Turtle Islands National Park Borneo
The green turtles and the hawksbill turtles lay their eggs throughout the year, but the best time to head there is between July and September when the sea is calmer.
It is tropical hot and humid year-round. A little cooler at the rainy season from November to February/March. Temps are between 27°-32° C / 80°-90° F the whole year. The dry season last from April to September. Anyway, it can rain at any time of the year. Most rainfall during December and January roads can be impassable.
- Shoulder season: March until May/June and September, October. lower prices, less crowded, weather almost fine.
- Peak season: June, July and August with high season prices, very crowded, almost perfect weather conditions.
Only guided tours are allowed to the beach from evening until next morning 6 a.m. to protect the turtles. Get up early and visit the beach sharp at 6 a.m. If you are lucky you may see a turtle moving from the beach back into the sea. This is truly a unique experience.
Turtle Islands National Park consist of three islands; Pulau Gulisan, Pulau Bakkungaan and Pulau Selingaan. The Selingaan island is the only one which offers limited overnight stay for 50-60 people in basic rooms. It is one hour boat drive and depending on the weather conditions it can be bumpy. You spend the day on the island therefore bring your own snorkel gear, renting is possible. You may spot turtles and many fish in the crystal-clear water.
Turtle Islands have a sea turtle conservation operation going since 1977. Although the operation got bad press because of being too touristic, we were recommended to visit anyhow. I must say that the way the project is managed is very respectfull of the animals and I did not see anything disturbing. Apparantly they learned from the bad press. You arrive on the island for a night and leave the next day because the turtles come ashore at night and also most nests hatch at night. After dinner you have to wait some time before the first turtle comes ashore to lay eggs. Only when the guards give permission you are entitled to approach the turtle from behind. After the eggs are laid they are removed and taken to a protected area where they are reburried in a marked and dated spot. The turtle is then cleaned from potentially deadly parasites and it returns itself to the sea. Some time later there was already a first nest hatching so we could witness the hatchlings leaving for the sea.
Bring insect repellent!
Facts about green turtles:
They are endangered and the second largest after the leatherback turtle. They weigh up to 225 kg / 496 lbs and reach 1.2 m / almost 4 feet in length. The name comes from the color of their fat, not their shell. It's the only species which come on shore for basking. We observed this once in Western Australia. This species is distributed worldwide and they are nesting in more than 80 countries. Their preferred diet is seagrass. It is believed that they enhance the growth of the seagrass beds. The biggest threats for them are the humans and a disease called Fibropapilloma. It's a fast growing tumor on the face.
Facts about hawksbill sea turtles:
They are critically endangered and found in tropical and subtropical waters, often in shallow lagoons, rocky areas and coastal coral reefs around the world. The name comes from the tapered head and the sharp, bird-like beak. They weigh in average 80 kg / 176 lbs and reach 1 m / 3 feet. Due to their preferred diet of anemones, squid and sponges sea turtle flesh is often toxic. The biggest threat was and is their beautiful, prized shell used for decoration.