Turtle Island Borneo
Turtle Island Borneo – what an incredible, not to be missed, experience! We booked a 3 day 2 night tour with Amazing Borneo and this was our first stop. Amazing Borneo offer bespoke packages and itineraries and were extremely helpful in answering our queries before we booked our trip.
To reach Turtle Island and some of the other popular sights in Borneo, including Sepliok Orangutan Sanctuary, you will need to fly from Kota Kinabulu to Sandakan.
We ordered a GRAB taxi (the SE Asia Uber equivilant) at Sandakan airport which was only £2.50! We stayed at Four Points Sheraton Sandakan which was in the centre of town (£50/night). There are many cheaper hotels / hostels in the area but we also thought £50 was good value considering it was a Sheraton. It also has a rooftop infinity pool and a large buffet breakfast.
Selingan Turtle Island Boreno
Day 1 of our Amazing Borneo tour took us to Turtle Island! Our guide, Darwis picked us up at the hotel. We hadn’t actually realised that we all have private guides for the duration of the overall trip!
We drove 5 minutes to Sabah Park Jetty to check in and then had a 1-hour speedboat ride to Selingan Turtle Island which is located on the border of Malaysia and the Philippines. On our journey, we saw a mini tornado…suffice to say, I was very glad when we arrived safely at Turtle Island!
We were given a tour of Turtle Island when we arrived. There were only around 15 other tourists, which made it an intimate experience and felt like our own private island!
Facilities on the Island
The accommodation is split into groups of huts which each have several private rooms. The rooms are clean but basic with two single beds (the pillows are hard and weird!) and a large bathroom area which had warm water.
A buffet lunch was served shortly after arrival which had a mixture of fish, meat and veggie dishes. Drinking water is available and there is a small shop selling soft drinks and beer.
After lunch, we had leisure time so found a quiet spot on the beach. Large beach mats were available to hire for only £3 and snorkel equipment for £5. We had a wonderful afternoon sunbathing, walking along the beach and snorkelling. The lifeguard kindly took us snorkelling where we managed to see a blue starfish, clown fish (Nemos) and massive clams!
On our way back to the accommodation, we saw two large water monitor lizards, both around 1m long!
Before our buffet dinner, we walked down to The Hatchery and saw hundreds of baby turtles waiting to be released into the sea. They are so tiny!
We also managed to see the beautiful sunset on the island.
It was getting close to turtle time so we were shown a 30 minute video on the history and work at Turtle Island. The Turtle Islands Heritage Protection Area was signed between the Governments of Malaysia and Philippines in May 1996 to establish the world’s first trans border protected area for marine turtles. Only two major species of turtle come onshore at Turtle Island: Green Turtle and Hawkbill Turtle.
The largest green turtle is just over 1m and can weigh up to 158kg! They are mainly herbivorous, feeding on sea grasses and various algae. Nesting occurs throughout the year with peak season from June to October.
A few turtle facts:
- A sea life turtle’s life cycle begins at the beach. The female will come ashore and lay on average 100 eggs in each clutch.
- These eggs are then incubated in the sand.
- Some species of sea turtles can lay between 3-7 clutches every season with 10-14 day intervals.
- The incubation period takes about 45-60 days depending on sand temperature.
- The hatchlings will dig their way unaided through the sand to the surface and cross the beach to the open sea to begin a new life.
- Turtle growth is slow and they take about 15-20 years to reach maturity.
- The breeding sea turtle will return to the same beach where she was born to lay her eggs (they have some sort of magnetic strip which guides them – fascinating!)
Parts 1-3 of Turtle Time
The Park Rangers are on watch for the turtles coming on shore. Once they have spotted one, they will communicate to the guests that it is ‘turtle time!’. We were informed that this could potentially be at any point of the night up to 3am! Luckily, we were called at 9pm.
You have to be quick as the turtles can lay their eggs quickly. We ran to the beach and quietly gathered around the incredibly beautiful female turtle watching her lay her eggs. Each turtle can lay from 40-140 eggs! Our mother turtle laid 71 eggs and was an amazing 97cm long.
Part 2 of turtle time was watching the Park Ranger collect the eggs from the nestling site and safely bury them in the hatchery.
Part 3 of turtle time was to witness the baby turtles scrambling out into the open sea upon their release on shore. I was even about to pick one up as he was going in the wrong direction. It was so adorable to watch them scrambling to the sea. Sadly, the survival rate for baby turtles is as low as 2% in light of the conditions at sea.
Each night, the Park Rangers track (i) how many turtles came on the island, (ii) how many eggs were laid and (iii) how many turtles were released.
Turtle Island Borneo really is a once in a lifetime experience which should not be missed. It was a perfect day / night with the Park Rangers and so wonderful to see the hard work that they do on a daily basis to save / protect the turtles.
I felt extremely privileged to watch her in her natural environment laying her eggs – it was one of the best things I have ever witnessed!
East London Girl: Turtle Island Borneo
You may also be interested in the following blog posts on Borneo: