Khun Veeraphat, a waiter at Sands beachfront restaurant on Koh Samui, made a startling discovery on 13 February when he spotted what appeared to be tracks coming from the sea.
CCTV footage at Banyan Tree Samui clearly showed a giant sea turtle laying eggs on the beach the night before, then returning to the water.
The luxury hotel, located on the southeast tip of the island, immediately contacted the local Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, who arrived and uncovered two nests containing around 100 eggs belonging to a green sea turtle.
But wait, there were more!
Then, on 24 February, the mother turtle returned and laid a second clutch, this time numbering 141 eggs.
This nest, however, was too close to the shoreline and so it was carefully dug up and relocated to higher sands.
Such a discovery on Koh Samui is rare. Green turtles (Chelonia mydas) tend to lay their eggs on remote shores in the Andaman Sea, not at busy tourist resorts in the Gulf of Thailand.
However, this mother turtle was in luck, because not only does Banyan Tree Samui employ a CSR (corporate social responsibility) team headed by a marine biologist, Thepsuda Loyjiw, but the resort was singled out last year by global watchdog EarthCheck as meeting the highest standards for environmentalism in the country.
The resort built an enclosure to keep the nest safe from monitor lizards and any other would-be predators.
A protected site
In the days that followed, the fenced-off pen became adopted by guests as a protected site.
“We were very excited to find the clutch of eggs, but quickly realized that this was a precarious situation,” said Thepsuda. “Luckily, the Banyan Tree beach is situated in a private cove so tourists and vendors are not constantly walking by.
“The most immediate danger was the tide, but the turtle had fortunately buried her first clutch above the high-tide line. The second nest was too close to the shore so we carefully dug it up and moved it higher.
“The next danger was the monitor lizards who prey on turtle eggs. We had to ward off a large local lizard who had the nest in his sights.”
Giving something back
Green sea turtles generally weigh between 110 and 180 kg and measure about one metre in length.
The gestation period for eggs is between 45 and 60 days, meaning that this clutch should hatch between 28 March and 12 April, which is the day before Thai New Year.
“In this day and age when we hear so much about endangered marine life, it’s a fantastic feeling for all of us at the resort to feel we are giving something back,” said Banyan Tree Samui General Manager Remko Kroesen.
To date, the Banyan Tree Group manages and/or has ownership interests in over 47 hotels and resorts, 63 spas, 73 retail galleries; as well as three golf courses in 24 countries.