Would You Like To See Baby Turtles? Visit Selingaan Island, Malaysia

Watching baby turtles running into the sea was one of my many dreams to see. I always wanted to experience it and visit some turtle island. In Mexico, I snorkeled with sea turtles and I always wanted to see baby turtles running into the water. And luckily, there are many islands worldwide known as turtle islands due to sea turtles nesting on their beaches. So if you would like to see baby turtles you need to visit Selingaan island in Malaysia. In this post, you will find out how to get to the Selingaan, how much does the tour cost, where to see the baby turtles and much more.


Selingaan island is located in the eastern part of Borneo, and we combined our turtle island trip with Kinabatangan river jungle trekking, and also few days diving on Mabul Island. This is a perfect week of exploring the eastern part of Borneo. If you would like to combine your day trip with seeing beautiful orangutans and the Kinabatangan riverboat tour, then have a look here.

The turtle island we visited in Malaysia lies in the Sulu Sea north of Sandakan in the province of Sabah and consists of 3 islands: Selingaan, Little Bakkungan, and Gulisaan. However, you can watch turtles laying their eggs only on Selingaan. The rest of the two islands: Bakkungan and Gulisan are closed to the public.

a girl sitting on the sand next to the turtle hole
Selingaan, Turtle Island

If you would like to go there, you have to stay overnight on Selingaan Island. Turtles come there almost daily during the night, so there is a very good chance that you will see baby turtles. Almost 100% guaranteed.

Check another paradise island in Malaysia: PERHENTIAN ISLANDS WITH FULL GUIDE.


My first advice, do not book this tour via a tourist agency. It is better to directly contact a company called Crystal Quest via email ([email protected]) to book the package. It is the only company that has an office on Selingaan Island and organizes these tours (for now). It’s more expensive when you go via other operators. To be precise, you will pay double with other tour operators.
We were basically the only ones without an agency in our group. And I can tell you, that there is not much of a difference. The only difference is that we paid half 🙂 Also, you will have your own guide, who will tell you when is lunch and dinner and when you can go to the beach and watch the sunset. Wow. Basically all the information we got from the reception on the island. It is a very small island so there is not much to do and I find it unnecessary to have a guide to tell you this.


The package includes food, accommodation, and transport. The food was very delicious and every time we had different meals. Even for me as a vegetarian, there were plentiful options, of course, a lot of rice, but also a lot of fresh vegetables and fruits, chicken, fish and we even had potatoes. Shocking. You will stay in one of the wooden chalets. They are very basic, but clean and with air conditioning.

Nevertheless, the tourist agency will organize the transport for you from the jetty back to the city. But we just got a Grab car for around RM 5 (€ 1) and within 5 minutes, we were back in the city center.


We visited in October 2017 and the Crystal Quest fee was RM 614.20 for 2 people, plus an additional conservation fee of RM 60 per person. However, one traveler recently let us know that the fee at the moment is RM 940 for 2 people without a conservation fee. On the island, you need to pay another RM 10 per person if you want to take a picture of the turtles. Unfortunately, as Crystal Quest is the only company that does these tours, they can change prices at will.


  • We left Sandakan main jetty at 9.30 AM
  • We arrived at 10.30 AM at Selingaan
  • Lunch at 12.30 PM
  • Video session at 7 PM
  • Dinner at 7.30 PM
  • After dinner it is open as you will need to wait for the rangers to tell you when you can see the turtles: However, there are 3 steps in this program: first, we watched a big Mama turtle lay her eggs, then we watched rangers to collect the eggs and bring them to the hatchery station and lastly, we saw baby turtles being released into the water
  • next day you have breakfast at 7.00 AM
  • boat to Sandakan leaves at 7.30 AM
  • You are back at the jetty in “beautiful” Sandakan at 8.30 AM
a girl sitting on the white sand with the ocean view
Enjoying beautiful sunset on turtle island, Malaysia


We left the jetty in Sandakan at 9.30 AM and arrived 1 hour later on the magical turtle island, Selingaan. We got all the important information at the reception, checked in to our chalet and went straight to the beach until our lunch at 12.30.

a sign with turtle hatchery on Selingaan island
Turtle hatchery

You can swim and snorkel there until 6 PM. After 6 PM, from sunrise to sunset you are not allowed to walk on the beach and actually anywhere on the island. Two reasons: to not disturb turtles and due to security purposes. Turtles are very sensitive to movement on the beach and they get scared easily which might keep them from coming ashore and laying eggs.

No pirate attacks while we visited!

Furthermore, there are also a few security guards walking around the island with guns protecting the turtles and the visitors/staff from Philippine-based pirates. You don’t have to worry, the Philippines and Malaysia work together to protect the turtle islands. However, in the past there have been a few reports of kidnapping tourists in Sandakan and in other parts of Borneo, so you will see some military now and then.

From the beach, you can see 2 islands which belong to the Philippines. So when you lay down, almost next to you there is a little military station with 2 guards and large googles. Please be aware that you can only swim in the designated area.

We did snorkel, but the water was a bit murky and the visibility wasn’t very good. However, we still saw some fish (one of them even bit me :D) and many colorful corals.

We absolutely enjoyed the beautiful sunset at the beach near the reception. Again, the guide will tell you to go there, hmm, isn’t it obvious :D? The colors of the sky were incredible.

a woman standing on the beach with a pink sunset colours and the ocean
Enjoying sunset colors

We saw baby turtles hatch “in the wild”

We thought that it cannot possibly get better. I said to Nico: “let’s take a sunset picture”. Then, we turned around and saw a baby turtle next to us running to the water. Completely shocked we looked at each other and silently watched. I have to say, we both had tears in our eyes. Suddenly, we saw another baby turtle running into the sea.

a small baby turtle running on the white sand on Selingaan island
Adorable baby turtle

It was so beautiful that I can still close my eyes and see how the baby turtle is touching the water for the first time. After we found out that not all nests are emptied by the park rangers. The reason is that natural predators of the turtles such as lizards, eagles, and other birds need the turtles for their survival, otherwise they might become extinct as well. If the rangers would collect all the eggs other local animals would be in trouble.

Dinner time

With a big smile on our faces, we went for dinner, feeling so lucky because no one else saw it. Plus, we didn’t even have a guide 😀

Before dinner, we walked by the hatchery and saw little turtles running around. We watched a 30-minute video about the park and of course turtles which was very interesting and I am very happy how they protect the turtles. I just can’t believe that turtles face extinction. After dinner, we all at waited for a ranger to announce: “Turtle Tiiiiiiiime.”

Turtle time

After a few cups of tea and reading a book, at around 9.30 PM we were all called out to watch a big mama turtle laying eggs. She was huge and she laid 76 eggs that night. Incredible. You will be allowed to observe only one turtle laying eggs per night.  There is not really a season for turtles to come ashore, but October to November the likelihood is the highest. Around 50 turtles come to the island to lay eggs per night. Incredible.

The rangers carefully took all the eggs and we followed them to the hatchery station where they placed them in the sand, or the so-called “man-made incubation chamber”. This chamber is 60-75 cm deep and protected with a net to make it impossible for predators to come in and eat the eggs.

a green turtle hatchery on turtle island
Hatchery, Turtle Island

What is really interesting is that the temperature will determine the sex of the turtle. With higher temperatures, there will be females and with lower temperature males. So part of the hatchery is shaded to make sure male turtles will hatch and the part on the open sun is for future female turtles.

An unforgettable experience

In the meantime, a few baby turtles hatched from their eggs. In the last step, the rangers released them into the sea. I was right behind the ranger carrying the basket of 45 little baby turtles and watched them crawling over each other. I was so excited to see them run to the water. In fact, 45 of them run chaotically into the water. Baby turtles are released at night to increase their chances of survival.

To see the baby turtles and the process of how the eggs are being protected was an unforgettable experience and definitely one of my highlights in Malaysia. I am very happy to see how the people in the park care for the turtles.

READ MORE: The most beautiful beaches in Southeast Asia.

Trash sucks

However, I was very disappointed by how much trash we saw in the water when going to the Turtle island. There are several fishing villages outside of Sandakan and people living there clearly do not know how to take care of their trash and what it can cause. Sandakan is also not the cleanest city. In fact, we stayed there 1 night and we had an ocean view to forget with the shore a full of trash. I simply do not understand why this is not being cleaned regularly, why the government does not make strict rules for trash disposal and educational programs. Again, this comes down to everyone. Everyone can make a difference and this is a global issue so please take care of your trash, never leave your trash behind. And even when you come to the beach and sea plastic on the beach or in the water, take it. No one is asking you to clean up the whole world, but just fill a little plastic bag with trash you can find. This already makes a big difference.

Clean after yourself and others

People around will see you, notice it and you can inspire them to do the same thing next time. This is how I got inspired. I saw a girl in Koh Lipe picking up the trash on the way to her boat. She just picked the trash she could carry. We saw it and were amazed. We immediately got our empty plastic bag and filled it with whatever we could find.

I hope you will have a wonderful time on the turtle island and let me know if you need any help with planning your journey.


Gigi and Nico signature in pink

About The Authors

About the author
Since I was little I always wanted to see the world. Travel to new places, get to know new cultures, see how other people live. I love beaches and I love discovering tropical destinations. That is why, together with my partner Nico, we created this blog to share with you the most beautiful beaches and stunning holiday destinations which we visited during our travels.


    1. Thank you 🙂 It was definitely one of my highlights in Malaysia, especially seeing lovely and cute baby turtles 🙂

    1. Dakujem pekne Adka, som velmi rada ze sa ti pacil clanok a dufam ze navstivis ten ostrov 🙂 say hi to turtles 🙂

  1. Great article. Answers pretty much all the questions I had 🙂
    Will definitely come back for more tips!

    1. Thank you very much, I am very happy that it answered all of your questions.Let me know of you need any more information.

        1. Hello 🙂 Thank you for your comment. We contacted them via email and they replied to us via email.
          this is their email address: [email protected]
          phone number:+60 89-212 711
          And if they don’t answer, just go to their office directly a few days before.
          CRYSTAL QUEST SDN. BHD. (404164-K)
          Sabah Parks Jetty, Jalan Buli Sim Sim
          P. O. Box 848, 90709 Sandakan

          Hope that helps 🙂

  2. Thanks for the great article. I heard already about crystal quest and I like the way you say don’t book with an agency. I always try to find my own way without tours:) .
    I contacted CQ. When did you? The prices now are 940 for 2 persons without conservation fee. And 700 one person. I might just try showing up with them in Sandakan. Maybe last minute cheaper. It’s still way cheaper then other companies :).

    1. Hello Christophe,

      Thank you so much for your comment 🙂 I am really happy that you found it useful 🙂 Exactly, we don’t like tours in general but for this island you can only go with them, which is sad as they are the only ones and thatshwy they can do whatever they want with prices. We were there October 2017. I cant believe they increased the prices. We paid 614.20 RM for 2 people to the Crystal Quest fee and we found it expensive already. On top of that we paid an additional conservation fee of 60 RM per person. Thank you for the update again, I will adjust the prices in our article for other travellers. When are you planning to go to Sandakan and to Selingaan?

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