The beautiful clear blue skies and the bright sunshine completes the spectacular panorama of Labuan island.
As for those who step onto Labuan for the first time, they will certainly be bowled over by its natural beauty, despite the island being the oil and gas industry hub and an offshore financial centre.
Labuan’s main natural attraction is around the three surrounding islands – Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Rusukan Kecil and Pulau Rusukan Besar.
As the three remain free from pollution and development, and are a relatively untouched, they could easily lure those who love nature.
THREE ISLANDS GAZETTED AS MARINE PARK
The three islands were gazetted as the Labuan Marine Park in 1994 and they have a big potential in luring in the tourists.
Pulau Kuraman is located about 14 kilometers away or half an hour boat ride from the Victoria Harbour in Labuan.
Located closely to Pulau Kuraman is Pulau Rusukan Kecil and Pulau Rusukan Besar creating a cluster of islands covering about 10 square kilometres within the Labuan Marine Park.
Kuraman is the main island within the cluster and is well known for its long beautiful sandy beaches and clear waters.
Interestingly, the island covering 5.2 square kilometers is surrounded by coral reefs made of the harder variant ‘Acropora Tubinaria’ that could be found in depths from 8 to 13 meters.
KURAMAN A MAGNET FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS
Apart from being the heaven for photographers, Kuraman Island known for its wealth of flora and fauna including the numerous butterfly species and birds makes jungle tracking a wonderful experience.
While on the island one could also visit the historical lighthouse built by the British in 1902 to help merchant ships locate the Labuan port especially during the night.
Four diving locations nearby with wreckage of sunken ships will certainly delight those who love diving activities.
Apart from that, since of late, the marine park is increasingly known for the turtle activities.
THE PLACE WHERE TURTLE LANDS
The director of the Labuan Marine Park Mohd Fazli Long pointed out the turtle hatchery on Pulau Rusukan Besar has been operating since the last three years with the cooperation of Petronas Carigali.
It is a new attraction here.
There is a small hut that serves as the office and a marine ranger is stationed there to take care and monitor the marine life around the cluster of islands.
The centre also provides areas for the turtles to lay eggs and this also ensures that the turtles keep returning to the place.
Among the turtles that land on the islands are the greenback and hawksbill.
Throughout 2012, the centre had set free 2,068 young turtles after hatching 2,225 eggs and the figure was much higher compared with 2011 where 1,163 eggs were hatched and 796 hatchlings released to the sea.
The turtle landings happen in two seasons with the hawksbill coming in from July to November while the greenback coming in from December to May.
Normally the hawksbill lays between 180 and 200 eggs while the greenback lays between 100 and 160 eggs.
“After laying eggs, they will take a break for about a year moving as far as Japan and Vietnam while the male will be moving around close by,” said kata Mohd Fazli.
The human threat on turtles is the biggest challenge faced by the centre in ensuring the turtles return back to the marine park to lay their eggs.
SPOTTED SHARK ALSO FOUND IN THE PARK
Pulau Rusukan Besar is also the choice for those who like snorkeling especially at the southern and western part of the island.
The clear waters and the abundant marine life creates a beautiful underwater coral reef landscape.
According to Mohd Fazli, those who were lucky could spot the rare spotted shark.
“Moreover, this is where the highly valued lobster breeds. Our role here is to ensure the marine life forms are not disturbed or threatened,” he said.
Apart from the clear waters, a small part of the beach on the island is carpeted by black stones providing an impressive view.
Though yet to be fully developed as a tourist spot, Pulau Rusukan Besar is already seeing big number of visitors though mostly being locals.
“Those who come here do not put up for the night as there are no hotels or chalets developed here. Some do camp here,” he said.
Any development on the island by the authorities may be difficult as the land there is privately owned.