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Libaran Island: The New ‘Turtle Island’

Libaran island is a small island in the ‘Turtle Islands National Park’ off the coast of Sandakan. You may have heard of the more popular ‘Selingan Island’ in most Borneo itineraries, however, MyHoliday2 use the lesser known, less touristy, more private and exclusive Libaran Island.

Why? I hear you ask. Well, it’s an easy answer. Our ethos here at MyHoliday2 is concerned with responsible tourism, giving back to local communities and supporting sustainable travel. Libaran Island is officially classed as a ‘Turtle Sanctuary Zone’ run by an NGO and managed by the local villagers who live on the island. The conservation program has only been running for about 6 years so it has not yet become as famous as neighbouring Selingan.

Libaran island only allows a maximum of 16 guests at a time, which gives you a more intimate and exclusive grass roots experience. Our guests get to learn about turtle conservation from the locals who have lived there their whole lives and rely on the conservation program and tourism as their livelihood.

We took a visit to Libaran early in 2017 and met with Harron, a local guide, born and bred on the island but who currently lives in Sandakan. He runs the conservation program along with his father and explained their program to us and how more and more turtles have been coming to land every week over the last 6 years. They have witnessed first hand the positive developments and ever-increasing turtle populations due to their conservation efforts.

Staying on Libaran for 1 night we were so lucky to witness a mother turtle clamber up the sand at 3am to lay her eggs. It was quite a long ordeal as she tiresomely dug a deep hole and continued to lay 78 eggs before slowly making her way back to the ocean guided by the moonlight. We also got to witness some baby turtles hatch and see them release into the ocean for the first time, racing over the sand and over each other to get to the lapping waters of the Sulu Sea. It was such an incredible sight and something we will cherish forever.

The accommodation is basic (remember you are on a desert island) but very comfortable. There are static tents pitched all year round, with a full furniture set: twin beds, wardrobe, desk, fan and carpet. I’m not one for camping myself, however this felt more like a hotel room than a tent.

Your stay on Libaran also includes a walking tour around the village where you can meet the locals, watch them build fishing boats and learn how they make a living. Our guide Harron took us to his childhood home to meet his family and taught us all about his interesting life growing up on the island. A real authentic experience and we can’t wait to share it with you as part of our tours to Borneo.

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