Turtle Island Park
Turtle Islands Park is located 40 km north of Sandakan and consist of tree islands, Pulau Selingaan, Pulau Bakkungaan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan. The park is known for its protection of the nesting of two endangered species of the sea turtle, the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the smaller hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). The two turtle species lay their eggs here year-round.
The green turtle can live for a century and grow to 160 kg. They are endangered due to their eggs, which are considered a delicacy. The female come ashore to dig trenches in the sand and lay between 80-165 eggs. The Hawksbill turtle is a bit smaller with a length of the carapace between 70–90 cm. It lays around 100-180 eggs per clutch. Afterwards the turtle returns to the sea.
Back in the park, the eggs are uncovered and collected by the rangers. They are taken to a hatchery to protect them from being hunted and from its natural predators such as lizards. In about 50-60 days the turtles break out of their shells and is put in to the sea by the rangers.
The conservation program was started in 1927 and in 1966 the first hatchery in Malaysia was undertaken on Pulau Selingaan. Today the rangers collects over 600.000 eggs each year just counting Selingaan.
It is possible for visitors to stay overnight at Selingaan Island but it is limited to around 50 people a night. It is only possible to go on a organised tour either through the franchise operator, Crystal Quest, or by agents in Sandakan or Kota Kinabalu.
How to get there:
From the airport
Daily flights to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu morning and afternoon. The morning flight from KK leaves at 7 am and lands in Sandakan at 7.45 am just in time to get a taxi from the airport. The jetty is 9 km from the airport and cost 26 RM.
From the city
The jetty is 2,5 km from Sandakan centre. You can go by taxi at around 5-7 RM or do the walk in about ten minutes. Alternatively catch a bus from the local bus terminal at Jln Pryer.
The tour is a complete package. Through an agent it cost 650-800 RM per person. This includes speedboat transfer, air-con chalet accommodation on Pulau Selingaan and meals. Buying on the island is limited to beverage such as water, soda and beers at fair prices. Besides this the park takes a 60 RM entrance fee and 10 RM camera fee which goes to the conservation program.
Good to know
The trip to the island is one hour by (small) boat. It can be rough in bad weather. All day is spend on the island so remember a book, snorkelling gear etc. as the turtles don’t come until after dawn.
NO FLASH – it disorients the turtles and hatchlings, who use moonlight to locate the sea.