TURTLE ISLAND (SELINGAN)
PAGE - SABAH
is located in the Sulu Sea, 40 kilometers north of Sandakan,
Sabah. It is approximately 1,740 hectares which comprises of
three small islands; Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kecil and
is one of the best destinations in Malaysia for its unique
marine wildlife and also not forgetting the most important role
as the breeding ground for Green turtles in all of South East
Asia. On most evening, scores of turtles crawl onto the soft
sand that fringes the islands to lay their eggs. Among the
three islands, Pulau Selingan is the main nesting area for the
Green turtles (Chelonia Mydas), while another species
called Hawksbill turtles prefer Pulau Gulisan. Both species lay
their eggs on these shores throughout the year although the best
months are between July to October. In 1977, these islands were
gazetted as Marine Parks for the protection of the two species
in order to save them from extinction. The islands are built
over shallow rocky shoals from coral shingle from the
surrounding reef on the fringes covered with a variety of plant
life, which includes mangrove, lantana, the yellow-flowered
sophora and the furry silver-leaved Tournefortia.
or Selingan Island, is the largest of among the three islands
and has been developed to house the park's headquarters, a
visitor 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, the former
capital of Sabah and was once the heart of a booming timber
industry in the mid 1970s. Today, Sandakan is probably most
renowned for the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (Sepilok)
Turtle eggs have been collected from the islands since
before the colonial days. Though over-harvesting was already
leading to the decreasing off egg production even then, it was
not given any form of legal protection until 1971 when the
islands were designed as a Bird and Game Sanctuary and
administered by the Forestry Department.
Restriction for hunting the Hawksbill Turtle (for their
shells) was first imposed by the British North Borneo Chartered
Company way back in 1927. Sea turtle hatchery in Selingan
Island was started by the Sabah Government in 1966 and in 1977,
gazetted the 1,740 hectares of islands and sea embracing
Selingan, Bakkkungan Kecil and Gulisan into a marine park.
In general, turtle populations worldwide are dwindling. But
in Sabah's protected turtle islands, turtle nesting have
recorded a steadily increasing trend since 1991, a positive
result after 30 years of conservation efforts.
For a visit to the Turtle Island, usually one can go by
speedboat trip which normally takes about an hour. Along the
trip, you will be passing the mangrove forests and if you are
lucky enough, you might catch a glimpse of Irrawaddy Dolphins.
Turtle landings usually occur after dusk. The park keeps a
policy of allowing visitors to only see one landing a night.
This is to allow undisturbed nestings to go on throughout the
night. You can choose to laze around the beach or snorkel while
waiting for the evening’s event. The west side of the island
provides an ideal place for this as they are clean, quiet and
offer some interesting coral and sea life for a decent day’s
While wandering around the island, you’ll be surprised to
see how many turtles have landed in the last few days by looking
at their tracks, like mini-tractors, which will be remained in
the sand for a number of days. If you want to learn more about
sea turtles and also different parks in Sabah and its unique
nature, you should stop by at the visitor centre there.
while in the island, you may encounter many large bamboo fish
traps lining in the shallow waters. Fishermen reap their
rewards from fishing in these waters and sell it at Sandakan’s
large wet markets.
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