11 – 15 June
We met the WWF Malaysia Semporna team in their quaint office on stilts at the end of Dragon Inn, by the marina. They were busily preparing several community activities when we reached their office. It was all girl power, with Myezana Ismat and Nina Ho at the helm as WWF staff and Lee Pei Xuan and Nattelee Lim from the Universiti Malaysia Sabah doing their WWF internship for their final year in college.
Our week’s schedule to follow activities of WWF Malaysia was quickly organized, and off we went for a quick boat trip on the fantastic Kahumbu (“whale” in the Bajau language), the new catamaran of WWF Malaysia’s Semporna Priority Conservation Area Project. We went around the areas covered by the Tun Sakaran Marine Park.
Our first activity was a visit to the Bajau weavers in the stilt houses of Kampung Halo, on the Semporna mainland. WWF is starting to introduce marine animal designs in small mat sizes to enable the Bajau women to sell their products to the fast growing tourism industry.
Semporna is the jump-off point to the fantastic World Heritage Site Sipadan Island, which triangulates with resorts around Mabul Island and Kapalai. This area is diving heaven for divers from all over the world.
Then we had clean-up activities in Kampung Balembang Berjasa in Bumbum Island, a five-minute boat ride from Semporna. The small kids were waiting for us, eager to pick up trash from all the nooks and crannies around the parking lot of this Kampung.
This took the better part of the morning, and a dozen sacks full of all sorts of plastics, from bottles to straws to candy wrappers thoughtlessly thrown on the ground, were filled.
Soon after picking up most of the trash, Myezana, Nina, and the interns, along with Harris our trusted boatman, conducted kids’ activities, which ranged from coloring sheets of paper with marine drawings, to getting their pictures taken with a makeshift turtle’s body.
The activities were all aimed at educating the younger generation about the marine environment and the need to protect it. Although the aims were serious, everyone had fun and enjoyed the entire event.
A baby green turtle (Chelonia mydas), kept in captivity for a month, was given to WWF for release back into the wild. Nina, a marine biologist, decided to do this in the far-flung island of Sibuan, where there is just a small population of Bajau Laut. Our baby turtle may have a higher chance of survival if released away from heavily populated Semporna.
We all waved our goodbyes and gave it our most heartfelt wishes to survive in the wild.
While on Sibuan Island, Nina took the opportunity to show some of the Bajau menfolk a book of seaweed drawings, which explained in the Bajau language how to grow carrageenan seaweed.