Magnificent marine turtles are threatened species the world over. It was to protect these wonderful sea-going creatures that Sarawak created its first marine area National Park at Talang Satang. The group of four islands has the largest concentration in Sarawak of nesting green and hawksbill turtles, which are both endangered species. The water bodies around islands are also abreeding, nursery and feeding ground for thousands of other marine species.
Though its primary purpose is conservation, like all the other National Parks, Talang Satang is open for nature tourism. Because of the sensitive nature of marine turtles and the small area of its four islands, visits to these islands are restricted. Visitors are only allowed to visit Satang Island for day trips. Land and water recreation activities are permitted indesignated areas only. At Talang-Talang Kecil & Talang-Talang Besar, only those involved in a specialized volunteer program are allowed.
Because of the extreme sensitivity of the habitats, visitors are only allowed within 2.8km of Pulau Talang Besar, Pulau Talang Kecil, Pulau Satang Kecil or the Ara-Banun Wildlife Sanctuary by special arrangement with Sarawak Forestry. Such permission is normally only granted to bona fide researchers, students, conservation organizations, and people participating in the Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme.
Pulau Satang Besar, the largest of the islands, is open to visitors, but conservation takes priority over tourism. Parts of both the island and the surrounding sea are off-limits to visitors, who must remain within the designated area and be accompanied by Sarawak Forestry wardens at all times. Despite these very necessary restrictions, Pulau Satang Besar is a fascinating and beautiful place to visit. The turtle hatchery is the main land-based attraction, where visitors can learn all about the conservation programme.
The island itself is steep and thickly forested, and unsuitable for trekking. However, a white sand beach stretches across the entire southern side of the island. The surrounding waters are a deep emerald green with coral reefs just a short distance from the shore, which offer good snorkelling possibilities. The sea-bed slopes gradually to a depth of about 12 metres, with some attractive hard coral formations, soft corals, gorgonian sea fans and feather stars, surrounded by their attendant small fish. The colours can be fantastic, but visibility is frequently limited to between 3 and 10 metres, so only serious snorkellers and divers will see the corals at their best. Large pelagic fish are rare, but Green Turtles can occasionally be seen gliding gracefully through the water.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are confined within the designated zone only. No water recreation activities are allowed outside the zone in the interests of conservation. Scuba divers must be accompanied by an approved dive guide. Diving tanks, BCDs and regulators can be rented from the Sarawak Forestry operations office on the island, but must be booked in advance. Please contact the National Parks Booking Office in Kuching for further details.
Talang-Satang’s coral reefs are home to a number of venomous creatures, including Sea Snakes, Coral Snakes, Stonefish and Cone Shells. Marine Snakes are usually harmless if undisturbed, and if seen should be left well alone. Stonefish may conceal themselves in mud or sand surrounding the coral, especially at low tide, so do not walk or swim barefoot around coral reefs. Cone Shells are highly venomous and should not be handled under any circumstances
The Sarawak Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme (SSTVP) is a unique eco-tourism initiative run by Sarawak Forestry. Open from May to September, this conservation-driven programme allows volunteers to actively participate in Sarawak’s turtle conservation efforts by spending 4 days at the Turtle Conservation Station on Pulau Talang-Talang Besar.
Upon arrival on the island, volunteers are briefed on the conservation programme before being allocated tasks or areas of responsibility. Duties include beach patrols to locate turtle arrivals, monitoring turtle nesting activity, tagging and measuring turtles, transferring eggs to the hatchery, releasing hatchlings, data recording and other on-site conservation activities.
The SSTVP offers participants the chance to learn more about turtle conservation and experience unforgettable encounters with marine turtles. Furthermore, participants gain the satisfaction of knowing that they are actually contributing to a valuable conservation project.
Please note that the Sarawak Sea Turtle Volunteer Programme is not suitable for everyone. Accommodation facilities are basic and everyone is expected to help with cooking and cleaning-up. Volunteers join a team of dedicated conservation experts whose mission is to monitor every turtle landing on the island and thus help to preserve Sarawak’s natural heritage. Volunteers can expect a rewarding ‘Back to Nature’ experience but should bear in mind that the programme is not a beach holiday.
Pulau Satang Besar is a 30-minute boat ride from Damai Beach, Sarawak Boat Club Jetty or Telaga Air Jetty. There is no regular boat service and visitors should travel in an organised tour. A number of Kuching-based tour operators run day trips to the island, often in conjunction with other marine-based activities such as dolphin watching or mangrove cruises. All other areas of Talang-Satang National Park are off limits to visitors except by special arrangement, in which case transport will be organised by Sarawak Forestry.
National Park Opening Hours:
8.00am to 5.00pm
Monday – Sunday including Public Holidays
A permit is required for professional photography or filming, which should be arranged in advance with the National Park Booking Office.