Turtle Island is an amazing place to visit, and I would recommend that anyone who goes to Borneo should make a trip to Sellingan (or Turtle Island as it’s affectionately known) top priority! We were a little concerned about the accommodation after reading a few reviews… However even though the rooms are a little basic they are more than adequate, incredibly clean, with very comfortable beds and very effective ceiling fans.
The whole of turtle island is very clean and I would recommend making the most of your stay there. The beach is very clean with beautiful water in which I would recommend snorkeling. If you don’t have your own equipment it can be rented there. It is possible to walk around the whole island on the beach which does not take very long but is a beautiful way to spend your time. However be aware of the tides because there are rocks and exposed coral on one end of the island where it could be easy to get caught when the tide comes in (and it is very rough and sharp terrain)… There is also only a life guard on part of the beach.
The food there is simple and served as a buffet but very tasty. Drinks are not provided during your meals and in the evening when you wait for the turtles, but there is a good selection available from the gift shop which is attached to the restaurant at a reasonable price… and lovely and cold!
Be prepared for a long wait in the evening after the video presentation while you wait for the turtles to come ashore and for a ranger to call your guide. We waited around 4 hours but I have heard that it can be later (and it has happened that there are nights where they do not show up). Try to bring a magazine, book or mp3 player etc because there is nothing to do at the reception center while you wait.
The wait was well worth it though to see a large female lay her clutch of eggs… and even just hurrying to the laying site was VERY exciting. You get a chance to see her from numerous angles and take some gorgeous photos (although videos are prohibited). After this you are shown what they do with the eggs, followed by the magical experience of seeing them get released. You do have to pay to take your camera (35 RM if I remember rightly) but it is worth it to savor the moment.
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Staying in Sandakan Beforehand
Pulling in to the Sabah Hotel was a lovely break from the rest of Sandakan… Being such a big tourist hub for wildlife holidays we did expect a lot more of Sandakan, however if you did want to take a walk in to the town from the hotel it is quite a long return trip (I would recommend walking to town but not in the dark and getting a taxi back).
The hotel is absolutely gorgeous from the building itself and the rain forest grounds down to the swimming pool and rooms. However it was a shame that we were not able to enjoy their nature trail as it was shut (although we recognise that this was out of their control following a land slide)… Although it was still possible to see some really nice fauna around the pool and grounds.
The restaurant served very nice food, especially in the buffet lunch we had on one day, and even though it was very quiet (we were the only people in there) the main bar was very comfortable with very strong cocktails!