Turtle Island Borneo – The Sights and Experience

Travelling an hour from Sandakan, hurtling along at break neck speeds across the lolloping tides the palm-fringed destination awaits. Turtle Island or Selingaan, some 40km off the coast of Sabah, Borneo’s eastern state is one of three islets that make up the Taman Pulau Penyu a protected national park, and one of the only places in the world where visitors can witness the magic and drama of hundreds of Turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs. You soon forget the bumpy ride when faced with the idyllic bleach-white sands and glinting turquoise waters of Selingaan, otherwise known as Turtle Island.

Image Courtesy of dachalan from Flickr


After strolling the isle a visit to the hatchery shows off Borneo’s passion for preservation and dedication to protecting their endangered reptilian residents. Interestingly, the temperature of the sand where the eggs lay determines the gender of the hatchlings, so the centre keeps half in the shade and half in the sunshine after they are collected from the beach. Once they are ready to hatch the centre staff take the new-borns to the water’s edge and set them free to grapple with the tiny tumbling tides. Visits in the summer are the best months to catch sight of the first tentative steps, and October is said to herald ‘guaranteed sightings’.

The main event

Gathering at dusk and waiting in the shadows of the palm trees groups of visitors can be part of this magical experience, and the waiting doesn’t last long; on average 30 turtles per night waddle up the beach to cop a spot for the nestlings and each lay around 100 eggs. After watching one of the turtles in action the ranger collects her eggs from behind as to not disturb the process and then escorts visitors back to the hatchery so as not to disturb other nesting shell-dwellers. The eggs are incubated for 60 days and as they are collected nightly, it’s more than likely that a visit will coincide with release date for the new-borns. Visitors then get the incredible opportunity to carry the babies to the shoreline and watch them start their great journey into the blue. Incredibly turtles always return to the beach they were born on to lay their eggs, but with only 60% of those released surviving the conservation process is vital to ensure this species continued survival.

Predators and other sites

A turtle egg’s greatest predator is the monitor lizard, which can often be found stalking the beaches of Selingaan and is a site to behold for any tourist. These large reptilians should be avoided in the wild but will likely avoid human contact of their own free will. Selingaan is the only island of the three where overnight stays are possible and a collection of basic beach huts on the eastern edge of the crescent shaped isle makes up the Selingaan Island Resort which is also the centre for conservation.

In 1966 Selingaan became the first turtle conservation site in Malaysia, when turtle numbers were noticeably dwindling, the three islands and surrounding coral reefs which have become known as the Turtle Island national park is one of Borneo’s best assets, where watching the beginnings of some of nature’s most adorable endangered species is possible.

Author Bio | Geoffery is a travel blogger and writer, being inspired from sites like Audley Travel (audleytravel.com/Destinations/Southeast-Asia/Borneo) – he has made it his destiny to travel and experience as much of Asia as possible.

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