There are two hatcheries on the island. These hatcheries are small plots of sand, with new transplanted nests being dug every night.
These hatcheries serve multiple purposes.
First, since the incubation period of the eggs is about two months, it is quite possible that other nesting turtles could disrupt or destroy other nests after they eggs have been laid.
Secondly, the hatcheries provided shelter and protection from other predators, mainly birds and lizards.
Third, the turtles should make their nests above the high water mark. However not always does this happen and the nests if left unattended may wash away or be drowned by rising tides.
Lastly, the eggs themselves are neutral gender when laid. It is the average temperature during their incubation that determines their sex. Temperatures below 29C result in males and temperatures above 29C result in females. The hatcheries are carefully monitored and controlled to keep the sun/shade and sand temperatures within the nests. This helps maintain a balanced population.
The next day, on my way back to Sandakan, our boat turned around just after we left the island. The tourguide had seen a turtle in the open water.
As we turned around we could clearly see not only one, but two turtles moving heavily at the surface. They were mating. The guide told us that this was a very special spectacle to see, but of course it is possible that he says that every day. At least I thought it was really spectacular. It took about 5 minutes until the animals went down again, appearing to be satisfied.
Then the rough trip back to the mainland could start again.
After the baby turtles have dug their way out of the nest at the Hatchery, they are collected by the Rangers and are taken to the beach to be released. Before they let them go, the tourists are allowed to hold them for a while. It is amazing to feel the power that these little creatures already have. Hard to imagine how that will be when they are grown-up.
Then it is time to release them. Close to the water the Ranger lets all the turtles go. Then, all you can do is hope that they will make it. The tiny animals have a lot of dangers to overcome once they are out there in the Sulu Sea: they are often eaten by birds or fish. Only 2% of the total number of turtles will make it to an adult.
It can take up to 20 years for the turtles to become completely mature. And after that maybe they will come back at Pulau Selingan to lay their eggs.
After the eggs are taken by the Ranger and all counted, they are taken to the Hatchery. Here the Ranger buries all the eggs that are found on the island, in a fenced, protected area. Every "nest" is indicated by a net and a piece of wood that tells the date of nesting and the number of eggs that is found.
Because every day new eggs are found and because it takes 50 to 60 days for the little turtles to come out, the area really looks like a graveyard with countless nets. After the period of 50 to 60 days the little turtles come out of the 30 centimetres deep nest, mostly at night when the soil is cooler. Then they are ready to explore the Sulu Sea for the very first time.
The Turtle Islands Park has a strict policy that only one nesting a night can be observed by the tourists on the island. At this way they can make sure that most of the nestings happen completely undisturbed.
Once the Park Ranger has seen a first turtle landing on the island, they will call the tourists to have a look. You will see the turtle (they can be huge!) laying the eggs in a self-dug hole in the sand. It is strictly forbidden to use flash for your camera's and to shine with torchlights at the animal, so don't expect the best pictures. You should just enjoy the moment.
The eggs are immediately taken away by the Ranger to prevent them from robbery by humans and animals. They are counted and taken away. The night of my visit the nesting was good for 99 eggs!
After your dinner in the restaurant you will have to wait a while before the turtles show up. This can even take a few hours. That time you can use perfectly to get to know just a bit more about the creatures you are about to see in the Pulau Selingan Information Centre.
At the first floor of the mainbuilding they have made an interesting exhibition about the animals. You can see the eggs, skeletons of the turtles, several maps of where they live and much more information, also about other animals. It's a perfect preparation for the real thing!
You will always arrive at Pulau Selingan at daytime. Way before the turtles will show up. There is nothing like a village where you can hang around, so hanging around on the beach is the only pleasant way to spend your time.
The beaches are just like you would expect them on a tropical island: light sand, blue sea and all surrounded by palmtrees. Every now and then you can clearly see the traces left by the turtles the last night, when they were on their way to lay their eggs.
You can swim in the ocean (water can be cold), take a sunbath, or you can climb the viewtower at the centre of the island if it is opened for public. During my stay it wasn't.
So off we are to our next destination.... The trip continues.....
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 :-)
I went to Selingan Island as part of a round tour in Sabah. I booked the trip in Sweden through my travel agent, but the trip in Sabah was organized by Wildlife Expeditions. We travelled with a 'group' of only three people together with our great guide Redzuan (or more easily called by the nickname of 'One'). I guess we had a fantastic stroke of luck that we only had such a small group, it felt more like 4 friends travelling together :-)
The trip I made can be booked at Wildlife Expeditions directly, you can find an overview of the itinerary of this trip on my State of Sabah page. There are separate trips organized by Wildlife Expeditions to only Selingan Island as well. From Sandakan this trip will cost you 475 RM and an extra 190 RM for the flight when you travel from Kota Kinabalu. Take a look at their website for more information: http://www.wildlife-expeditions.com/.
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: torch light 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 'torch light'. 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 ;-)
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 :-)
For the last time I look back to Selingan 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 each and every night. So amazing to know I wittnessed a little part of that last night. This trip couldn't have ended better than this, goodbye turtles....
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 besides listening 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!
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 :-)))
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.
Well, I didn't have a working camera, so no pictures of that, 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.
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.
Oooh nooo.... my batteries of the camera ran out!!!! Hahaha, I felt awful there for a second, but no worries, I was able to just squeeze enough power out of them to take this last picture :-)