Pulau Tiga National Park by Herman (November 2006)

Short: The Pulau Tiga National Park is north of Kuala Penyu, some 140 km / 2 hours from Kota Kinabalu and was established in 1978. It covers an area of 158 km˛ whereby most of it is surrounding sea and coral reefs. 


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 1960s.

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 aquatic.

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...

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Note: while every care has been taken in compiling the above information the Flying Dusun Sdn Bhd, its authors and associates cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracy, omission or alteration that may occur. Please contact us or the respective authors for further details and confirmation of facts and figures. © The Flying Dusun Sdn Bhd, 2005-2006; all rights reserved; reproduction in whole or in part without written permission strictly prohibited. 


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