Feb 22, 2009


FM from Bro Amir

Turtle Islands National Park, Sabah lies 40 km north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea off Sabah's east coast. The Park comprises of three islands namely Pulau Selingaan, Pulau Bakkungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan together with surrounding sea and coral reefs. The islands are built over shallow rocky shoals from coral shingle from the surrounding reef. There are a variety of plant life that ca be found here. 

However, a major attraction here is the turtles which come to nest on the shores. Pulau Selingaan is the main nesting area for the green turtles also known as
Chelonia mydas. Hawksbill turtles known as Eretmochelys can mostly be found in the shores of Pulau Gulisan. Both species of turtles lay eggs throughout the year but the best months are between July to October. Accommodations are available for visitors in Selingaan Island where there are chalets. The other islands do not have accommodation facilities and guests are not allowed to stay there overnight. Guests are not permitted close to the shore at night on Selingan Island. This step is taken to ensure shy turtles meander peacefully without getting disturbed and also not disturbing their habitat. 

Turtle Islands National Park has a long history. Turtle eggs have been created as early as the colonial days. It was in early 1927 that conservation efforts were made to save marine turtles. It was on Selingaan that the first turtle hatchery in Malaysia was undertaken, in 1966. It was in 1971 that the Sabah Government acquired three islands from private ownership and was constituted as Bird and Game Sanctuaries. It was finally in 1977 that the Government converted not only the three islands but also the coral reefs and water surrounding it and making it the Turtle Island National Park. 

The best time to visit the Turtle Island National Park is during March and September when the weather is dry and the seas are calm. The Islands receive plenty of rainfall between October and February and is not a good time to visit.