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Avoid Naiwe Beach "Turtle Sanctuary"


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On a recent visit to Port Vila I went on a tour that included the Naiwe Beach turtle sanctuary. Please avoid this place.


Whatever this place is, it is not a sanctuary for turtles. It appears to be a former turtle research establishment that has been abandoned and into which the local village has moved. Complete with pig pens and chicken yards.


Among the dried out and mostly cracked concrete tanks a few have enough water to support some baby turtles which are manhandled by an endless line of tourists. Generally a parent would reach down to pick up a baby, pass it on to a child who after some patting would then throw throw the baby back down into the tank. I don't know how long baby turtles can survive such treatment, but I suspect it isn't long.


Even worse, in a sea pool are held three adult turtles which have the privilege of being treated as floating pool toys by the tourists that get into the water with them. They are manhandled and pulled, but at least they get fed by the tourists on a steady diet of papaya. What happens to turtles that get fed papaya rather than their natural diet of seaweed and jellyfish? Nothing good I suspect. Still, there are always more turtles where they came from.


Last but not least, if you are offered a lunch at a place such as this where you are a few tens of yards away from a pig pen, don't eat it. There is a price that involves sitting down for two days or so.

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I feel conflicted about tours that include turtles or swimming with turtles. I had a previous experience in Vila where people could swim with captive turtles. That in itself I didn't have a problem with until I saw one young lad "hogging" a particular turtle and kept hanging onto it it, didn't seem to understand the concept of sharing or giving the turtle a rest from the harassment. It was not monitored, the kid's parents did not step in and nor did the facility or tour operators. I felt sorry for the turtles. Just saying that everything is not picture postcard perfect. If you can, do your own research on the facilities and operators before committing to something.

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