Turtle Times @ Batu Batu

Simon & Alex from our Conservation Team update on the turtle season here at Batu Batu.

March really started with a bang, the 1st of the month produced the first Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) tracks found by one of our gardeners Burdi on one of the islands beaches, this set of tracks was early and it was hoped for more tracks to come later on within the month. (See Image below)

Turtle Tracks 1

The wait wasn’t long with a second set of Green Turtle tracks discovered by Francine from the Restaurant and identified by Christine from Front Desk on the morning of the 4th on a different beach (see image below) and then a 3rd set of tracks was discovered on the 08th.

Turtle Tracks 2

Turtle Tracks 3

Image above shows the 3rd set of tracks discovered by Simon on the island on the morning of the 08th. Note the foot and tail tracks running through the centre of the green turtle tracks, which lead to the nest chamber.

Sadly, There was also signs of attempted predation at the nest with another hole dug in to the nest chamber, luckily the eggs appeared to remain untouched and safe. Another survey, undertaken at night showed that a second attempt of predation at the nest had been successful with some of the eggs broken and damaged.  Sadly, this is nature and we are regularly liaising with a our friends at the Juara Turtle Sanctuary, Juara , Tioman island with our findings. The survey Team at Juara have managed to find 2 Green Turtle nests this month of which one they have lost a due to predation, also, from a monitor lizard.

A decision was made to leave the eggs in situ but to make a temporary protection of the nest. Which still remains in place at the time of this blog post.

At present it is believed that the turtle tracks discovered this month involve two different female Green Turtles, each one having their own preferred beach. Obviously we cannot name the beaches here on the blog as we wish to protect the eggs from poachers but if you are visiting Batu Batu any time soon please see us, the Conservation Team, at the Dive & Activities Centre where we will be more than happy to talk to you and provide you updates of the turtle nesting season and anything else that is taking place on the island at the time of your visit.

So we hope for a few more turtle tracks to be found on the island and wish our friends at the Juara Turtle Sanctuary good luck with their own turtle-nesting season.  We are planning on producing reports at the end of the year comparing and combining data from both the Batu Batu Conservation Team and the Juara Team.

And as we bring this blog post to a close, the morning of the 12th provided the calmest sea conditions so far this year with the visibility improving dramatically enabling a small Turtle to be seen briefly from the jetty as it swam close by with another 2 green turtles seen surfacing from the end of the jetty.

Both Simon and Alex are out conducting surveys of the beaches at night in the hope of finding turtles coming ashore at night.

More on the Juara Turtle Sanctuary here: http://www.juaraturtleproject.com/test/

Patterns, Terns & Turtles – Nature@BB

We have been busy here on Pulau Tengah – welcoming guests, preparing for the upcoming rainy season, recruiting new staff and the list goes on. However, this post is not about on-island “busy-ness” but rather a narrative of the goings-on above and below the waters which surround us by Simon, our resident Naturalist. Through his surveys and observations, he points out specific and now perhaps obvious patterns in nature (which we had not noticed over the past 18 years we have been visiting the island…). I am sure will be looking back to this post next year to predict the exact date of the 2013 North East Monsoon’s arrival…

Green Turtle @ Pulau Tengah (photo: Simon Buckell)

I have been conducting surveys of the wildlife in and around the island and monitoring the estuary at Mersing on a once a week basis to establish the migration of the waders. Waders are the first true migratory species to arrive for the autumn / return passage where they are returning from their summer breeding grounds of the Himalayan Plateaus and the fast flowing mountain rivers and open tundra’s of the Russian near arctic and arctic environments.

Seabirds have also begun their migrations with specialty species such as Swinhoes Storm Petrels being seen in the waters between Mersing and Pulau Tengah. These true ocean going seabirds are also returning from their summer breeding grounds of small islands and rocky islets off the coasts in the seas of Japan, Korea, China and Russia. They are migrating through these waters on their way down through the Straits of Singapore to the Indian Ocean where they will remain for the winter until next spring when they will return migrating northwards returning back to their summer breeding grounds.

Terns are also a seabird species and numbers have begun to build on the eastern side of the island using the small rocky areas to roost. Up to 90 Black-naped Terns were recorded on the 23/09/2012 a personal high count for the island. Great Crested Terns have also begun appearing in amongst the Black Naped Terns. An early visit to survey the Batuan Tikus lighthouse produced 30 Bridled Terns which included at least 3 juveniles present providing early indications that there was successful breeding at a newly discovered breeding colony close-by.

Black Naped Tern (photo: Simon Buckell)

Whilst all of this has been happening above the waters, below the surface things have also become busy with the sudden appearance of large shoals of jelly fish close inshore on the western side of the island on 22/09/2012. These had almost entirely disappeared the following day, which however provided crystal clear waters where the northern reef was alive with large shoals of small fish present with bigger species such as presumed Barracuda seen jumping at the surface in the distance. Then all of a sudden turtle sightings became much more evident than usual with a higher frequency of sightings with at least 4-5 individuals seen on a routine Turtle Patrols of the island by Kayak.

The Turtles are well and truly here at the moment with guests enjoying frequent sightings of them coming to the surface (some almost right underneath the jetty)! A handful of lucky guests have been able to jump in and snorkel right next to one particular turtle (christened Rufus by eleven year old Holly who got to know him quite well on her recent visit). All Turtle sightings are currently of the species Green Turtle of which some can be as large as 3½ feet long. These Turtles are arriving here to feed up on the sea grass and algae beds just off shore that stretch from the island’s Long Beach through to Pulau Besar. They will remain here to feed up before embarking on their own migrations believed to be through to the Philippines and possibly Australia where they will remain throughout until the local monsoon rains have passed when they will begin to return to the beaches here to lay their eggs next spring.

Green Turtle at Pulau Tengah (photo: Simon Buckell)

During surveys carried out by myself and Hakim (our intern) last year the same occurrence took place with turtles being seen regularly in good numbers including sightings of both Hawksbill and Olive Ridley Turtles. Dugong and an Indo Pacific Finless Porpoise were also recorded as well as pair of Otters. It is still early in the migration season and we will be keeping busy monitoring the migration that takes place on and around the island, keeping a keen eye out for some of last year’s visitors. We will keep you posted here.

Bird migration data collected from surveys conducted last year by Simon & Hakim (September through to November) have recently been published in the Malaysian Natural Society’s quarterly magazine SUARA ENGGANG along with a photo of the Christmas Island Frigatebird they observed.

It is our aim that Batu Batu Nature will continue to provide more information, reports and photos to be published in the Malaysian Nature Society’s publications, as we believe in recording, monitoring, protecting and conserving the island’s natural environment. Revenues from Batu Batu Nature equipment rentals and guided excursions are used to fund these studies and surveys.

 

A Batu Batu update…

Again, it’s been a long time – deja vu rings in my ears… haven’t I started almost every blog post with the same line? Well, Batu Batu is open — but we are still finishing-up! Things have been crazier than ever over the past few months with our doors open to friends in April this year, to friends of friends and then to real guests in May and on. For most part things have gone well, but it has been hectic and we have of course had our share of difficult times (finding staff to live away from the mod cons and conveniences of city life, building all the infrastructure on our little island and the list goes on)… And those finishing touches are still work-in-progress (uniforms, lots of lovely fabric throw cushions, table lights, standing lights, reading lights). The bigger work in progress items include our spa, the children’s play house and the dive centre. They are not work-in-progress as much in a construction-sense as in a manpower sense. Our spa and dive centre are really just waiting for warm skilled bodies to breathe life into them — we are continuing our search for an appropriate dive instructor and spa therapists or a spa manager.

Do email us or keep checking back here for an update on these work-in-progress items. In the meantime, here are some photos of Batu Batu — from our guests feedback some of the highlights include the island, the beaches, the pool, the architecture, the food… See you soon.

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A walk around Pulau Tengah with Ökologie Naturalist Simon Buckell

Simon Buckell, our resident Naturalist at Ökologie, takes you on a virtual guided tour around Tengah Island introducing some of the island’s wildlife as he goes and pointing out the best places to spot a turtle or five!

Back in June last year I was asked if I would like to join the (then BRISC, now Ökologie) team on Pulau Tengah at its early stages to carry out avian and marine wildlife surveys. This kind of opportunity does not come along often and so of course I jumped at the chance and arrived on the Island in September.

During my short but enjoyable time on the Island (7 weeks) we observed and recorded 105 different species of bird on and around the island. Some of the Interesting species included Brown Booby, Christmas Island and Lesser Frigatebirds, Bulwers Petrels, Sooty & Bridled Terns, Red Necked Phalaropes, Nicobar Pigeon, Grey Faced and Oriental Honey Buzzards, Japanese Sparrow-hawks, Black Bittern and a Hoopoe. Common sightings included the colourful Brown Throated Sunbirds, Pied Imperial and Pink Necked Green Pigeons, Black Naped Orioles, White Rumped Sharma’s, Brahminy kites and White Bellied Sea-Eagles that drift lazily in the pale blue skies above.

Several pelagic surveys provided early indications that marine life is rich in the surrounding waters with 3 species of Turtle seen which included Hawksbill, Olive Ridleys and the most numerous being Green Turtle. Dolphins are always a privilege to encounter and I had suspected that they could be in these waters but maybe difficult to locate so when a small pod of 7 Indo Pacific Bottle Nosed Dolphins with a young calf appeared during a routine pelagic trip this proved the importance to both the surrounding waters and our surveys.  Otters have been seen just offshore from the main resort beach as well Turtles, Dugong and a Frasers Dolphin that graced the presence of the lucky few present one afternoon. The list of wildlife is getting longer as the surveys continue but for the purpose of this blog post I thought I would take you for a “virtual” guided tour of the island.

Sunrise at dawn over the island

Small section of the trail

Starting off from the back of the resort area you walk up the small hill and then descend along and in to the forest trail. At first all appears to be quiet but by standing still, being quiet and listening, it is not long before you hear the calls of birds such us that of a White Rumped Sharma, Magpie Robins or even a Mangrove Whistler with a bit of luck. Then as the walk continues you will reach the first viewing area of the eastern side of the island. Here you can take in the scenic beauty that surrounds Batu Batu with the islands of Pulau Tioman, Pemanggil and Aur all clearly visible in the distance. As you continue your walk the forest becomes slighter darker with the dappled rays of sunlight shining through the open areas of the canopy above. Stopping en route and again by listening and looking, species of colourful birds such as Warblers, Sunbirds, Orioles and more can be seen. Not before long you reach the main observation point where again another scenic view awaits you at an elevation of 54 meters above sea level. This time you are at the north face of the island over looking the island of Pulau Rawa and the smaller surrounding islets. Here you can sit down and enjoy the view with some chilled fresh fruit and a refreshing drink and wait to see what aerial species of bird pass over head. Here the list can be impressive with species of migrating Raptor, (diurnal birds of prey) such as Hawks, Eagles and Buzzards with Swifts and Swiftlets, Beeaters, and colourful Black Naped Orioles all having been recorded throughout the survey period.

One of the many colourful Brown throated Sunbirds that are found on the island

As the trail continues you begin your descent where you arrive over-looking the fresh water marsh area to the south of the trail and then you will arrive at the far end of North Beach. Depending on the state of the tide you will now begin to encounter different species of resident bird such as the colouful Collared Kingfishers, Pacific Reef Egrets, Blue Heron, Common Sandpipers and other species of wading birds

North beach at low tide

A Dark Morph Pacific Reef Egret feeds at the exposed reef during low tide at North Beach

A quick look at the marsh area will reveal more resident species such as Dollar-Birds, Pied Imperial and Pink Necked Green Pigeons along with more Orioles present and maybe something more interesting like a Black or Yellow Bittern (again both species were recorded during the assessment surveys). Here there are also always many colourful dragonflies and butterflies resting up on the stems of grass on the water’s edge.

As you continue walking you are soon at the join of North & Long beach Beach where the waters are perfect for a paddle or swim.

Long Beach - perfect for a swim

The area just offshore is of open sea grass and so is an important area for turtles to feed. Grab your mask and fins and take a snorkel if you wish. Here the small, playful and colourful Clownfish may approach close to “investigate” you if you swim in their direction. Or just take it easy sitting under the shade of one the trees and take in the beautiful view but always remember to keep an eye out for those turtles! Depending on the time of year numbers will fluctuate depending the their nesting cycle and you may see one, two, three or more as they come up to the surface for an in-take of air before dropping beneath the surface to feed. We had five Green Turtles all visible at the surface one afternoon as we sat there taking in the view.

As you complete the final stage of your round-island walk you will reach the Ökologie centre and island Beach Bar where our team of researchers and divers will be on hand to answer any questions you have. There is also a small reference book library available for your use.

As you head back to the resort area take in a cold drink of your choice at the restaurant bar, sit in the shade over looking the bay just beyond the reef. It is here where you can see a varied selection of bird and marine life. This area is also good for turtle sightings and otters have been seen feeding and playing in the area as well a Frasers Dolphin and Dugong.

White Bellied Sea-Eagle

The sun setting as seen from the restaurant bar

Hope to see you on Pulau Tengah some time soon.

Simon

Simon left our island and Malaysia in November 2011 and followed the birds migrating south. Since then, he has been in New Zealand and most recently in North Western Australia on a Wader ringing expedition. He will be returning to Batu Batu and Pulau Tengah in two weeks time as our resident Naturalist. The guided nature walk will be one of the Ökologie activities available at Batu Batu. Read more about Simon’s travels on his blog

A wooden tree heart and news…

It’s been too long – 2 months since I last posted. So – here’s a wooden tree heart for Valentines Day and a promise to post more regularly as we ramp up towards finishing Batu Batu!

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And some quick pics that walk you through some of the happenings on Pulau Tengah over the past couple of months… (where the monsoon has not really been a monsoon).

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The view from one of the Northern Ocean Villas.

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Looking out from the spa.

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Work on Ökologie started and is moving at quite some pace.

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TThe dive centre in progress.

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A southern Ocean Villa taken from the first beach

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Almost there! Picture taken from the villa bedroom looking into the villa bathroom. Ignore the mess and use some imagination…!

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Other news on our side: we’ll be posting our room rates very very soon – so watch out for these. We’ve also been busy recruiting staff for the resort, buying everything – all sorts from forks, knives to cushions, books, sheets, lanterns and the list just goes on… Our first reservation enquiries have come in – and we’ve received a few enquiries about booking out the whole island for weddings. Amazing and magical! See you on Pulau Tengah very soon.

OH – and LIKE us on Facebook as we’ll definitely run a LIKERs offer when we kick-off our reservations.

Happy New Year 2012 from Batu Batu!

Hope you had a good festive period, an enjoyable break and WILL have a FAB 2012.

Our first trip to Pulau Tengah is scheduled for Wednesday – exciting times as the heat is turned-up and the clock ticks as targetted opening flies towards us. I will update after the weekend with some pics and stories.

I just wanted to quickly post tonight as we have now unveiled Ökologie @ Batu Batu – a.k.a. the old BRISC. Take a look at our FB page:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/OkologieBatuBatu/316872618347138?sk=wall

Besides being a traditional dive and activity centre, Ökologie holds Batu Batu’s hand in order to help us leave a lighter footprint on the island and its surroundings. Here’s an extract from our FB info. page:

“We provide a platform for the study and understanding of our natural, social and cultural environments. We create conservation initiatives that are based on field observations, consultations with local people and knowledge of those that live and work in the area. Our ultimate goal is to find a “Responsible” model for Tourism that is sensitive to the local environment, create opportunities to enrich the people and the environment we operate in and respects the values and cultures of the land.”

Besides the official birth of Ökologie @ BB – the first member of staff @ BB – Evert – our Belgian head chef has just started with us. Also John (scuba) and Lali (permaculture) have joined the Ökologie team. All very exciting and we have high hopes for the project. Hopefully we can realise the dream and see everything in motion in 3-4 months time. Some seriously hard work is warranted in the meantime!

Oh – and our new website, logo and general marketing material is being lovingly designed and crafted by Dom. Watch this space. – And have a good week.

Christmas Greetings from BB (and btw the weather can be amazing even if it’s officially monsoon!)…

The festive season has crept up on us and again I have to ask where time went. I have – yet again – seriously neglected the BB blog – so before everyone leaves their desks and chucks their blackberries aside I thought I would give you a quick rundown of affairs on BB and tell you that the weather and sea CAN be amazing over the monsoon (when most of the other islands have shut down for the season). These pics were taken just last week.

And we could even see the coral quite clearly from the boat – something which is generally not the case from November to February.

Elswhere at Batu Batu we are into serious countdown and get-moving mode with opening year 2012 hurtling towards us at breakneck speed. We still have the April Fool’s date etched in our minds but have decided that this will be a soft-opening phase for guinea pig friends and associates willing to forgive BIG in exchange for time on an idyllic island paradise. We will announce a full-public opening date as soon as a few more hurdles have been cleared.

So to recent events. Our jetty should be being piled as we speak – but two weeks ago the barge setting off for Pulau Tengah from Endau carrying the piling materials got stuck in the mud on the river bed just off mainland and a waiting game was played for a few days whilst everyone sat patiently and waited for the tide to rise high enough to dislodge the beached barge. We are also currently loading two further barges to carry all the rest of the construction materials including interior finishings (plaster board, built-in wardrobes), our kitchen equipment (!) and everything to build BRISC on our long beach.

To BRISC – I can actually unveil that we have a new name for BRISC. BRISC was too common – google and you’ll see – (perhaps one of my favourites being Bus Route Information System for Chennai City…). But I’ll save the new name for a post of its own – and for when it is officially registered with the Malaysian companies’ commission. On the (for now we’ll call it) BRISC front – we have John (dive professional and more), Lali (permacultur-ist) and Simon (naturalist) all joining us. Look forward to a programme of nature-based experiences, protection projects and flourishing herb and vegetable gardens. Watch this space for updates on how this all goes.

We were recently on the island with Lightcraft KL – who by the way managed to drive from KL to Mersing in 3 hours!!! – minds buzzing about lighting, effects, colours, placement. We tried out some LED lighting in the restaurant – which was much warmer than I was led to believe and amazing how much light a 3 watt “bulb” can give. We are just waiting now for their complete proposal to arrive!

Dominic Sio our “design man” also joined us and saw the island for the first time – more creative mind-buzzing, brain-storming, styling and fabric and colour sorting. Oh and we have our new logo thanks to Dom. Again not 100% finalised but look here for a taster.

http://issuu.com/stimulimagazine/docs/bb01

Night night. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hopefully 2012 will be a great one for all!

A hotchpotch of goings-on at Batu Batu

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted about where we’re at on Pulau Tengah. And then it all piles-up and there’s just too much to write about. So here’s a little list / synposis to get us up to date:

Since I last posted things have been moving and we’re hopeful that Batu Batu will be open (if not to everyone – at least to our guinea pig friends) in April 2012. Right now, we have a full work force on the island – Hashim, Sham and Rastam are moving to finish all the structures in the main resort – mainly finishing touches like the walls around each villa’s outdoor shower, steps up to the verandah, indoor finishings to ready the villas for the arrival of Su San and her concrete polishing team.

A big barge arrived about a week ago and brought with it tonnes and tonnes of material plus a big digger. The pool has been dug and is currently being worked on. Some coconut trees had to go – but some were transplanted and others will be used as bumpers for our jetty’s legs. Tee, Leong and his men are busy working on the interiors for our two mock-up villas. I’ll wait to show some pics when they are ready (hopefully within a couple of weeks).

Ian the BRISC architect from Arkitrek has visited us twice to place the BRISC buildings. Work on the Long Beach should start soon. Frank Wilson a sewage and waste water expert also visited us and is now designing a state of the art water system for Batu Batu – so that you can safely drink water out of all resort taps without needing to boil it, the grey water will be recycled to flush the loos and we’ll have plenty of good (and non-smelly!) compost for our vegetable and herb garden.

I visited Hugues and Roberto in Yogyakarta a few months back and they have been busy working on a furniture proposition for Batu Batu – lovely FSC-certified recycled teak furniture. Here’s a picture of their workshop with the old wood piled in the centre. I’ve also stuck in a rendering done by their designer Bayu – who creates amazing 3D images of Batu Batu from scratch so you can get an idea of what things will look like with the furniture in place.

Last week we had Hung from Ho Chi Minh City visit us on PT – a curtain-maker who has provided curtains and blinds for various Six Senses resorts in Vietnam. And we also announced that Evert Onderbeke will be joining Batu Batu as Executive Chef in the new year. We are very excited about this as Evert has excellent credentials – Executive Chef at High Tide KL – winner of Time Out KL’s Best Seafood Restaurant, himself shortlisted for Outstanding Chef of the Year 2010 and mentored by 2-Michelin star chef Roger Souvereyns. We are really looking forward to working together with Evert to create a great dining experience for our guests – conducive to the location and in the spirit of the resort’s aim to source locally and sustainably. Evert will join us in the new year which gives him some good time pre-opening to make friends with the local fishermen, source the best ingredients and create the right menu. We’re really looking forward to some great food!

Talking about making friends with fishermen, we have Simon Buckell – a volunteer from the UK with excellent birding experience – working with us at the moment, conducting some initial studies and creating observational logs on PT and the surrounding area’s wildlife. Together with Hakim, a Wild Asia intern, Simon has been having a taste of life on PT over the past weeks as well as experiencing life onboard local fishing boats with some local fishermen. We’ll get some of his stories posted on the blog in the near future – but here are some of his pictures so far.

On an entirely different subject, we’ve ordered some lovely bikinis for the BB Boutique from Mileti – a new Singapore-based swimwear company. It can be very difficult to find good swimwear out in these parts and we’re pleased to have found and to be supporting a local business. Here’s a sneak preview of the swimwear you might find at the BB boutique.

And last but not least, a couple of people pointed me towards Dominic Sio (thanks Niki and Mike!), a Penang-ite returned from years in Europe – described as a branding genius, a veteran of the fashion / creative / design / branding industry – Dom is helping us create Batu Batu The Brand. Here are a few inspirational ideas he has been feeding us with.

Until next time…

High Fashion on Pulau Tengah – Photographs by Eric Frideen

Swedish fashion photographer Eric Frideen is hardly unfamiliar with exotic islands and beautiful beaches – travelling to beautiful locations to photograph beautiful subjects in beautiful clothes is part and parcel of his job. And so, we were lucky enough to have Eric point his lens at Pulau Tengah when he, his wife Niki and their large extended family spent a week-long family reunion on the island in 2009. Here is a selection of Eric’s beautiful photographs.

A little bit about Eric: Swedish born photographer Eric Frideen started out assisting several international photographers in his late teens before taking the step to set up on his own in Stockholm, Sweden. After establishing himself as one of his country’s leading talents he decided to move to London in 1997 and has since worked with many international clients. They include Banana Republic, Nautica, Burberry, Thomas Burberry and Gerard Darel and editorials for British Elle, British Marie Claire, Austalian Harpers Bazaar, German GQ, US Vogue and numerous other international magazines. He is currently based in London but travels the world extensively always keeping his cool, calm skandinavian style.

More about Eric Frideen here:  http://www.serlinassociates.com/#/ericfrideen/biography/http://www.eric-frideen.com/