Pawikan Conservation Center, Turtle Release Program
You guys, two weeks ago we helped release baby turtles! It was one of those surreal family moments when your thoughts pause and you realize how special and rare this moment really is. The waves move a little slower, the smiles last a little longer and you realize that you may never have this moment again, so soak it up. The Philippines has gifted us so many memories, I can never be grateful enough for her majesty.
Located a mere three hour drive North from Manila in Morong, Bataan you will find a humble but important sanctuary, Pawikan Conservation Center. The center was set up by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as an NGO effort to help save the endangered species. Poaching problems, natural predation, illegal trade, harsh fishing conditions and climate change all threaten the pawikan. Pawikan Conservation Center (PCC) aims to help protect the endangered species by educating the local community, providing a hatchery and allowing volunteers to help release the baby turtles to the sea. The local communities will often eat the turtle eggs for food but PCC has created an initiative to stop this. They hire and educate the poachers and fishermen to work for PCC and earn an income instead of poach. They are also open to the public to watch pawikan hatch and release them to the ocean.
|Pawikan Conservation Center|
It is fairly easy to set up a visit and pay to help release baby turtles to the sea. The pawikan season is November - February. You can actually stay overnight at PCC so you can participate in watching the hatchlings break from their eggs, I am sure this is unreal! The accommodations were simple and didn't look particularly nice but still, baby sea turtles hatching! We stayed at Kai Lodge Camp Kanawan, which I highly recommend and you can read about our experience here. We messaged Tito Manolo, who is the PCC director, on our way up to Bataan and asked if there were baby turtles available and he reserved a small portion for us. It costs 50php per turtle. His phone number is 0921-630-2842. We tried to go back a second time and messaged him ahead of time to make sure there were turtles. We recevied a reply that there were turtles but by the time we got there they had already been released by another group. Be very clear when you plan to go and perhaps reservations can be made.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that one of my favorite schools, HedCen, of course has an affiliation program with PCC.
The conservation center isn't just for hatchlings but also for pawikan who need medical attention. There is a hatchery on site, a healing pool, educational signs and of course it is on the beach so all you have to do is walk a short distance to release the turtles.
On our visit, there was no introductory speech or even much instruction on how to release the turtles. I am not sure if it was just our day or if this is regular. I would encourage everyone before participating to read these articles here and here and also read the educational posters that are placed all over PCC. I wish I could have educated myself and family better before arriving at PCC because I didn't realize you actually aren't supposed to touch or hold baby hatchlings, it can harm their 'imprinting' that helps them get back home to complete the life cycle.
Below each marker you will find a 'nest' of eggs. Although you won't actually find them because they stay buried in the sand until they are ready to hatch. Did you know that the temperature of the egg actually determines the sex of a baby sea turtle? I had no idea!
A short five minute walk from the conservation center will lead you to the beach where the pawikan will imprint and make their way to the ocean. We were instructed to place the pawikan in the sand at least three meters from the water to allow imprinting. Again, we were never told not to hold the turtles. From the limited research I could find, the best way for pawikan to find their way to the water is to dig a small hole and let them make their way completely on their own.
|Once in a lifetime!|
Mature turtles make their way back to their home beach to complete the life cycle after decades at sea. Our children will be around 40-50 years old before the pawikan return here to Morong.
Have you ever seen anything cuter!?
Located at the beach are two picturesque nipa huts that can be rented for around 3,000 php a day. They were very dreamy but after walking out there with my kids I about had a heart attack imagining them falling into the ocean.
And there you have it, another family memory made by the Philippines. Life in Manila has it's obstacles but I will take them with all the magic that comes along with them.
Pawikan Conservation Center
There is no exact address but Google maps worked for us.