On the same trip as my failed visit to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was a planned trip to the Pawikan Conservation Center. I had read about this here and there, and some friends did mention this place to me. Due to its proximity to the power plant, this seemed like a nice place to visit.
Bear in mind, visiting a place like the Pawikan Conservation Center, where sea turtles come to lay the beach of the hatching to lay their own eggs is quite seasonal. So our visit here did have an element of uncertainty.
View Pawikan Conservation Center in a larger map
Getting here isn’t hard. Just follow the signs to the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant… then follow the signs to the Pawikan Conservation Center. You won’t get lost. Around 10 minutes before you get to the center, you will pass the power plant on your left. So just keep on going.
We got to the center. The place was devoid of other cars on the parking area. And apparently we were the only guests for this day.
When we got inside, we got a brief tour of the main pool… a turtle-shaped pond with three turtle residents. The “manong”… the guy who just happened to be there when we walked in immediately became our guide. He explained to us that the “season” for the turtles is from November-December when the turtles who were born here come back after 25 years or so to lay their eggs to around January-February when the turtle eggs hatch after 45 days of being laid.
That said, I guess the best time to come here is around Jan -Feb if you want to see the little hatchlings return to the sea.
They had three turtle residents in the center. According to “the manong,” the turtles were being “taken cared of” before being returned to the sea. Personally I suspect that actually do keep the 3 turtles intentionally so that they have some to show visitors (like ourselves) else… they would have nothing to show.
The three included an Olive Ridley…
A bigger one… which was a Green Turtle. I always thought these were those little 1.5 inch turtles they sell at BioResearch.
And a Hawksbill.
They do let visitors try to lift the turtles. I picked up the Olive Ridley, the little guy was around 10 pounds according to “the manong.” The Olive Ridley was quite gentle. I tried to lift the Hawsbill as well, but it started thrashing around and water was being splattered around. I didn’t bother with the Green Turtle… it was too big.
The pool had all sorts of really interesting and informative banners and posters.
Just outside the covered pool area is the hatchery. When the turtles come and lay their eggs, when they are done hiding the eggs in the sand, they leave. They don’t stick around a wait for the eggs to hatch. That being the case, the eggs are pretty much exposed to whatever would dig them up. If you watch shows like Discovery Channel or Animal Planet, typical predators include all sorts of large lizards. According to the caretakers, “askal dogs” are their primary concern.
So what they do is that the center volunteers dig up the eggs and then transfers the eggs here so they can be monitored.
When they turtles hatch, then they are brought over to the beach a few feet farther then released.
I am guessing that having this setup also helps their ecotourism setup so they can control the exodus to the water when tourists are around (of course this is only speculation on my part).
The beach is actually quite nice. By the way, the center has some air-conditioned rooms where you can stay over if you want to watch the turtles overnight.
There is this interesting little pool with turtle sculptures where help illustrate the turtle lifecycle.
At the end of the day, all of this just cost us P20 at the center. It is the “viewing fee” to see the turtles.
Talking with the caretakers we learned that the center has 16 staff, all of them volunteers. They are not paid a salary. They just earn from the P20 fee when visitors like us show up. Knowing that, I gave them P100 to cover for the P40 fee for two of us and the remainder as my token donation.
That said, the trip was quite fulfilling. Ok, so we only saw 3 turtles after a 3 hour drive, but then again, the trip was spontaneous… since I didn’t know what to expect… my expectations were in check. It was still fun. Perhaps I will return later in the year when the turtles return (or hatch).
FYI. – “Pawikan” is local for “Sea Turtle.”
For more information: See http://tourism-philippines.com/pawikan-conservation/
If you get to visit here, you might want to drop by Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, which is Bagac… just turn right at the “Friendship Bell” and follow directions.