Published on Jan 11, 2020

Sea Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

Literally everyone who visits the island of Sipadan will at some point be able to see some of the beautiful sea turtles that have made the island so popular. To the delight of the wildlife enthusiasts and divers who manage to obtain a permit for a few dives around the island, a large number of species of turtles can easily be seen in the waters and sometimes even on the beach. Some of these can seldom be found in any other place on Earth.

Green turtles:These are probably the most common species found on Sipadan. They have a slightly flattened body, paddle shaped flippers and a large tear-drop shaped shell with diverse color patterns that change with time. Usually, they can live up to the age of 80 in their natural environment. Like many other types of sea turtles, they migrate long distances in order to search for hatching beaches. Their bodies are adapted to this “lifestyle” as they seldom need to reemerge in order to breathe oxygen. Moreover they can rest and sleep under water for several hours without a problem – so they can rarely be found on the mainland.

Leatherback Turtles: This is the largest species of sea turtle in the world. They can reach over 2 meters in length and visitors on Sipadan can sometimes spot them moving slowly on the beaches. Even though their speed on land is greatly reduced because of their large size, leatherback turtles are famous for their excellent hydrodynamic body design that allows them to move very swiftly in the water. Their long front flippers produce the main propelling power while they swim. An interesting fact about leatherback turtles is that they are very easily able to maintain a high temperature, using only metabolically generated heat. This allows them to dive into the deepest waters, offering a real challenge to any diver or sea creature that may try to follow them.


Hawksbill Turtles: This is one of the most critically endangered species of turtles that can be found in Sipadan. It can grow up to 1 meter in length, having a weight of around 80 kilograms. The Hawksbill turtle is most easily distinguishable based on its thick scales that make up its shell. Its beak shaped mouth and the two visible claws on its front flippers are also unique characteristics that are not shared by any other turtle species. When diving near the coral reefs you will often find Hawksbill turtles resting either on ledges or in caves almost all day. Their main diet usually consists of sea sponges, algae and jellyfish.

The island is home to many species of turtles that are endangered but when we see so many of them in the waters around this Malaysian paradise we will hardly be able to believe that they may be in danger of disappearing forever. Sipadan is quite probably the last great sanctuary where these turtles can still live in peace. Therefore, many measures have been taken in the past few years that are geared to make sure this pristine island will continue to house these beautiful creatures for a long time.

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