Sabah has 6 Marine Parks open to the public :

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Pulau Tiga Park
Turtle Island Park (Pulau Penyu National Park)
Tun Sakaran Marine Park
Pulau Sipadan Park
Tun Mustapha Marine Park

The Turtle Island Park is also known as Pulau Penyu National Park.
The Park comprises of three islands:
1- Pualau Selingan,
2- Pulau Bakkungan Kecil
3- Pulau Gulisan

The park gained its popularity from the green and hawksbill turtles which lay their eggs on the beaches of the islands.
All the three islands are protected within marine parks on both sides of the Malaysian and Philippine borders.
The turtles lay their eggs all year round but are more common between July and October when the seas are calmer.

Tuesday, 05 August 2014 11:59
Number Of Tourist Arrivals To Selingan Island Returning To Normal - Shahidan


"We are confident that the number will reach the normal 1,000 tourists a day..."

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department
Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim
told reporters after visiting the security control post
in Selingan Island on Monday, 04 August 2014

The number of tourist arrivals to Selingan Island in Pulau Penyu National Park is returning to normal following the government's move to increase security control in the east coast of Sabah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said. Right now, the number of tourist arrivals to the island stood at between 700 and 900 people daily.

The Pulau Penyu National Park consists of three islands, namely Selingan, Bakungan Kecil and Gulisan.

However, accommodations for visitors and tourists are only available in Selingan Island.

Turtle Island Park
Turtle Paradise



Turtle Islands Park is 40 km north of Sandakan Town. It encompasses an area of 1,740 hectares which includes the three islands of Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan; the sea and surrounding coral reefs.

Main Attraction
The main attractions here are the turtles which come to nest on their shores. Pulau Selingan is the main nesting area for the green turtles chelonia mydas, while the hawksbill turtles Eretmochelys seem particularly attracted to the shores of Pulau Gulisan. Both species lay their eggs on these shores throughout the year, although the best months are between July to October. The islands were gazette as Marine Parks in 1977 primarily for the protection of these two species in order to save them from extinction.

Nesting : The turtles take their time laying their eggs. The whole ritual of emerging from the sea, then choosing a suitable site and clearing the area before laying about 100 eggs ; concealing the eggs with sand and finally taking their leave takes one whole hour!

Almost  every night mother turtles come up and lay their eggs, after digging a hole in the sand. Each mother turtle lays about 100 eggs. The project workers then go around behind the turtles and remove the eggs as they are laid, and the mother turtle has no knowledge of this. When the turtle has finished, she covers the hole thinking the eggs are inside.

When it was found that turtles came to this island every night to lay eggs in, the island was turned in to a sanctuary project and hence Turtle Island.

The eggs are then placed in a hole in the yard of the sanctuary and filled in with sand and given a protective fence around the top. 7 weeks later when the turtles emerge, they are removed from their fenced in area and let safely in to the water.

The turtles ID marking was read, and notes were taken and the turtle fill the hole and return on its own.


The small Turtle Island has a nice beach, but couldn't sit on it long due to the sand flies. When nightfall, mother turtles comes. The turtles can come as early as 7pm, or as late at 2am.

Baby turtles are released at night. Everyone get a chance to hold one for a couple minutes. The proper way is to hold it between 2 fingers. These little guys instinctively know that its time to go to the water, and are doing everything in their power to get there. So while you're holding them, they're flipping wildly. The back flippers have almost no power, but the front ones have strong pull as it is about 3-4 inches long.


Getting there

The best way to visit the Turtle Islands is through one of the many reputable tour companies in Sabah. Alternatively, and sometimes works out a little cheaper, is to go out with Corel Island Cruises which run a boat service to the island. The only difference is that you will be unguided. Turtles nest all year round, but the best times to visit the islands are between July and October when the seas are calmer. Apart from the Turtle Islands, the other attractions in the eastern region include the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Sepilok Forest Reserve, Australian War Memorial and further a field, the lower Kinabatangan river which is one of the best places to see a wide array of wildlife from the comfort of the boat!

Pulau Selingan : 8 hectares in size and  is the second largest of 3 islands. The turtles come ashore on the east and southwestern parts of the island to lay their eggs before returning to the sea. They normally come ashore after 7. 30 pm but have also been seen nesting in the early hours of the morning between 5 to 6am.

Accommodation is available on the island for those who wish to stay overnight to witness the nesting. A restaurant is also available for visitors to enjoy hot meals.

Pulau Bakkungan Kecil : This is the largest island and it lies close to the Philippines border. Active mud volcanoes are also present here. These are not true volcanoes but originate as mineral-rich mud, expelled from deep below the surface. The favorite nesting places of the Green Turtles are the beaches on the northern and western shores of the island.

No accommodation facilities on Pulau Bakkungan Kecil.

Pulau Gulisan : This smallest island is only 1.6 hectare in size but remains one of the favorite haunts of the hawksbill turtles which lay their eggs on the northern, eastern and southwestern beaches. All sea turtles eat marine animals such as sponges, marine worms and molluscs and the hawksbills are no exception. Being carnivorous, they feed on the invertebrate animals of the coral reefs. The adult Green Turtles however, are strict vegetarians, limiting their diet to the underwater grass and seaweed.

Another merciless killing of sea turtles in Sabah
Read more:


2014 - Another merciless killing of sea turtle

A Fisheries Department staff in Semporna district was on his way home on Tuesday 15th April, 2014 when he saw four dead sea turtles floating at the sea between Bum-Bum Island and Kulapuan Island. He then took pictures and posted on his Facebook.

Top of list of suspects is the seaweed farmers. The re-occurrence of conflict between sea turtle and the seaweed farmers has been recorded since 1990s.
Between Bum Bum Island and Semporna town areas adjacent to Tun Mustapha Marine Park have been the favorite foraging habitat of Green Turtles long before the boom in seaweed farming. Sea turtle is a pest to seaweed farming; they can destroy the entire seaweed farm overnight.

Seaweed farmers are fed up complaining about damages from sea turtles and if they can, will take revenge by harming the animal.

Read more:

Visitors Are Forbidden From Engaging In Any Of The Following:

Wander along the beach after dark. (The Park Ranger will inform you when there is a turtle laying eggs.)

Build campfires, shine bright torches on the beach, sing, dance or play music on the beach at night.

Disturb the turtle during the nesting process by coming too close or crowding around her. Instead, visitors re advised to watch the nesting from a distance.

Under any circumstances, ride on the turtle, pull her flippers, turn her over, 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, however, is permitted with hook and line only.


A visit to these islands is a must on your itinerary, if you are interested in the conservation of these turtles.



3 units (fully furnished) for 20 persons per night.

Reservations for accommodation can be made at:

Crystal Quest Sdn. Bhd.
Tel : 089-212711

The islands are built over shallow rocky shoals from coral shingle from the surrounding reef on the fringes. They are covered with a variety of plant life which includes mangrove, lantana, the yellow-flowered sophora and the furry silver-leaved Tournefortia.

Hatcheries : Park staff collect the eggs and transfer them to hatcheries where every effort is made to ensure successful hatching. After an incubation period of about 50 to 60 days, the hatchlings dig their way up to the surface and they are later released to the sea from different points around the islands. They are then on their own, to survive the dangers at sea and perhaps return one day to lay their eggs on the very same shores as their mother once did.

When to go

Turtles lay eggs throughout the year, but more common between July and October when the seas are calmer.


By boat to Pulau Selingan from Sandakan town. No public boat services are available. You have to go through the Parks office or arrange a visit through a tour company.


Compulsory. Permits and accommodation can booked through the Sabah Parks Office in Sandakan. Alternatively, trips can be arranged through tour operators who will arrange the permits, travel and accommodation.


Sun and sea. But snorkeling and diving opportunities are limited. A torch is handy, but may not be used when watching turtles nesting.


Overnight accommodation, visitor center and a restaurant only at Pulau Selingan. The facilities have been privatized and accommodation limited. You really have no choice but to go with a tour company.


The sea turtles (Green and Hawksbill turtles) are the star attractions. Dolphins may be sighted outside the Sandakan Bay.

Visitor Activities

Turtle-watching, snorkeling, and limited bird watching.


There are boat services from Sandakan Harbor to the islands. The journey may take anything between 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on your destination and the boat's speed.

The park was created to protect the natural environment especially the sea turtles, the coral reefs and other marine life. There are therefore stringent rules which visitors are advised to observe.


Crystal Quest Sdn. Bhd.

Wisma Khoo Siak Chiew     12th Floor, Room 1204

P.O.Box 848  Sandakan, Sabah

Tel: 089-212711      Fax:089-212712


Located 40km north of Sandakan (approximately an hour boat ride from Sandakan city) in the Sulu Sea off Sabah's east coast is the Turtle Islands Park. It is made up of three islands, namely Pulau Bakkungan Kecil, Pulau Selingaan and Pulau Gulisan. Encompassing some 1,740 hectares, the islands are built over shallow rocky shoals from coral shingle from the  surrounding reef on the fringes.

The islands boast a myriad of flora, including mangrove, lantana and the furry silver-leaved Tournefortia. However, the real stars of the island are the turtles, which come to nest the shores. Pulau Selingaan is the main nesting area for the green turtles (Chelonia mydas) while the beautiful hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys) tend to flock to the shores of Pulau Gulisan. The turtles lay eggs throughout the year, although the best months are between July to October. The islands were gazette as Marine Parks in 1977 for the protection of these two species to prevent them from extinction.

The harvesting of turtle eggs from this area began before the colonial days. Over-harvesting led to the decline in egg production but was not until 1971 that the turtles were given any form of legal protection. In 1977, the islands and its surrounding seas were handed over to the Sabah Park Trustees and hence came about the Turtle Island Park. The best time to visit is during the driest month and the calmest seas between the months of March and September. Avoid October to February as this is when the islands receive the northeastern monsoon windstorms. For more information please contact Sabah Tourism Board at 088-212121 or Sri Pelancongan Sabah at 088-232121.

At one time, Rantau Abang (Terengganu), was one of the most famous sites in Malaysia to see nesting sea turtles. Chiefly, the Giant Leatherback turtles would return to this region to breed once a year. Sadly, due to the pressures from marine pollution, accidental killings in fish nets and hunting, the numbers of leatherbacks have diminished and even fewer return today to Rantau Abang. On the other side of Malaysia, in Sabah, pioneering efforts by the State Government in the 1960s has shown more encouraging results. By gazetting a marine park around a number of important turtle breeding sites and establishing a protected hatchery for turtle eggs, the Government of that time made an important step to safe guard the future of sea turtles. Today, the Turtle Island Park, Sandakan remains one of the premier sites in Malaysia to observe nesting sea turtles. The most common nesting sea turtle seen here are the Green Turtles.

Turtle Island Park consists of a number of uninhabited islands lying within the Sulu Seas, off the east coast of Sabah. Turtle Island, or Selingan Island, is the largest of these islands and has been developed to house the park's headquarters, a visitors 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. This was the former capital of Sabah, and was once in the mid-1970s, the heart of a "seemingly" booming timber industry. The town today is probably most renown for the Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (Sepilok), which is located on its outskirts.

A boat trip from Sandakan to the Turtle Islands usually takes about an hour by speed boat. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of Irrawaddy Dolphins, which are bold creatures and are often found feeding within the Sandakan Bay. One thing that often strikes visitors is the stilt houses built over the shallow waters of the Sandakan Bay. This kind of community is common throughout the East Coat, and presumably is a cheap way to make a home, but where else would you stay when you earn a living from the sea. Upon approaching Selingan Island, don't be surprised if you cannot make out much signs of inhabitation on the island and begin to wander if you are being dumped on a deserted island! The island has been developed carefully, and the facilities are neatly tucked away in the centre of the island, keeping the beech vegetation intact.

Turtle landings usually occur after dusk. The park has a sensible policy of allowing visitors to see only one landing a night. This allows undisturbed nesting to go on throughout the night. Whilst waiting for the evenings highlight, all that is left to do is to laze around the beach or snorkel. The west side of the island is ideal for this. They are clean, quiet, and offer some interesting coral and sea life for a decent days snorkeling. Have a wander around the island and you'll be surprised how many turtles have landed in the last few days, their tracks, like mini-tractors, remain in the sand for a number of days. There is a small visitors centre, which is highly recommended, and is open later in the evening. You will not only learn about sea turtles but also of the different parks in Sabah and its unique nature.

The evening's programme begins after supper, when the wait for the first landing begins. If you are lucky this could be right after dessert! Once a landing has been sighted by the Park Rangers, the rangers will escort visitors to the nesting turtle. Remember not to shine your torchlight's on the nesting mother, as it is stressful on the turtle.

After the eggs been laid, they are removed and planted within the turtle hatchery. This ensure that wild predators such as the monitor lizards do not get to the eggs. After a period of incubation the eggs hatched and young turtles are released back to sea. As soon as they are mature enough to mate they will return to Turtle Islands.

Last Updated: 13 March  2008

INDEX - Islands of Sabah  December 18, 2014 09:53:05 PM

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