Snake Island of Pulau Tiga Park

holding sea snake
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My day 2 in Pulau Tiga is as exciting as first day. Today I’m going to Snake Island (Pulau Ular or Pulau Kalampunian Damit) of Pulau Tiga Park. I’ve seen the video of dozens of highly venomous Yellow-lipped Sea Kraits or Banded Sea Kraits (species: Laticauda colubrina) roaming on this island. The poison of this sea snake is 3 to 4 times more potent than cobra!

Map of Pulau Tiga Park

Snake Island (Pulau Ular)

The trip to Snake Island is optional. You can pay RM40 (≈USD12) to visit two islands (Snake Island and Sands Spit Island) of Pulau Tiga Park. The tour also includes a snorkeling trip off the island, so it is a good deal.

going to Snake Island of Pulau Tiga
We depart at 9am and reach the Snake Island after 15 minutes. They only allow you to go during good weather.

Pulau Kalampunian Damit (Snake Island)
According to a legend, Snake Island is the resting place of a heart-broken princess, whose lover is turned into rock by black magic of her sisters. The angry king penalized the evil sisters by turning their islands into mud volcanoes (Pulau Tiga).

Snake Island of Pulau Tiga Park
Snake Island is so small that you need only 15 minutes to walk one round of the island.

Pulau Ular
Besides a jetty and a shelter, there is no other facility on Snake Island.

warning sign at Snake Island
Pic: a warning sign. Watch your steps! You must be accompanied by a guide. We are happy to have Mr. Mohammad Syaheer, the “snake catcher” from Pulau Tiga Resort, to go with us.

forest of Snake Island (Pulau Kalampunian Damit)

tree roots of Pulau Ular
Though Snake Island is tiny, it has interesting plant such as tall Pisonia tree, which has smooth bark and grows well in sandstone, limestone and shale of Snake Island.

rocky beach of Snake Island
At first glance, Snake Island looks like an ordinary island with rocky shore. I saw the feather and dropping of white-bellied sea eagle, a bird that preys on sea snake.

looking for sea snake under the rock
Actually the sea snakes are sleeping in the crevices between the rocks. Mohammad is so brave to pull one of them out of the hole. I can’t forget it’s one of the most poisonous snakes in the world!

tourist holding a yellow-lipped sea krait
He even let us to touch and hold the sea snake. Surprisingly, its skin is dry and feel like plastic. We only saw two sea snakes. The guides say probably it’s not mating season and most sea snakes go hunting in sea during daytime.

You may watch the 2-min video below about Snake Island:

Click Here to see wider video

Sands Spit Island

After the visit to Snake Island, we stop briefly on Sands Spit Island (Pulau Kalampunian Besar), which is only a few Kilometers away.

going to Sands Spit Island

aerial view of Pulau Kalampunian Besar
Pic: old aerial photo of Sands Spit Island (Source: Sabah Parks)

Sands Spit Island was used to be a sand bar in the sea (see photo above). Technically, it didn’t look like an island.

vegetation on Sands Spit Island

creeping plant on the beach

sandy beach of Pulau Kalampunian Besar
However, over the years, some vegetations such as Casaurine trees and salt-tolerant creeping vine (Beach Morning Glory) set foot on Sands Spit Island, giving this white sand bar a green cover. A new island is born…

beach of Sands Spit Island

Pulau Kalampunian Besar

Personally, I think Sands Spit Island has the BEST Beach in Sabah. The white sandy beach is long and unspoiled, and the sea water is the clean crystal blue color.

Sands Spit Island of Pulau Tiga Park

Sands Spit Island
Pic: you can see Pulau Tiga from Sands Spit Island

We enjoy every moment on this lovely island. Our footprints are the only human trace on Sands Spit Island. I don’t mind staying there whole day long, but sadly, we have to leave…

You may watch the following 2-min video of Sands Spit Island:

Click Here to see wider video

A new video taken at another end of the Sands Spit Island:

Click Here to see wider video

Snorkeling

As the last activity of the island tour this morning, our boat sends us to Tiga Trail, a snorkeling point near Pulau Tiga. In lucky day, you can see sea turtle there.

Tiga Trail of Pulau Tiga, Survivor Island
Pic: the dark area in the sea is coral reefs rich with marine creatures

corals of Pulau Tiga
The water is warm and only 1 to 4 Meters deep. The weather is nice, so the visibility underwater is very good. The corals are in healthy state, with many reef fishes foraging among rich variety of seagrass and hard & soft corals.

fish in sea grass of Survivor Island
FYI, you can rent snorkeling gears (snorkel, mask and fins) for RM30 (≈USD9) per day, if you don’t have any. For those who are not a good swimmer, they can use the life jacket from the boat.

sea grass of Pulau Tiga Island
Pulau Tiga Resort also has a dive center on island. To go deeper to see more marine creatures such as nudibranchs, cuttlefish, bamboo sharks and marbled stingray, you can arrange with the resort for scuba diving trip in Pulau Tiga Park. For non-divers, they still can experience diving in Discovery Scuba Diving programme (RM200≈USD61 per person, RM300≈USD91 for two).

You may watch the following 1-min video of snorkeling in Pulau Tiga:

Click Here to see wider video

Reptile Paradise

Besides rich marine ecosystems, Pulau Tiga Park is also rich in terrestrial flora and fauna. In fact, Pulau Tiga is first protected as a forest reserve, before it is turned into a marine park. To me, Pulau Tiga is the Kingdom of Reptiles. Other than sea kraits, I saw many other reptiles such as the Yellow-ringed snake below:

guide holding a yellow-ringed snake
Again, Syaheer the snake catcher is in action. Yellow-ringed snake is almost a guaranteed found if you do a night walk in the jungle of Pulau Tiga, especially after rain. Some says its poison is mild and cause only serious headache, but some says it’s fatal. Well, the only way you can find out is to let it bites you, just kidding.

yellow-ringed snake of Survivor Island
Yellow-ringed snake is passive, so it is never a problem to the guests. FYI, its yellow color will fade if it’s very hungry. Python also lives on this island but I saw only its abandoned nest. I spotted the small Lizard Snake twice, but they flee so fast that I can’t photograph them.

monitor lizards on Pulau Tiga Island
The main predator of Pulau Tiga is Monitor Lizard. You can find a dozen of them wandering at the kitchen area behind the resort. Most of them are 4 to 5 feet long. Normally they stay away from human so they never pose a danger to tourists (as long as they don’t provoke the lizard). Below is a 1-min video of them:


Click Here to see wider video

monitor lizard killed on road
Monitor lizard lives happily on Pulau Tiga like a king. If it lives in city, it’ll just become one of the road kills or have tyre mark on its long tail.

forest skink in Pulau Tiga
Skink and lizards are just everywhere. To name a few, I saw or heard Rough-backed ground skink, Striped tree skink, Brown skink, Green tree lizard and Tokay gecko.

hermit crab of Pulau Tiga Island
Pic: near the coastal area, hermit crab is also everywhere.

hornbill of Pulau Tiga
You can see Oriental Pied Hornbill early in the morning (6am-7am) around resort. I also saw 4 of them perching on a Casaurina Pine in a night walk. They told me the guide and guest saw a white hornbill 2 years ago, probably an albino. Other birds that you can see on Pulau Tiga are Megapod, Frigate Bird, Magpie Robin, Blue-naped Parrot, Great Egret, White-breasted Woodswallow, Nightjar, etc.

crab-eating frog
Pic: a crab-eating frog in the mangrove stream outside my room. It’s one of the few frogs that can tolerate saline environment.

Signage: Do not feed the monkey

long-tailed macaque
Long-Tailed Macaques are present in the island, but they prefer to stay in the wood. They can become a major nuisance if tourists feed them.

Monitor lizard and python also prey on this naughty monkey. You can ask the resort staffs who witnessed the terrible scenes of monkey being consumed alive by those reptiles. I hate monkey, so their stories sound awesome to me, especially the part that monitor lizard swallows the head of a baby monkey. Yes, I’m sick, whatever. Anyway, the island needs predators to control the monkey population.

forest of Survivor Island
Pic: Ranggu and Keruing trees dominate the island forest
There are 8 nature trails of different length in Pulau Tiga (see map below). The resort tells me they find pangolin and coconut crab in the forest.

Layout Map of Pulau Tiga

huge fruit of Putat Laut tree
Pic: Putat Laut tree (Species: Barringtonia asiatica) only grows on undisturbed beach. Its huge drift seed can survive for 15 years.

Just walk around the beach, you will see some interesting trees such as Putat Laut, Ketapang (Umbrella Tree) and Penaga Laut.

There are so many more to see in Pulau Tiga. I stayed there for 3 days 2 nights and explored only one-third of the island.

More Photos

You may check out my photo album on Pulau Tiga Island if you would like to see more nice pictures:
photo album of Pulau Tiga Park

Related Posts
Pulau Tiga the Survivor Island
Accommodation on Pulau Tiga
Sands Spit Island

Photos taken in Kuala Penyu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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By Murphy Ng