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Selingan is part of the Turtle Islands, a small archipelago north of Sabah. Protected by a National Park, it is known for being an important nesting site for green and hawksbill sea turtles. From the island’s beach, you can snorkel a shallow coral reef, on which clownfish, wrasse, butterflyfish, and giant clams live.

Vagabond butterflyfish in Selingan Island
The vagabond butterflyfish, generally seen by pairs, is one of the commonest reef fish found in Selingan.

How to go snorkeling in Selingan Island?

Selingan is one of the three islands that form the Turtle Islands National Park, located approximately 40km north of the town of Sandakan. You can get there by boat for the day (there is often only one round trip per day), or stay overnight on the island at the Selingan Island Chalets. The boat trip between Sandakan and Selingan Island takes around 1 hour.

Selingan Island snorkeling map, Turtle Islands National Park

Water entrance for snorkeling Selingan Island

Enter the water along the beach in the northeast of the island (see map above).

Selingan Island’s reef snorkeling tips

The recommended snorkeling area in Selingan faces the island’s northeast beach.

Entering the water from the shore, you can explore a shallow reef (↕3-9ft/1-3m), however quite poor in corals. The seabed is mainly strewn with massive porous coral, in which hundreds of colorful Christmas tree worms and numerous giant clams are embedded.

Boring clam in Selingan Island
Dozens of giant clams are found at Selingan’s reef. Here, a boring clam.

While roaming the reef, you will come across sea anemones inhabited by ocellaris clownfish, common at this location. Several species of butterflyfish, rabbitfish, wrasses, damselfish, and parrotfish are also found on the reef. From time to time, you’ll spot a small longfin grouper camouflaged on the seabed.

Longfin grouper in Selingan Island
On the sandy beds, look for longfin groupers, pretty common in the area.

If Selingan is famous for the observation of green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles that come to lay their eggs on the beaches of the island, it is however rare to see them in the water.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

The Selingan Island Chalets is the only accommodation available on the island.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaTurtle Islands National Park
  • Maximum depth10ft/3m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsCost of a day tour (or overnight stay)

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.