The Turtle Islands Park, also known as Pulau Penyu National Park. This
park comprises of three islands, which are Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan
Kecil and Pulau Gulisan. The Park is famous for its green and hawksbill
turtles, which lay their eggs on the beaches of the islands. The islands are
protected within marine parks on both sides of the Malaysian and Philippine
Turtles nest year round, but are more common between July and October when
the seas are calmer.
By boat to Pulau Selingan from Sandakan town. No public
boat services are available, and one really needs to go through the Parks
office or arrange a visit through a tour company.
Turtle Island, or Selingan Island, is the largest of
these islands and has been developed to house the park's headquarters, a
visitors centre, basic tourist facilities and a turtle hatchery. The other
islands are usually off bounds to the casual visitor. The nearest mainland
town to the park is Sandakan. This was the former capital of Sabah, and was
once in the mid-1970s, the heart of a "seemingly" booming timber
industry. The town today is probably most renown for the Orang Utan
Rehabilitation Centre (Sepilok), which is located on its outskirts.
A boat trip from Sandakan to the Turtle Islands usually
takes about an hour by speed boat. If you are lucky you might catch a
glimpse of Irrawaddy Dolphins
Turtle landings usually occur
after dusk. The park has a sensible policy of allowing visitors to see
only one landing a night. This allows undisturbed nestings to go on
throughout the night. Whilst waiting for the evenings highlight, all that
is left to do is to laze around the beach or snorkel. The west side of the
island is ideal for this. They are clean, quiet, and offer some
interesting coral and sea life for a decent days snorkelling.
a wander around the island and you'll be surprised how many turtles have
landed in the last few days, their tracks, like mini-tractors,
remain in the sand for a
number of days.
There is a small visitors centre, which is highly recommended, and is
open later in the evening. You will not only learn about sea turtles but
also of the different parks in Sabah and its unique nature.
The evening's program begins after supper, when the wait for the first
landing begins. If you are lucky this could be right after dessert! Once
a landing has been sighted by the Park Rangers, the rangers will escort
visitors to the nesting turtle. Remember not to shine your torchlight's
on the nesting mother, as it is stressful on the turtle.
Once the eggs have been laid,
the eggs are removed by the Park Staff. This is to ensure that wild
predators, such as the monitor lizards, do not get to the eggs. After a
period of incubation the eggs woul
These hatchlings will then have to fend for themselves until they are
mature enough to mate and return back to the Turtle Islands.
The hatcheries are situated 50 feet
away from the high water mark. Each pit is 30 inches deep, fenced around with wire mesh and identified by
a bamboo marker bearing the serial number of the nest, collection date and
number of eggs.
After an incubation period of between 50 and 60 days, the hatchlings dig
their way up to the surface of the pit, usually at night, when the sand is cooler.
The hatchlings are normally released in the early
morning or night from various points of the islands.
Once in the sea they are exposed to numerous dangers including being eaten
by bigger fish as well as birds. Fatalities can also occur when they
encounter plastic bags or mistake tiny hardened balls of oil for food.
The sea turtle is a reptile which spends all of its life in water. Only
the female turtle returns to land to lay its eggs. All sea turtle eat
marine animals such as sponges, marine worms and molluscs. Adult green
turtle are largely vegetarian, eating underwater grasses and seaweed while
the hawksbill turtle is carnivorous and eats invertebrate animals of the
coral reefs. The natural
longevity of the sea turtles is unknown.
They grow very slowly, taking from 10 to 20 years to reach maturity.
Three fully-furnished chalets are available
on Selingan for accommodating up to a total of 20 persons per night. There is
now a restaurant on Selingan where visitors can order hot meals.
Apart from the Turtle Islands, the other attractions in the eastern region
include the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok Forest Reserve,
Australian War Memorial and further a field, the lower Kinabatangan river
which is one of the best places to see a wide array of wildlife from the
comfort of the boat!