in Pulau Banyak, is a
magic island. Having seen Pulau Bangkaru, you will change your
references to what beauty is! Untouched jungles, pristine beaches
and the amazing turtles. The only people living on this big island
was the turtle egg poachers. Today it is only a few guards and
Every night, all year round, Green Turtles lay eggs, mainly on
the Amandangan beach. Green turtles have over 1m long shells and
weigh over 200kg. Between November and March there are also a few
Leatherback turtles laying eggs. Almost 2m long and 500kg heavy! Now
and then also Hawksbill Turtles also come up.
The only way to see the turtles on Pulau Bangkaru is through YPB
(Yayasan Pulau Banyak, or the Pulau Banyak Foundation). The reason
for this are several:
- YPB has an agreement with the authority responsible for all
national parks and protected areas (KSDA).
- To avoid disturbing the conservation, research and monitoring
work, as much as possible, but still accommodate the turtle beach
as a tourist attraction.
- To avoid exploitation by less serious organizers.
- To help finance the conservation activities.
Visits will only be allowed 2 times a week and not more than 2
nights on the island, of which only one night to see the turtles.
This activity is however in the process of starting up and not yet
A new research center is under construction and soon also
facilities for tourists. We arrive at Pelanggaran Beach in front of
the research center. We surf with the boat through the waves and we
all help unload and drag the boat to safe ground. After dinner we
visit the turtle beach, following the specially trained turtle
guides. We have to walk through the jungle in the darkness for 20
minutes. Getting close to Amandangan, the turtle beach, the sound of
the jungle mixes with the sound of the waves. You will never forget
the starlit beach, the sound of the breaking waves, the dark rocks
rising tall and the sound of the jungle behind. It is not allowed to
wander off by oneself and one has stay behind the turtle guide. You
will se how a turtle lays egg and how the monitoring and research is
done through tagging and measuring. If you are lucky enough to see a
Leatherback, you will see how it is scanned for microchips, and
maybe inserted with a microchip. If you stay until the early morning
hours you can see turtle infants heading for the sea, maybe hunted
by lizards and eagles. In the sea sharks are waiting for them.
The rest of the time on Bangkaru is best spent either on the
beaches, maybe a walk to Pintu Rimba (the jungle gate) far south of
the turtle beach. It is a natural portal in a rock formation. On one
side the ocean, under it a patch of sand, and behind it a rivulet
coming down from the lush jungle. Further down the beach is a nice
beach with some of the few coconut trees found on Bangkaru. On the
way back from Bangkaru, we usually stop at a nice coral island.
Do not bring more than you need. Wrap your stuff in plastic when
landing an leaving. You are likely to get wet. The sand on the
beaches is extremely fine. You need a torch for the jungle walk,
however it is not allowed to use it the turtle beach. Photography
with flashlights is not allowed, but lots of photos are available
for down loading at no charge. Sometimes schedules change due to
HOW IT ALL STARTED
Yayasan Pulau Banyak (YPB) is the official name of the
organization dedicated to the conservation work in Pulau Banyak. It
was founded in 1997, but activities started already in 1994. As a
result of lobbying and support from the Governor of Aceh at the
time, Prof. Dr. Syamsuddin Mahmud, the Ministry of Forestry
proclaimed in 1996 that Pulau Banyak was a “Taman Wisata Alam” (kind
of Nature Park). A small logging operation was stopped and the
forests of Pulau Banyak have since been relatively safe.
The poaching of turtle eggs took a bit longer to stop due to an
illegal contract between the poachers and the regency government.
Since mid 1995 the official poaching was stopped, but lack of
funding made it difficult to guard the beach efficiently. The first
activities were funded with private contributions, especially by the
Minister of Environment, Mr. Sarwono Kusumaatmadja. After a period
of inactivity Yayasan Kehati in Jakarta supplied a small grant
enabling us to start guarding the beach by student volunteers.
However, the equipment was insufficient and the circumstances on the
island very tough. A volunteer fell ill and died during the
evacuation back to Banda Aceh. We did not dare to start again until
we in 1998 received a one-year grant from Caltex. We managed to make
it last for two years.
Yayasan Pulau Banyak also tried to fight against poison and bomb
fishing and illegal trawlers from the mainland. A few illegal
logging attempts were stopped and bird poachers were caught and
birds set free. Funds from The Danish Embassy for socio-economic,
cultural and awareness programs increased local support for the
In 2001 YPB were forced to close down the activities on Pulau
Bangkaru. Lack of funds for the turtle conservation and worsening
political situation made any work impossible.
In 2006 a Dutch turtle expert visited Pulau Bangkaru and
eventually, in November 2007, the egg poachers were ousted once
again and the turtle guards reinstalled. This could happen with
Paneco and Casa Tortuga. The funding is
better, but still far from sufficient. However, the scientific depth
and the quality on data collected are on a much higher level. The
turtle project on Pulau Bangkaru is the first and the only along the
whole west coast of Sumatra. It is even the first project in all of
Indonesia with regular turtle tagging. Despite that, we still cannot
afford our own boat!
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