|Tun Sakaran Marine Park|
Established in 2004, the Tun Sakaran Marine Park also known as Semporna Islands Park consists of the islands of Bodgaya, Boheydulang, Sebangkat, and Selakan, the sand cays of Maiga, Sibuan, and Mantabuan, and the patch reefs of Church and Kapikan. It is the largest protected concentration of coral reefs in Malaysia at 350km square. The Tun Sakaran Marine Park is located 20km off the shores of Semporna on the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.
Experts agree that there are higher levels of biodiversity in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park than at Sipadan. This means that while there are neither the larger sizes of fish, nor the abundance of turtles, sharks and other marine creatures that are found at Sipadan, Tun Sakaran Marine Park actually has more biodiversity of species and habitats, such as coral reefs, seagrasses, mangroves and open sea.
There are about 2000 people living on the islands, who rely on fishing and seaweed farming as a way of life. They rely on the marine resources and are currently using them in an unsustainable way, sometimes resorting to dynamite and cyanide fishing. Certain dive spots are being monitored annually but unfortunately, fish bombing is still prevalent. Regulations still must be introduced and the continuance of such practices only highlights the need for protection.
At the present time there are no facilities to provide for tourists on the island; however park headquarters are currently under construction that will provide a cafe, toilets and a gift shop. Until these facilities are completed, tourism on the islands is not recommended. However divers are enjoying the park, divers from Mataking visit several sites within the park, potentially there will be dive tours from Semporna heading to the Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Divers can also assist with the conservation of the park’s undersea environment by providing information on any inappropriate activities.
During dives in this area of Sabah researchers have spotted eagle rays, turtles, barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, and lots of nudibranchs and found some new sponges, so there is great hope for the future. The diving is very varied in the park with lots of big walls, and a great deal of incredible macro-life in the Bodgaya Lagoon. There are also vast sandy areas with big gorgonian fans, sea pens and rocky outcrops with plenty of activity.
There is a beautiful future for the marine park thanks to the Semporna Islands Darwin Project which is a partnership between the Marine Conservation Society in the UK and Sabah Parks, WWF, in Malaysia