Turtle Island Park - Pulau Selingan

Selingan Travel Blog

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Sunset on Selingan Island - the turtle we saw came ashore just the other side of the sand dune.
    Had our first "included breakfast" at Sandakan Backpackers today - VERY soft white bread, butter, jam and coffee with condensed milk - all you can eat!!  At first we found the coffee too sweet with the evaporated or condensed milk, but we seem to have got used to it so hope we can break the sweet tooth addiction when we get home again.  We were very lucky yesterday to be able to book the last couple of places on a Turtle Island trip, as they are generally booked up weeks in advance.  We were collected at the Sandakan Hotel at 8.30am (an establishment somewhat more salubrious than our current abode in Sandakan) to be driven through the suburbs, then countryside sprawling with oil palm plantations, to the jetty.  The boat took us through the mangroves to the open sea for our journey across to our first stop, Libaran Island.
Hatchery, Selingan Island.
  The mangrove area was thick with trees and roots - no crocs to be seen, but lots of macaques, whose main idea of fun seemed to be dive-bombing into the water from the tops of the trees and doing enormous belly flops - looked extremely painful, if you ask us, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Thought some might be joining us in the boat, they got so close.
Libaran Island provided a nice spot to see a 20 minute video about the turtles and the conservation park that has been created jointly by the Malaysian and Philippine governments in the area, before a quick wander around the village and lunch.  The boat then took us on another 20 minute ride across to Pulau Selingan, where we stayed the night to watch the green turtle egg laying.
Baby turtle hatchlings making their run to the ocean after release.
  First stop, however, was a bit of snorkelling on the coral reef fringing one side of the island.  The beach is not a swimming beach, as the coral comes right up to the sand, but the snorkelling is fabulous.  One section is quite shallow, so even Noel (who is not the world's most confident swimmer, being a Pom and all (!)) donned snorkel and mask and had a cruise around.  He got so into it, he went back three times (but unfortunately is now enduring a sunburnt back to punish his enthusiasm).  The other section - all on the same beach - is deeper and provides a whole different range of coral and fish, from giant clams to angel fish and these incredible rainbow fish (don't know what their correct name is, but you get the general idea).
Mother turtle on the beach after laying her eggs.
  We had a most enjoyable couple of hours paddling about in the water, and then went back for a quick snooze - as suggested by our guide - in case the turtles decided to come in late.
We watched the sun go down on the beach with a tin of Carlsberg in hand - a most pleasant way to end the day - then had dinner at 7.30pm.  From then on, it is just a case of waiting until you get the ranger's call that a turtle is laying.  Luckily for us (because they'd been arriving quite late), our turtle had the good grace to be laying by 9.15pm!  Our group of about 15 took off after the ranger and got to see a huge green turtle laying her last 20 or so eggs of a nest of 72.  Her carapice was over 1 metre across, so a big one, but she hadn't been to the island to lay before, so was tagged before she headed back to the water.  After we left her in peace, we went to the hatchery where the ranger placed all of the eggs into their hole, home for the next 6 weeks or so.  Apparently temperature decides upon which sex the babies will be, with higher temperatures meaning girls and lower temperatures giving boys.  The hatchery try to get a few more girls than boys, simply because they're the only ones that can lay eggs in future.  Stage 3 was to follow the ranger back to the beach with tonight's hatchlings, and watching the gorgeous little things make their way into the sea.  Unfortunately, less than 5% of them will survive, but they've had a better start than those in the wild, just be ensuring that they hatched.  Many don't make it that far due to erosion of the nests, predators and so on.
Because of our extremely considerate turtle, we were in bed by 10.30pm where we spent the rest of the night enjoying a mob of rats mambo-ing backwards and forwards across our ceiling - well, it is a nature island!
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Sunset on Selingan Island - the tu…
Sunset on Selingan Island - the t…
Hatchery, Selingan Island.
Hatchery, Selingan Island.
Baby turtle hatchlings making thei…
Baby turtle hatchlings making the…
Mother turtle on the beach after l…
Mother turtle on the beach after …
photo by: sissanoel