The idea of responsible travel has been around for a long time, but in the era of post-COVID travel, it is now charged with more purpose than before. We have always believed that travel can be a force for good, benefitting both the destination’s natural environment and local community, as well as the visiting traveller.
Since launching in 2008, our properties on the Indonesian island of Bintan, including the all-pool villa resort Banyan Tree Bintan, have been on a mission to support the local environment and community. Key initiatives include beach clean-ups, nature tours, and our Sea Turtle Conservation Project, all managed by Cluster Sustainability Coordinator Henry Singer, who works at the on-property Conservation Lab.
Through our Sea Turtle Conservation project, we work with the local community and government to rescue sea turtle eggs and nurture the hatchlings so they have a stronger fighting chance to survive in the wild.
There are seven species of sea turtles in the world and six of them can be found in Indonesia. The Green and Hawksbill Turtles lay their eggs on Bintan’s beaches twice a year, and they are classified as endangered and critically endangered respectively.
Between March and September, Henry’s typical day starts at 5am when he and his team of volunteers or students survey the beaches to look for turtle tracks. They try to find exact locations based on sand patterns, and would relocate the eggs to protect them from natural predators such as monitor lizards and wild pigs, as well as local fishermen who might dig them up to sell at markets.
“We then bury them in a similar position a metre deep in our hatchery, which has a protective wooden enclosure,” he says. “We avoid using metal as turtles have a natural “compass” in their head, and we don’t want to disturb their natural navigation. After the eggs hatch, we look after the baby turtles for two months before releasing them.”
Since 2008, the project has collected, nurtured and released over 5,820 turtles into the South China Sea.
Another critical aspect of the project is educating the local community so they understand the importance of sea turtle conservation. From time to time, Henry visits local schools to invite children for lectures on turtles, while students from Raja Ali Haji Maritime University have also dropped by to do research at the property.
Hotel guests can also get involved. Depending on season, the resort conducts regular turtle releases where guests can watch the hatchlings being released back into the big blue sea.
Besides sea turtle conservation, guests can also get up close with Bintan’s rich nature by embarking on guided birdwatching tours, walking a tree trek trail, or taking a journey through nearby mangroves.
On the guided or independent birdwatching tour, guests can track each bird species using a pictorial guide of common local birds such as kingfishers. The quantity and location of these sightings contribute to an overall report for each species, thus helping conservationists monitor bird populations over time.
On the one-hour tree trek trail, Henry guides participants around indigenous trees such as the protected meranti, the seeds of which are used to treat skin problems. Long-tailed macaques or pale-thighed langurs are also often spotted on these excursions.
If you’re feeling inspired to make a difference, discover more about Banyan Tree Bintan’s Stay for Good package, which includes a healthy, plant-based lunch, a turmeric honey cleanser spa treatment and sustainable activities such as a nature trail, tree trek and conservation presentation.