Good morning everyone! I am still on Libaran Island, but heading for Selingan later in the day. We made a quiet start to the day, breakfast at 7:30.... well, not that we needed to have breakfast this early, but we just felt like it. Hahaha, after all those days of getting up early, 7:30 felt like sleeping in anyway ;-))
The start of the morning was a quick dip in the sea, a lazy breakfast and after that a walk in the village. I enjoyed that walk! It was so nice to see the culture differences and the way people live here on this little island. I took a few pictures of it and I put those on my Libaran page if you are interested.
The rest of the morning was just being lazy.... mmmm, imagine yourself being lazy in that chair (see picture) doing nothing beside listen to the waves wash up on the shore and feel the warm sunshine on your face. Fantastic isn't it! And while doing that I was dreaming about the turtles we were going to see on Selingan island :-) Yes, and that's what this page is going to be about... turtles!
The lazy morning has come to an end. It's just after lunchtime and we are ready to leave Libaran Island to reach our new destination and adventure: Selingan Island! A quick boat ride of 20 minutes brought us to this tiny island in the Sulu Sea.
Excited and curious we were on our way. Today, and especially this evening, it will be turtle time! If all goes well I will see a big sea turtle laying eggs on the beach. Not sure what to expect, but hopefully for what to see, we were on our way.....
Selingan Island is part of the Turtle Island Park. It is only a tiny island, most of the island is taken up with the buildings for the staff, and some accommodations for the guests. And as you maybe can see on the map, there is not room for much else on this tiny island. It's main feature? The nice sandy beach that surrounds the island; the territory of the turtles at night :-)
Turtle Island Park is in the eastern part of Sabah (Borneo, Malaysia) in the Sulu Sea. It is only 40 minutes by boat from Sandakan, the main city on the east coast of Sabah. Selingan Island is part of the Turtle Island Park, a Marine Park consisting of a series of three islands: Selingan, Bakungan Kecil and Gulisan.
We have arrived at Selingan. A quick check in at our accommodation; no time to waste. The room is very simple, but good enough. Hahaha, no time to look around anyway, we are off again in a few minutes. A bit rushed we changed into our bathing clothes. All we need it is towels, and some energy.. We are not to stay on Selingan Island for long, we are going on a short snorkelling trip this afternoon. Hurry. hurry. the boat is waiting! :-)
We made another quick 'race' over the waters of the Sulu Sea as the boat brought us to another of the tiny Turtle Islands. Arriving at this tiny island we are confronted with the proximity of The Philippines. There is tight security on the island and the army keeps an eye out on whatever goes on on the waters and on the island.
The territorial waters of The Philippines are only a few kilometres away, and I guess for our own safety it is good that they are here. But it didn't make me feel that 'comfortable' :-)) So this is not the best place to be to lay on the beach with all those 'watching' eyes. But that is not why we are here; no time for the beach; it is snorkelling time!
Before we started snorkelling we made a little tour with a glass-bottom boat. So even the ones that couldn't go snorkelling could take a look at the amazing colours and life of the sea bottom.
If you want, you can rent snorkel gear on the island. I rented mine on Libaran Island and it didn't cost too much. I think it was about 10 Malaysian Ringgets. You can't rent any special gear though for when you wear glasses. So in that case make sure you bring your own, if you have of course.
Believe it or not, this was my first time going snorkelling. Hahaha, and I can confess that I am definitely NOT the snorkelling queen, LOL :-)) The first dip under water meant the first gulp of salt water as well, hahaha, not a good start. But slowly I started to enjoy it more and more. Looking down on the sea bottom was amazing! :-))
The current was quite strong which made staying close to the boat very difficult. As I am not the 'best' of swimmers, hahaha, and certainly not the 'best' of snorkellers this was quite worrying. So for a while I just hang on to the boat and looked down, admiring the coral and the many wonderful fish swimming around. This was my first time really looking at the 'Under Water World' and I was amazed by it. So beautiful!After a while we went back to the beach and did some snorkelling from there. Hahaha, I didn't improve my skills, the water was just as salt here, but at least the current was not as strong :-))
Back on Selingan Island! So what to do now? No turtles yet! They will show up after dark. Okay, lets go the beach! The beach isn't a huge area but it looks nice. Blue sea, nice sandy beach, yep this looks good! But it wasn't as good at all as it seemed to be!
After only 10 seconds in the sand I jumped up again! Eeeeeeks! Sand flies... and lots, biting me all over! That's no fun! Oh well, no big loss, hahaha, I am not such a beach person anyway ;-))
So instead of being lazy on the beach we decided to relax outside our room where we found a nice bench in the sun. Good conversation, nice drinks and great company.... this was not a bad thing at all :-)
It made me wonder for a little while what these tracks in the sand were, and suddenly I realized it: the turtles! So fascinating to see, so weird to realize, so wonderful to know!
Here I was walking on the beach seeing all these trails in the sand of the turtles in their attempt to crawl up the beach during night time. And it is not just one trail, they are all over the beach! I saw dozens of them on this little stretch of the beach. At the end of these trails, on top of the hill, there is a big hole, where the turtles have laid there eggs. This was the first sign for me that the turtles are really here.... wow, I got excited about tonight, would I really see a turtle tonight??
After taking it easy for a while we decided to take a look at the only attraction on the island: the watchtower. It was only a few meters walk to get here, hahaha, as the island is so small. And then... up those stairs....
The one real witness that this IS a turtle island is the hatchery. Here is where the turtles eggs are moved too during the night, to keep them save for predators. Rows and rows of these nests are here, a good sign! The more nests, the better is goes with those beautiful turtles!
Turtle Island Park is one of the most important turtle breeding spots in South East Asia and has been a turtle conservation area for over 30 years. There are two types of turtles that lay their eggs here: the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle. The area surrounding the islands are protected and form a safe haven for these turtles. And that is good, as these turtles always return to the same place to lay their eggs: their birthplace.
Here is another nest in the hatchery: nest number 1810 and is from the 27th May 2004.
Now the evening has fallen, the waiting game begins....
A quiet evening, the sea is calm, the sun is setting, the temperatures are so nice and tropical warm. It's after 6 o'clock and the beaches are off limit from now, it is the territory of the turtles, no people allowed. It is also the start of the waiting game..... the quietness before the 'storm'. Everyone is waiting for the time that the ranger will call 'Turtle Time Turtle Time!' The time that we can go out on the beach to see the turtles lay eggs. But when that is...... nobody can tell. It can be as early as 9 o'clock, but it can be around 4 o'clock in the morning too.....
Downstairs in the main building is the restaurant area, and upstairs is a little exposition about Turtle Islands Park and the turtles. And as we needed to 'kill' some time while waiting for the turtles to show up, we took a look around in the exposition area. The exposition was quite nice, hahaha, but there was one funny fact: flashlights required!
As the generator on the island had a hard time keeping up with the demand for electricity with all the air conditioners running on full speed, the lights kept going out again and again. So in the end our guide 'One' told all about the turtles in 'flashlight'. Good thing we had those things with us! It was a strange but funny way to see the exposition. If you are on the island, don't forget to go here, it is nice to see. But maybe looking at it in daytime is a better idea ;-)
The life cycle of a turtle is not an easy one. Only a tiny percentage of them will survive and come back to these beaches to lay their eggs. But that takes a long time, as only after 30 - 50 years the female turtle starts breeding. When they do survive, they can become very old, anywhere from 40 to 70 years.
It's dinner time, buffet style. I can't remember much about dinner, hahaha, I guess I was too much in anticipation about 'Turtle time' :-) This sign on the wall didn't help much either I guess, telling how many turtles had been there the evening before. 12 nests in total, 956 eggs laid, and 800 cute little turtles released from the hatchery. First nesting time 9:30.. How late would it be for us?
If you want to take pictures of the turtles you have to pay a camera fee of 10 Ringgit. I was in doubt if I should do it or not as it is not guaranteed that you will get any (good) pictures. But I decided to give it a go anyway. Biggest problem : no flashlight allowed at any time and also the use of torches is off-limits when you are with the turtles. So in short: it's very dark outside, no light at all, so how can you take pictures?
I just bet on my digital camera as it is rather light sensitive, and hoped for the best so I decided to pay the camera fee. And it worked out! The rangers did shine a little light with their torches on the turtle and the eggs with made some picture taking possible.
21:25.... A Ranger opens the door to the restaurants and shouts "Turtle Time!!!"..... And it was instant chaos :-) Everyone jumped up from their chairs to get outside as soon as possible, it is turtle time! No shoes allowed in the restaurant, so around 40 pairs of shoes were waiting on the front porch. In the dark it is not an easy task to find your own shoes back, so the chaos was complete :-)
But everyone was laughing, happy, and followed (= almost running) the Ranger onto the beach as quickly as we could. Ooooh, and when I got here I was so overwhelmed! I could sit really close to the turtle, a Green Turtle it was. And look at her, almost touch her. She was busy laying eggs, not taking any notice of everyone around her. I looked at her face, it looked tired from crawling up the beach and laying the eggs, I even imagined seeing a little teardrop in the corner of her eyes. I felt like I invaded her privacy here on her beach.... But oh, what a wonderful moment this was to see this beautiful creature.
You are not allowed on the beach while the turtles are trying to crawl to the top. The presence of so many people might scare them away and the mother-to-be disappear into the sea again. So you will miss part of the 'turtle experience'. But this one moment is wonderful enough, seeing a big sea turtle lay eggs at night.
One by one the eggs 'plop' out in an amazing fast speed. The turtle has dig a whole of about 40 cm deep with the hind flippers and starts laying the eggs.
The amazing number of 111 eggs is what this turtle has been laying! To give you an idea about their size an look, just imagine a ping-pong ball. While the turtle was laying her eggs, the ranger carefully took out all of them from the nest and put them on the side. From here they will be transported to the hatchery.
The egg laying is done and the turtle has started to cover up her nest with sand by flapping her flippers. Time to watch out, because the sand is flying around while she is doing this. This is also the sign for all of us to leave her alone and return back to the main building. The beach is territory of the turtles again, the guests leave quietly, amazed, and a maybe also a bit sad as this wonderful moment is over.
But the evening is not done yet, next visit: the hatchery. Here in the sand similar nests have been made, but now in a more protective area, so that the turtles have a better chance to survive. The ranger explains a bit more about the hatchery and a turtles life, and for the ones who wish, you can hold a small turtle egg for a little while. After a 2- to 3-month incubation period, the young turtles hatch and dig their way through the sand to the surface.
Oooh nooo.... my batteries of the camera ran out!!!! Hahaha, I felt awful there for a second, but no worries, we were able to just squeeze enough power out of them to take this last picture :-)
But the evening hasn't come to an end yet, we have yet to see the next step in the life cycle of the turtle.... the release of the little turtles on the beach and their race for being first into the sea.
I have no pictures of that as there wasn't enough light, but the next morning our guide 'One' had some stray turtles for us to look at and to hold. They are so cute! And strong! Flapping their flippers with all their strength in a nature born urge to find the sea as soon as possible. They didn't care if I held them or not, all they wanted is to move forward in search of the sea. Hahaha, and that meant I had to keep hold of them quite good! Their strength is really surprising and they will escape from your hands before you know it.
But back to yesterday evening.... the last part was seeing the little turtles released on the beach. But before they do that, you do get a chance to hold one of these cuties. After this 'petting' session we all went to the beach for the turtles to be released. And off they all went racing to the sea. It was a wonderful sight to see! There is no light allowed as this might confuse their sense of direction. Only a few torches of the rangers showed the turtles which way to go. But that was more than enough light to see them race to the sea. It has been a wonderful evening, I don't think I will forget this experience very soon.
It is 6:30 in the morning and it is time to leave the island. Latest news: last night there were 15 turtles laying eggs on the beach :-) A last look back to the island, I can see many tracks of the turtles in the sand. So amazing to see that so many turtles crawl up to the beach all over the island. The last thing I saw of Selingan Island, this trip couldn't have ended better than t his last little sign of the special evening we had here, goodbye turtles.
Still feeling sleepy, but happy, we are on our way again. The high speed boat is going to bring us back to Selingan Island where we make a quick stop for breakfast, and than it is off to the mainland for a visit to Sepilok Orang Utan Centre.
Hahaha, the man in the boat had fun in it though, being on the water this early in the morning. He and his colleague made a race out of it who would be first back in Selingan. We won :-)))
My trip to Selingan Island has come to an end, but my Borneo adventures Continue!
The previous leg of my journey was a visit to Libaran Island, some lazy time at the beach, a excursion to the mangrove forest and finally an interesting walk through the islands village.
And from the Turtle Islands park and Selingan Island I am heading to the Sepilok Orang Utan Cente
I hope you will join me on this virtual trip and enjoy reading my travel stories and see the pictures. For me it has been fantastic to write about my journey because it has made me relive the trip once again :-)