One very memorable experience when visiting Bali with kids is participating in releasing sea turtles with the Bali Sea Turtle Society. In this post, I’ll explain the important work this non-profit organization does, share our experience at the turtle release Bali and how you can get involved.
Sea Turtles in Indonesia
With nearly 55,000 km of coastline – the second longest globally (Canada is #1) – Indonesian waters are home to the most diverse marine life in the world. Of the seven species of sea turtles that exist, six can be found off Indonesia’s coasts. Those species are the loggerhead, green turtle, hawksbill, olive ridley, flatback and leatherback.
Although these turtles are protected by Indonesian law, the country has sadly also been a centre of illegal turtle trade for decades. Bali has been the hub for poaching and illegal sale of turtle meat, eggs and body parts. Green turtles are the most traded for their meat, while the critically endangered hawksbill turtle is poached for its shell to make tourist souvenirs.
Bali Sea Turtle Society
An organisation that has been making efforts to protect local sea turtles is the non-profit Bali Sea Turtle Society (BSTS). Since 2011, BSTS has worked to involve and train the local community through nest protection, a human education program and public awareness campaigns.
Bali Sea Turtle Society patrol Bali’s beaches at night to protect sea turtles’ nests. They look for nesting sea turtles and keep people a safe distance away. When they’re ready to lay their eggs, mother sea turtles emerge from the ocean (usually at night) to find a suitable nesting site above the high tide line and dig a nest in the sand.
Depending on the species, sea turtles lay between 80 to 120 eggs, then cover their nests and return to the ocean. Once the mother sea turtle has left her nest, she never returns to tend it. BSTS collects the eggs to be hatched safely at their centre, protecting them from poachers, dogs and beach traffic.
Turtle eggs take between 45-60 days to develop and hatch. Once the turtles have hatched (typically during the evening), BSTS invites visitors to help release the turtles to sea the following afternoon at Kuta Beach.
Bali Sea Turtle Society Conservation Center
Sea turtle releases in Bali typically happen between March and October, most frequently during the summer months. The number of released turtles vary and the scheduled releases are announced on the day. To participate in the turtle release Bali, keep an eye for updates on the Bali Sea Turtle Society’s social media channels – Facebook and Instagram.
Tokens are free and handed out between 3pm to 4pm on a first come, first served basis ahead of the release. The turtle releases typically happen at about 4.30pm. One token will entitle you to release one baby turtle. Definitely get there early as it does get busy.
By the time we arrived before 4pm, there was already a huge crowd and the tokens had ran out. The staff let us know to wait since there were plenty of baby turtles that afternoon and a good chance we could still receive one even without a token.
We were lucky and ended up receiving a turtle to slowly carry to the beach, careful not to touch it or let it slip out of the container. The hatchling was clambering desperately to get over the side of the container. In the photo above, the turtles are all swimming towards one side of the big tub, pointing towards the beach, which is due to an innate ability that helps direct them to sea.
Related: Top Activities in Bali with Kids
Sea turtles are born with the instinct to move towards the brightest direction. On a natural beach, that is the light of the open horizon.
Turtle Release Bali Kuta Beach
Everyone with a turtle stood in a row behind a rope facing the water. The BSTS staff members told us to carefully tip the plastic containers so the turtles could move onto the sand. Our sea turtle slid out onto the sand then turned towards the beach.
The crowd cheered the turtles on with “Go, baby, go!” while we watched them scurry frantically across the sand until they disappeared into the waves.
People watching on the beach were kept at a safe distance from the turtles. BSTS volunteers would move the rope slightly forward as the turtles advanced closer to the sea.
Sea turtles spend the first 7-10 years of their lives swimming thousands of miles. Many in excess of 1200 miles a day! Males rarely return to land within their lifetime. Females return only to nest, interestingly at the same beach they were born.
Sea turtles are extraordinary creatures and releasing a newly hatched turtle to sea is an amazing experience. The Bali Sea Turtle Society are doing great work protecting local sea turtles and increasing awareness about their plight. I’m very grateful that we could participate in a turtle release during our family trip to Bali.
Bali Sea Turtle Society Address
Address: Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center, Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia
Directions: Bali Sea Turtle Society’s Conservation Center is located on Kuta Beach, next to the Grand Inna Kuta. If you’re coming by taxi, you can access the beach at the end of Jl. Pantai Kuta, near the Hard Rock Café. Then turn left on the pedestrian walkway. The Conservation Center will be on your left, with a huge turtle sculpture where the eggs are kept.
BSTS announces the turtle release times on Facebook and Instagram. Tokens are free and handed out between 3pm to 4pm on a first come, first served basis ahead of the release.
You can support this non-profit organisation’s conservation efforts by donating cash at the conservation center, or donating online on the BSTS Simply Giving webpage.
This post was updated on 9 March 2022 with updated information and photos
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Ali MayOctober 24, 2016 at 10:58 am
Wow – what an amazing experience for the family! Those little guys and girls look so tiny in that photo with your son being given his turtle to release. It’s fantastic that the conservation society are making such an effort to protect these turtles.
World Turtle News, 10/25/2016 – theTurtleRoomtheTurtleRoomOctober 25, 2016 at 11:16 am
[…] Release with Bali Sea Turtle […]
HilaryFebruary 16, 2017 at 11:53 pm
So cool! What an incredible experience! Do you get to hold the turtle? I once held a baby turtle and it was the size of a quarter! So tiny! #farawayfiles
Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)February 17, 2017 at 11:47 am
What an incredible thing to do, Cindy! I can see that you need to be really organised at checking the social media accounts to make sure that you’re in the right place at the right time. Thank goodness it worked out for you! Thanks so much for sharing this on #FarawayFiles
Katy ClarkeFebruary 17, 2017 at 6:31 pm
I would love for our family to experience this Cindy. Sea turtles are my favourite – I love watching them swim gracefully through the water. I had no idea you could do this in Bali and I know many people who would also like to help out. I’ll be sharing your post far and wide. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles
Erin Gustafson | Oregon Girl Around the WorldFebruary 20, 2017 at 11:30 am
We have seen sea turtles laying their eggs on a Great Barrier Reef nature preserve and it was an amazing experience. I would love the opportunity to see them as hatchlings one day. Your stalking of hatches on social media sounds like me trying to catch glimpses of Orca Whales off Washington Coast – and jumping in our car as soon as we heard confirmed sightings! Great post – thanks again for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin
piccoloexplorerFebruary 20, 2017 at 1:39 pm
What a great experience to hold one! They are amazing creatures. We weren’t allowed to hold or touch the turtle, just carry it in its plastic container to the beach, and I was amazed at how strong they are. Ours was determined to crawl out of the container so we had to be very careful it wouldn’t jump out while we were walking. The turtle release was definitely one of our favorite memories from that trip.
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