Survivor Island & Snake Island
The Pulau Tiga National Park (literally
the ‘three islands national park’) was established in 1978, although
the area has been under protection as a forest reserve since 1933.
The park covers 158 square kilometres of mostly ocean, containing
the 3 islands of Pulau Tiga, Pulau Kalampunian Besar
and Pulau Kalampunian Damit. The islands were formed in 1897
by the eruption of mud volcanoes.
Pulau Tiga is now covered in dense vegetation; however volcanic
activity continues in the form of bubbling mud and methane gas
venting, although the last major outpouring of mud was in the early
Several species of mammals, numerous birds, a variety of reptiles
and amphibians and hundreds of species of insects can be found on
Pulau Tiga making it a truly wild tropical island. The island is a
sanctuary for the megapode Megapodus freycinet, a curious
chicken-like creature that produces a cat-like meow sound. A network
of trails, marked at 50 meter intervals leads to various points of
interest and of course, a visit to nearby “Snake Island” guarantees
sightings of banded sea snakes.
The surrounding reefs are shallow with healthy coral and water
visibility ranging from 6m to 20m where one can scuba dive amongst a
kaleidoscope of colors. These beautiful reefs contain over 132
species of fish representing 62 genera in 32 families.
Pulau Kalampunian Besar is now little more than a sandbar, eroded
away by wave action. Known for its sugar-white sands and clear
waters, it is popular for scuba diving and snorkelling. It was also
the location of the US reality TV show CBS Survivor.
Pulau Kalampunian Damit, little more than a large rock, is also
called Pulau Ular (Snake Island). It is famous as a mating location
for highly poisonous sea snakes (sea kraits, Laticauda colubrina),
which can be found en masse under rocks and in crevices throughout
the whole year.
Sea snakes of several
different species belong to a group related to the cobras but
are aquatic rather than land dwelling. They are only moderately
large, rarely exceeding 2 m in length, and often with peculiarly
small heads for their body-size. The body is compressed as an
adaptation for swimming and the snakes are so thoroughly aquatic
that they are either clumsy or helpless when ashore.
Nevertheless, similar to cetaceans, their lungs still require
them to surface occasionally to breathe even though they spend
most of the time underwater.
Sea snakes are divided into two
subfamilies, Laticaudinae and Hydrophiinae, with
the former distinguished from other sea snakes by the fact they
are amphibious (living on land and water), rather than purely
Sea kraits (Laticaudinae) are
oviparous and they must return to land to lay their eggs. The
purely aquatic Hydrophiinae sea snakes are ovoviviparous
and bear their young in the water. Sea kraits have specialized
ventral scales for crawling on land.
All 50 or so
species of sea snakes are venomous, and some are known to have
venom ten times as strong as rattlesnake venom, making them
among the most potentially dangerous of all animals. But
fortunately for divers they have an inadequate venom injection
apparatus: they have only short hollow fangs near the front of
their upper jaw in a very small head, and are generally docile
if not abused.
How to Get to the Pulau Tiga National Park & Accommodation
Bus, van, taxi, tour operator, ca 2 hours by road (140 km); a resort
on the island offers comfortable beach chalets. To visit the island
permits from Sabah Parks are necessary and it is best to organise
the trip and overnight stay there through
Pulau Tiga Resort or any other tour
operator in Sabah.
aerial view of Pulau Tiga
lush flora & fauna
the mud volcano
a trip to the "Snake Island"
relax on Pulau Tiga...