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Buddhist Temple Turtle Rescue and Releases at Murex Manado

Everyone loves to read a heart-warming story and this one is no exception. Read on to find out how and why our local Buddhist temples are rescuing and releasing sea turtles back into the waters of the Bunaken Marine Park.

North Sulawesi is predominantly a Christian area but in Manado there are actually a number of Buddhist temples – two of which (Vihara Dhammadipa and Mahavihara Santisukah Samaggi) visit our Murex Manado Resort to release sea turtles from our beach.

Members of these temples have been actively saving sea turtles which are caught in fishing nets as by-catch for many years. When local fishermen pull in their nets, if they discover a turtle they will take it to the fish market along with the rest of the catch to sell. Sadly, the turtles will be purchased for meat from the market.

Turtle release by Buddhist monks at Murex Manado

Turtle release by Buddhist monks at Murex Manado beach

After many years of communicating with the fishermen now when a turtle is caught the fishermen will automatically call the temple and ask them if they will purchase it. Ellen Tampi, one of the members of the temple, has purchased turtles herself in this way several times to prevent them from being taken to market. Ellen explains that it is the individual members of the temple who provide the money for the purchase and often members of the temple will club together and share the cost. A small hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricate) will cost between IDR 300,000 and IDR 400,000 (Approx. EURO 21 to EURO 29) whereas a large green turtle (Chelonia mydas) can be sold for as much as IDR 1,300,000 (Approx. EURO 95). Ellen and the other members of the temple are anxious that the fishermen should not start purposefully fishing turtles to sell to them and so the rates which they pay are less than the market value.

Hawksbill Turtle release on beach

A Hawksbill Turtle is about to regain his freedom.

Once a turtle has been purchased it is brought directly to Murex Manado by car for release. Ellen says that they choose to release the turtles from Murex Manado because of the beautiful black sand beach, calm bay in front of the resort and the quiet but friendly atmosphere. As well as bringing the turtles to Murex, one of the temple Monks will also accompany the group so that he can lead a small prayer service on the beach before the release. The prayers are to bless the turtle and Ellen explained that Buddhism is centered around the belief in re-incarnation which is the concept of a soul being reborn in another form – human or animal which means that in the past the turtles life and the lives of the temple community may have crossed.

Members of the temple believe that turtles are very special creatures due to their long life spans and they hope that by saving them from the market and releasing them back into the ocean they will also have long and prosperous lives. This concept of “merit making” is fundamental in Buddhism which promotes the doing of good deeds to earn merit.

Turtles are protected in the Bunaken National Marine Park and Ellen confirms that in recent years the number of turtles caught and appearing at the market has declined due to the successful prohibition of net fishing on the reefs.

When diving around Bunaken Island hawksbill and huge green sea turtles are a real highlight and our favorite dive spots for sightings include Lekuan I, Lekuan II and Muka Kampung. It’s not unusual to lose count of how many turtles we see in one dive and we are extremely thankful to the Buddhist temple members for playing their part in ensuring that we continue to see turtles on our dives for many more years to come.

If you’d to join us and see the turtles of Bunaken Marine Park and explore some of Indonesia’s best dive sites contact us on

To see even more of what North Sulawesi has to offer why not combine your stay at Murex Manado Resort with a stay at Murex Bangka where you can enjoy the white sand beach and dive incredible pinnacles surrounded by kaleidoscopic reefs? If you are interested in macrophotography, rare critters and unusual marine life then join us for our flagship Passport to Paradise package and experience three distinctive diving areas in one trip: Bunaken, Bangka and Lembeh. With seamless boat diving transfers from resort to resort it couldn’t be easier – all you do is enjoy your dives each day and leave the logistics to us!
We are looking forward to welcoming you to North Sulawesi soon.

Turtle release from Murex Manado

Ellen Tampi (left) and temple members release turtles from the beach at Murex Manado


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