Koh Samui
November 18, 2022

Sea turtles, pink dolphins and whale sharks

Sea turtles, like many of us, like a quiet beach and so while we all got fat eating sourdough … at least 838 sea turtle babies have waddled (Flapped? Waddle-flapped?) across empty sand into the ocean to begin life

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Sea turtles and marine life near Koh Samui

September 2020: As in many other parts of the world, Thailand’s marine life isn’t missing tourists like us. While the world fell apart (and quite literally burned down in places), know that a variety of marine mammals in Thailand – and a brand new generation of sea turtles – appreciates your six-month sofa residency.

Sea turtles

Endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles born on Koh Samui. In February, Banyan Tree Samui announced that they’d found a sea turtle nest on their resort beach. Since then, the word’s got out amongst turtle mummies and a total of seventeen nests have been found on Koh Samui: five at Banyan Tree Samui (near Lamai), another five just around the corner at Silavadee Pool Spa Resort, six further south on Laem Sor beach and one on Thong Yang Beach (at the far north end of Lipa Noi).

Sea turtles, like many of us, like a quiet beach and so while we all got fat eating sourdough … at least 838 sea turtle babies have waddled (Flapped? Waddle-flapped?) across empty sand into the ocean to begin life as a big kid.

Watch Banyan Tree Samui's video of the babies and try not to smile.

The nests at Banyan Tree Samui remained under the care of resident marine biologist, Thepsuda Loyjiw, who established a fenced perimeter to keep out any predators. Security guards and CCTV observation allowed staff to keep a detailed log of all activity; truly, VIP guests.

6 sea turtle facts you never knew

  • The nest’s temperature determines what sex the sea turtles will be. A nest with a temperature of 29°C (84°F) will mean an equal male/female ratio. If it’s higher, more female sea turtles will be born!
  • Hatchlings can find the surface of the nest because the air above is cooler at night.
  • The babies emerge at night because it’s cooler (so they won’t overheat), it’s easier on their eyes and there’s less chance they’ll encounter a predator.
  • Once hatched, the babies scurry towards the ocean because it’s cooler and they’re attracted to reflecting moonlight.
  • The eggs hatch between days fifty-five and sixty-five
  • [This one's incredible] The hatchlings will remember the particular smells and chemical characteristics of the beach where they were born for their entire life – female turtles will return to the same beach as adults to lay their eggs.

While records only exist from 2012 through the present, this year has broken all records for Samui sea turtles. Hopefully, these babies will grow to their full adult size: up to 70 kg (150 lbs) for a hawksbill turtle and up to a massive 180 kg (400 lbs) for a green sea turtle.

Whale sharks

Bangkok Post reports two whale shark sightings, first in May at Green Rock off Koh Tao and a second in June at Sail Rock (between Koh Tao and Koh Phangan). Whale sharks are endangered so two sightings in two months are exciting indeed.

Blacktip reef sharks

In late July, a shiver* of ten or so blacktip reef sharks were spotted in the rocks just offshore from ShaSa Resort at Laem Set on Samui’s south coast. This shark species is considered ‘Near Threatened’ – I’m set to champion global domination after learning they eat sea snakes.

Scared to read that there are sharks near Samui?

First: they’re eating sea snakes for you. We should pay them.

Second: “Did you know that you are more likely to be killed by a toaster than by a shark? It's true! Toasters killed nearly 800 people in 2015. Sharks killed 6 (COREsea).”

Get more details on blacktip reef sharks at The Nature Conservancy.

*(I Googled ‘name for a group of sharks – is that true?!)

Pink dolphins

I was once lucky enough to spot pink dolphins in the bay at Don Sak ferry pier and recent reports suggest that they are not missing tourists one bit. Marine scientists have noticed more pink dolphin sightings than usual in the past six months – including in April near Koh Phangan and again in June near Sail Rock.

Speaking to Reuters, Kongkiat Kittiwatanawong, director of the Phuket Marine Biological Center, explained that the Gulf of Thailand is home to approximately 150 pink dolphins and their habitat is improved without tourist traffic.

Ocean and beach clean-ups

With quiet waters and time available, Koh Phangan divers have organised weekly ocean clean-up diving trips. Local environmentalist and diver Sitthiroj Kaenongsamed started the operation to clean up old fishing nets – clearing 700 kilos (1500 lbs) of nets in the first trip alone.'

Kaenongsamed has since teamed up with the Center for Oceanic Research and Education (COREsea), a local NGO, and diving experts volunteering their time. The Department of Marine Coastal Research supplies the teams with fuel for the boats and air tanks, others are donating food and water for the dive teams.

Back on land, Trash Hero chapters are running weekly beach clean-ups on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. The sheer amount of trash they haul off beaches each week I hope will give us all pause when we return to our former lives as tourists.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Lutz Mueller, Anantara Bo Phut Resort General Manager, has similar thoughts: “It’s a good time to rethink how we want tourism to develop in the coming years.”

Future plans

For my part, I plan to ramp up the environmental aspect of both this blog and The Koh Samui Guide. From reef-safe sunscreen to a total plastic attack and, when safe, the promotion of regional hotels and businesses doing wonderful things for the environment – I can’t SCUBA dive … but I'll do my best to help from dry land.

Resources and further reading

With thanks to Banyan Tree Samui for photos and details.