Turtle Island — where’s that?

If you want to take a trip to Borneo, going to Turtle Island (Pulau Selingan), which is off Borneo’s Eastern coast is sure to be the highlight of your trip. Turtle Island is part of Sabah National Park and is among three islands committed to green and hawksbill turtle conservation. It’s actually the only island that allows visitors to see turtles nesting and hatchlings being unconfined.

It’s the ideal environment for children to witness nature’s greatest miracles, and Turtle Island Malaysia is among the few locations on the planet where turtles come to 365 days of the year just to nest.
Although Turtle Island may seem like some distant island located in the sea, it’s actually what Native people refer to as the continent of North America, while people like the Ojibwa refer to it as the whole world.

What Is Turtle Island?

The word Turtle Island is derived from First Nations. The story is different depending on the storyteller, but most agree that it’s part of how everything came to be (creation story).

There are Nations with faith that the Creator flooded the planet because the people in it couldn’t agree and were in feuds. In one of the versions, only animals and Nanabozho (or Nanabush), a spirit that emerges in several Ojibwa (say “oh-JIB-wah”) legends, survived. He has a spirit father and an Anishinaabe (say “uh-NISH-ih-NAH-bay”) mother, so he is half human and half spirit.

How Was Turtle Island created?

Based on an Ojibwa version, here’s how one of the creation stories goes: After the Creator had flooded the planet, Nanabush was left afloat with the animals. He then had the idea of diving to the bottom of the water and retrieve some earth so that he could make new land. Nanabush dove into the water several times, but no matter how he tried, he couldn’t get to the bottom. After doing it over and over, he grew tired, and that’s when animals that were used to diving tried.

The Loon

Attempted to get to the bottom, but the water proved to be too deep. After he grew tired, the turtle tried, but he too couldn’t get to the bottom. In the end, there wasn’t anyone left to take a turn.

The Muskrat

The Muskrat stepped up and offered to take a turn. Since he wasn’t used to diving, the other animals snickered at him. Still, the muskrat dove into the water after taking a deep breath. Nanabush and the other animals waited. They checked the water for the Muskrat.

But the Muskrat still didn’t show up. They waited and waited for a long time until they lost hope, and that’s when they finally saw the Muskrat. They hurried to him as he took his last breath. As the Muskrat was dying, they saw that he had clutched some earth he had brought up.

The Turtle

The turtle said that if the Muskrat was ready to give up his life, he could offer them his shell. He told them that the earth the Muskrat has brought could be placed on his back so he could carry it in their stead. As the winds blew, the earth spread around. That small chunk of earth the Muskrat had brought back is what became Turtle Island.

Did You know?

Are you aware that several cultures across the world celebrate turtles? In African folklore, the turtle is considered to be the smartest animal. The turtle is a powerful figure in Chinese mythology. And the turtle is considered the lord of the oceans in Tahiti.