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Where is Turtle Island?

If you will be visiting the island of Borneo, a trip to fascinating Turtle Island, also called Pulau Selingan, should be on your travel plans. Turtle island is part of Sabah national Park and one of the three islands reserved especially for the conservation of green and hawksbill turtles. Visitors to this tropical paradise are offered the unique opportunity to observe nesting habits and watch newly hatched turtles being released.

There is hardly a better place for children to observe one of the most amazing spectacles in nature. Turtle island is also one of the few places on earth where turtles arrive to nest 365 days a year.

To some, Turtle island may sound like some remote location far off in an obscure corner of the globe. But that is exactly what many of the local people would call the British Isles. To the indigenous Ojibwa, Turtle Island is the whole world which also includes the Kinabatangan River.

What is Turtle Island?

Turtle Island was named so by the First Nations. Depending on who is telling the story the details may change, but most agree that the turtles that call this place home had a hand —or flipper— in the story. A fascinating story of how the world and everything in it came to exist.

In one account, the great creator of all things grew so tired of people that he sent a flood to wash away their fighting. According to some, the only survivors of the deluge were the animals and Nanbush, a spirit that is the central character in many Ojibwa tales. Nanabush has a human mother and a spirit father, making him part spirit himself.

How was Turtle Island created?

Here is how Turtle Island came to be according to one account based on the Ojibwa traditions. While the creator was flooding the Earth, Nanabush was floating the surf with the surviving animals. Nanabush had the brilliant idea of swimming down to the ocean floor and bringing some earth to create new land.

So down he went but found that no matter how he tried he could not reach the ocean floor. When he grew exhausted from his effort, some of the animals who were accustomed to this trip made an attempt.

The Loon

The loon was the first to try, but soon found the water was far too deep. When he tired of his attempts, the turtle tried. But they too found the water was too deep and stopped from exhaustion. There was no one left to make the trip.

The Muskrat

The muskrat then stepped forth and offered to have a go. The rest of the animals derided the muskrat as he was no diver. But the muskrat was undaunted and took the plunge. All the animals and Nanabush awaited what would happen next. To their dismay, the furry rodent did not resurface.

Time passed and just as everyone was about to give up, they finally saw the muskrat resurface. They rushed to his side in time to watch their friend take his last breath. But as he passed away, they noticed that in his tiny hands he clutched earth that he had retrieved from the ocean floor.

The Turtle

The turtle told the rest that if the brave muskrat could give his life then he would proudly offer his shell. They could place the earth that the muskrat had retrieved on his back and he would carry it. As time went by and the wind blew the dirt far and wide, that small handful of earth soon became Turtle Island.

Did You Know?

Did you know that the turtle is a celebrated member of many cultural tales and traditions? According to African lore, the turtle is the wisest creature. To the Chinese, the turtle is a symbol of power. In Tahitian legends, the turtle is the lord of the oceans.