Turtle Island Marine Park

The Turtle Island Park (gazetted in 1977) lies 40km north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea and consists of Selingan, Bakungan Kecil and Gulisan islands. It is approximately 1,740 hectares in size.

The islands within the Park play an important role as the breeding ground for Green turtles in all of South East Asia. Among the three islands, Pulau Selingan being the largest and 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 month is during July to October, when the sea is calmer.

The islands are built over shallow rocky shoals from coral shingle. Visitors will be able to see a variety of plant life covering the surrounding reef on the fringes of the islands. These include mangrove, lantana, the yellow-flowered sophora and the furry silver-leaved Tournefortia. While speed boating to these islands, you might even catch a glimpse of Irrawaddy Dolphins!

As turtle landings usually occur after dusk, visitors are required to stay over night in order to see the turtles as they come ashore to lay their eggs. The Park keeps a policy of allowing visitors to only see one landing a night. This is to allow undisturbed nesting for the turtles. You can choose to laze around the beach or snorkel while waiting for the evening's event.

Do's and Don'ts

While at the Park, visitors are forbidden from engaging in any of the following:

  • Wander along the beach after dark. (Park Ranger will inform the guides when/where there is turtle laying eggs)
  • Build campfires, shine bright torches on the beach at night or on the nesting turtle, as strong light will cause harm to the turtles.
  • Disturb the turtle during the nesting process by approaching too close or crowding around her. Instead, visitors are advised to watch the nesting from a distance.
  • Under no circumstances, ride on the turtle, pull her flippers, turn over turtle, jump on her or injure her physically. Such acts of abuse may have adverse effects on future nesting returns.
  • Night photography is strictly forbidden on Pulau Selingan but allowed on the other two islands with permission from the Park Ranger.
  • Collecting any plant, animal or other living or non-living things is strictly forbidden without prior written permission from the Director of Sabah Parks. Fishing is permitted with hook and line only.