Turtle Magic: Selingan Island An Unforgettable Borneo Adventure

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Visit Borneo’s Turtle Island

In this article we’re setting out on a thrilling Borneo adventure, centered on the magic of sea turtles and the preservation of their habitats. Your journey includes a 35-minute boat ride to the stunning Selingan Island, known for its efforts in turtle conservation.

You’ll explore the vibrant mini-reefs, learn about delicate marine ecosystems, and appreciate how interconnected life under the sea really is. Even your dining choices, focused on local, sustainable ingredients, reflect their commitment to minimizing environmental impacts.

Read on for everything you need to know to visit Selingan “Turtle” Island in Sabah, Borneo.

Selingan Turtle Island off the coast of Sabah, Borneo
Selingan Turtle Island off the coast of Sabah, Borneo

About Selingan Island

Selingan Island, also known as Turtle Island, is a small yet significant part of the Turtle Islands Park located off the north coast of Borneo, Malaysia. Established in 1977, the park spans an area of approximately 1,740 hectares, encompassing three islands: Selingan, Bakungan Kecil, and Gulisan.

Selingan Island is the main nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles, making it a crucial habitat for these endangered species. The island’s establishment was driven by the need to protect these turtles and ensure their survival amidst growing threats from human activities and environmental changes.

The primary goal of Selingan Island’s turtle conservation efforts is to protect and preserve the nesting sites of green and hawksbill turtles.

The island serves as a sanctuary where turtles can lay their eggs in a safe and protected environment. Conservation activities include monitoring nesting patterns, protecting nests from predators, and ensuring that hatchlings make it safely to the sea. The island’s beaches are patrolled nightly by dedicated staff who relocate eggs to hatcheries to safeguard them from natural and human threats.

These efforts are vital for the sustainability of turtle populations, which have been significantly impacted by poaching, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Selingan Island is managed by the Sabah Parks, a government agency responsible for the conservation and management of protected areas in Sabah, Malaysia. The agency works closely with various international organizations and local communities to promote conservation awareness and education.

Visitors to the island can participate in guided tours to witness the nesting and hatching process, fostering a deeper understanding of marine conservation. These tours are strictly regulated to minimize human impact on the turtles and their habitat.

In addition to its role as a turtle conservatory, Selingan Island offers a unique eco-tourism experience. The island’s pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters attract visitors who are keen to witness the natural beauty and biodiversity of the region.

Educational programs and conservation activities are integrated into the tourism experience, highlighting the importance of preserving marine ecosystems. Through these initiatives, Selingan Island not only contributes to the protection of endangered turtles but also promotes sustainable tourism practices that benefit both the environment and local communities.

Selingan Island hatchling area, Borneo.
Selingan Island hatchling area, Borneo.

Booking Your Adventure

To book our adventure to Selingan Island, we can easily use platforms like Borneo Adventure or directly contact the resort via their website or WhatsApp. This streamlined process includes critical conservation fees that support local wildlife efforts.

Once booked, we’re set for an expedition that not only promises relaxation but also an immersive ecological experience. The tour includes a detailed package—boat transfers, accommodation, and meals, ensuring we’re well-prepared to explore the island’s natural beauty without unexpected hassles.

The itinerary focuses on minimal environmental impact, aligning closely with the island’s conservation goals. By choosing this organized approach, we contribute to the protection of the marine life and habitats we’re so excited to discover, making our trip both enjoyable and ethically sound.

Arrival and Accommodation

Upon reaching Selingan Island, we were greeted at the reception, where the check-in process was swift and efficient. The welcome juice was a invigorating start to our adventure.

Here’s an overview of our accommodations:

FeatureDescriptionEcological Focus
LocationClustered away from beach and receptionMinimizes human impact on beachfront
DesignChalets in groups of four with shared seatingPromotes social interaction
AmenitiesAir-con, en-suite bathroom, comfy bedsEnsures comfort with minimal impact
SurroundingsClose proximity to natural settingsEnhances interaction with nature

The thoughtfully designed chalets provided us with both comfort and a constant connection to the island’s natural beauty.

The rooms at Selingan Island Turtle Resort
The rooms at Selingan Island Turtle Resort

Daily Activities On Turtle Island

We started our day with an invigorating 35-minute speedboat ride to Selingan Island, setting the stage for an afternoon filled with snorkeling and beach relaxation.

Once ashore, we geared up for snorkeling, exploring the mini-reefs just 30 meters off the beach. The biodiversity here is somewhat decent, with a myriad of tropical fish flitting among the corals, which serve as critical habitats and breeding grounds.

The snorkelling is OK but its not great, however that’s not the reason you come to Selingan Island.

Afterwards, we relaxed on the beach, its white sands a stark contrast to the lush greenery, providing a serene backdrop to reflect on the interconnectedness of these natural systems.

Dining Options

Meals on Selingan Island are provided buffet-style, including options for lunch, dinner, and breakfast. The dishes primarily feature local ingredients, supporting nearby agricultural communities and reducing the carbon footprint associated with food transportation.

Each meal offers a variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, contributing to a balanced diet while promoting local biodiversity.

Importantly, free access to water encourages hydration with minimal waste, as plastic bottled beverages are available only at a premium. This approach not only sustains our health but also aligns with the conservation efforts essential to this ecologically sensitive region.

You all meet at the main food hall for dinner at which time you are given a brief overview of the evening ahead. The turtles come up to nest on their own time of course so you do have to be prepared to wait until the ranger comes to get you, which they do once they have a turtle who is starting to lay.

On the night we were there the rangers didn’t come and get us till about 10:30pm. A few of our group went to bed because they couldn’t be bothered waiting but I stayed up and it was SO worth it.

You follow the ranger down to the beach where they ask that you quietly watch the nesting process. The rangers measure the turtles, make sure the eggs are all laid safely and chat to you about the turtles life during this process.

You are allowed to take photos but not with a flash.

Turtle laying eggs on Selingan Island Borneo
Turtle laying eggs on Selinagan Island Borneo
Ranger measuring a turtles shell Selingan Island Borneo
Ranger measuring a turtles shell Selingan Island Borneo

Departure Process

After enjoying breakfast on Selingan Island, guests prepare for an efficient departure process.

The speedboats are loaded swiftly, demonstrating the tour company’s commitment to a tight schedule that respects the nesting patterns of the turtles.

As we leave the island, the staff conducts a final sweep of the beach area, removing any litter to maintain the ecosystem’s integrity. This meticulous attention to environmental preservation is evident, reflecting the broader conservation efforts that define our stay.

Our departure, though bittersweet, is a sign of the sustainable tourism practices that Crystal Tours upholds, leaving a minimal footprint on the natural paradise of Selingan Island.

As part of a group we only stayed for 1 night, however multiple night stays are also allowed.

Optimal Travel Periods For Visiting Selingan Island

Selecting the best time to visit Selingan Island is crucial, as the period from July to October offers calmer sea conditions and peak turtle activity. During these months, we’re provided with the prime opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

I visited in February and it was just beautiful, but I would recommend contacting the island direct and asking for their recommended dates and times.

Here’s what makes this period special:

  1. Enhanced Visibility: Calmer waters not only guarantee safer boat rides but also clearer snorkeling conditions, allowing us to observe underwater life more vividly.
  2. Increased Turtle Landings: Warmer nights encourage more turtles to come ashore to nest, maximizing our chances of witnessing this magical event.
  3. Ideal Weather: Minimal rainfall and gentle breezes create perfect conditions for night watches.

Turtle Conservation Efforts

We can contribute greatly to turtle conservation by sponsoring a nest, which aids in their protection and increases their survival rates. This initiative not only funds the maintenance of nesting beaches but also supports the monitoring of hatchling success rates, offering a direct impact on the species’ future.

Conservation ActionImpact
Sponsoring a NestFunds beach patrols and maintenance
Research and MonitoringEnhances understanding of turtle behavior
Education and OutreachRaises awareness and promotes community involvement
Ask at the island how you can help.
Selingan Turtle Island Beach
Selingan Turtle Island Beach

Frequently Asked Questions About Selingan Island

Are There Medical Facilities Available on Selingan Island?

There are no medical facilities on Selingan Island. Visitors should prepare by bringing necessary medications and first-aid supplies, and be aware of the nearest healthcare options before traveling. I’m sure that at least one of the staff is probably trained in emergency first aid, but you will need to bring any medications with you.

Can Children Participate in All Island Activities?

Yes children can participate in most island activities, such as snorkeling and beach time, but the midnight turtle viewing might be challenging for younger kids due to the late hours and waiting periods. They are welcome however they must follow the guidlines exactly.

Is Wi-Fi Available in the Chalets or Reception Area?

There wasn’t Wi-Fi availability in the chalets or reception area, when I was visiting which was kind of nice. A digital disconnect is the best way for guests to engage more fully with the natural surroundings and conservation activities.

Are There Specific Clothing Recommendations for the Turtle Watch?

For the turtle watch, we recommend wearing dark, comfortable clothing to minimize disturbance to the turtles. Durable, closed-toed shoes are advisable as the terrain can be uneven and sandy.

How Do They Manage Waste Disposal on the Island?

We’ve noticed that waste management on the island includes designated disposal sites and strict guidelines to minimize environmental impact, ensuring the preservation of the habitat for the turtles and other marine life.

What Are The Photography Rules?

A fee of RM 10 per camera or phone is payable to use it to take photos of the turtles. Anything around the island is fine, but if you wan to take photos of the turtle nesting you do have to pay the fee. It goes into conservation efforts.



Even though it was only a 2 day trip, I left totally refreshed as to the conservation efforts that are followed on the island.

Watching the turtles come ashore and lay their eggs is a special activity that I highly recommend. If you are in the Sandakan area, be sure to check it out.

Turtle laying eggs at Selingan Turtle Island
Turtle laying eggs at Selingan Turtle Island

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She’s always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.