For the past two months, Kensington and Chelsea Today newspaper has been running a travel writing and image competition in collaboration with STA travel. Many thanks to all those that entered and congratulations to the winning twosome which are published in the current edition of the paper!
Below is the runner up:
Malay Turtle Eggs
by Chris Dennett
“If any poachers appear, run and find me.”
My heart beat raced as I watched the burly shadow of my Malay friend shrink into the darkness, the
sounds of his steps drowned by the lapping waves. Moments earlier, he had revealed his confidence
in my ability to guard the southern beach of Perhentian Besar alone.
I had journeyed to Malaysia’s eastern Perhentian Islands with the intention of ‘discovering paradise’.
Less touristy than their Langkawi counterpart, the isles offer white sands, azure waters, tropical
jungles and an opportunity for travellers to save the world in the form of turtle conservation. I
had not anticipated that I would be solely-responsible for the defense of turtle eggs against the
onslaught of hungry, Malaysian poachers.
With images of Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’ in mind, I switched off the torch and scanned the pitch-
black horizon that hovered over the dark ocean, shimmering from the lunar rays of the moon. The
coast was clear - so far.
However, fatigue was setting in. As such I crept along the beach, trying to avoid the lightning-speed
skittering of ghost crabs beneath my feet whilst peering into the trees that concealed not only the
signs of human settlement, but also my base of operations for the night – a hammock.
Having found the spot, I awkwardly fell into my woven bed and peered through the leafy canopy
above with a sudden enhanced awareness of my surroundings. Trees rustled with the intermittent
winds, monitor lizards with the aesthetics of pre-history charged into the brush and the circling of
white-bellied eagles that were visible in the day, had been replaced by the swooping of gargantuan
bats. Further discomfort was felt after realising that the twigs that had suddenly started falling were
due to me being targeted by monkeys, their presence betrayed by their eyes that glowed in the
I was about to throw back a handful of sand when I noticed a spectral, orange light in the distance,
followed by the humming of a distant boat engine. My muscles froze in the cool, once-humid air and
my skin tingled. Poachers.
Turtle eggs are triple the value in Malaysian markets, and as such, I imagined a posse of armed
men storming the beach with no intention to negotiate. However, after frantically waving my torch
to simulate a flurry of beach activity, I breathed a sigh of relief as the light sailed out of sight and
beyond the bay’s flanks.
The adrenaline that flowed through my veins meant that my turtle watch was a particularly vigilant,
restless one. However, it was not until noon, the cloudless, blue sky a backdrop to the blazing sun,
when my friend jovially enquired how my night went. Bleary-eyed I told him the story about the
boat, my fear of the poachers and asked what could have happened if they actually arrived.
Head back, he roared with laughter and in-between chuckles said, “My friend. Us Malays hate
confrontation. You just say hello, they thank you… They leave.”