Visiting Turtle Island
Jake got me the most awesome birthday present last year – a trip to Pulau Selingan aka Turtle Island. I had researched the trip but had decided it was too expensive so I was over the moon when he treated us both. He’s such a good egg (sometimes!) This post will cover how we booked the trip, how we got to Turtle island and what we did while on the island.
Booking our visit to Turtle Island, Pulau Selingan
Because it was a birthday present Jake booked the trip but he tells me it was easy and quick. Before leaving the UK a friend told me I should do this trip but it had to be booked months in advance because only 60 people can visit on any one night. Jake booked just days before our visit. There is only one hotel on Turtle Island and the hotel cannot be booked directly so going through an agent is unavoidable. Jake shopped around to get the best deal and Rowena at Borneo Sandakan Tours offered the best value for money. We paid 700 RM (£130) per person for one day and one night on the island. The price covered accommodation, transfers to the boat, the boat, three meals and entrance to the national park. You can get more information on the booking and the trip on the Borneo Sandakan Website.
Getting to Turtle Island, Pulau Selingan
Transfers from our hotel to the boat were included in the package. We were delighted when a private taxi arrived to pick us up at our out of town hotel. The driver of the taxi was really lovely and knowledgable. Straight away he started explaining our itinerary and building the excitement for the day ahead. He even asked if we had enough water and snacks and stopped off at a convenience store for us.
The driver dropped us off at the boat and introduced us to our guide for the next 24 hours. Sadly I’ve forgotten his name but he was really good. We then climbed onto the boat with around 10 other people and set off for the island. The boat trip is interesting in itself because you sail past a sea gypsy Jetty. It only took about 30 minutes to get there.
The accommodation on Turtle Island – Selingan Island Resort
Weren’t expecting much for the accomodation due to reviews on Trip Advisor and the fact it has a monopoly on the island but we were pleasantly surprised. Our room was a twin room with AC and an ensuite. It was clean and we didn’t have many insects contrary to some Trip Advisor reviews.
The food was also surprisingly good. A few options were offered at each meal and there was ample tea and coffee. There is a small shop on the island where you can buy snacks but costs are high. You can also get alcohol at the shop but make sure you don’t fall asleep before the turtles arrive!
Things to do on Turtle Island, Pulau Selingan
When you arrive on the Island you are introduced to the rules and given the whole day to yourself. We used this time to sun bath, snorkel and explore the island. You can rent snorkelling gear on the island including flippers. We snorkelled for a bit but found the water was too shallow and we were swimming uncomfortably close to the coral. Exploring the island was much more enjoyable and we spotted lots of monitor lizards on our walk. The views from the island are beautiful and the sunset was unreal. Lots of opportunities to take photos.
The main attraction – Seeing some Turtles
After dinner you are asked to stay in the dining area and wait for the turtles to arrive. When you book the tour you are told you might not see any turtles and we were travelling out of season so this was a possibility. There is a board by reception that tells you about the turtle activity the night before. The first turtle had arrived at 10pm the night before so I was hopeful we wouldn’t have to wait long to see a nesting Turtle. Well, 9pm passed, 10pm passed, 11pm passed… still no turtle. I was getting nervous. We decided to go for a walk to distract ourselves and that is when it happened. I walked straight into a ranger who was speeding towards me shouting for us all to come see the mother turtle. All of a sudden I was first in line to see the turtle and I had a front row seat. I was so excited and walking so quickly that I fell down a hole in the sand!
Seeing the mother turtle was amazing. She was so big and calm considering that she was giving birth in front of several spectators. As she gives birth the ranger collects the eggs to transport them to the hatchery. At this stage we had ample opportunity to listen to the mother and look closely at her. Photography was also allowed but without flash. Annoyingly we had a douchebag in our group who kept using the flash on his camera! When the mother had finished and filled in the hole we moved to the hatchery to bury her eggs in a safe location.
Now it was time to find some eggs that had hatched that night. This was my favourite part of the night. Once located the newly hatched baby turtles were scooped into a container and we all went down to the beach to set them free into the ocean. The ranger does most of the handling but at one point he asked for a volunteer to move any turtles going the wrong way back towards the sea. And that is how I got to handle two baby turtles! It was so awesome. I can hardly believe I got to do it. After this we retired to our bed and I dreamt of baby turtles 🙂
This experience was unforgettable and probably my favourite 48 hours of travelling so far. If you love turtles or wildlife this experience is for you. We very nearly didn’t go because of the cost but it’s so worth it.
What is your favourite animal attraction you’ve visited on your travels? Have you been to Pulau Selingan? what did you think? I’d love to see Turtles again, can you recommend anywhere else I can visit? Looking forward to your thoughts.