Pulau Tiga (the name means “Island of Three”) was formed on September 21, 1897 when a large earthquake on the Philippine island of Mindanao triggered a volcanic eruption just north of Borneo. The eruption of mud and rock formed a new island 66 feet (20 meters) wide. Over the next four decades, subsequent eruptions of the volcano and the development and eruptions of two additional adjacent mud volcanoes expanded, coalesced, and formed the island in its current state. The last eruption of the mud volcanoes on the island was in 1941 but warm mud continues to ooze from these geothermal vents on the island. Though it’s mostly a low-lying island, Pulau Tiga’s highest peak is approximately 330 feet (100 meters) tall. The island is now about 2.8 miles (4.5 km) long and 1 mile (1.5 km) wide, for a total of eight square miles (20.7 km2).
Situated 48 km southwest of Kota Kinabalu, the Pulau Tiga Park comprises of the three islands; Tiga, Kalampunan Besar & Kalampunan Damit.
Pulau Tiga is the largest of the three islands and has three mud volcanoes. The 30 minutes trail starts at the base camp near to the National University of Malaysia marine research site. The volcanoes are now largely dormant. Every few hours, bubbles of gas rise to the surface and with a loud sighing ‘gloop’ spatter cold mud over the surrounding vegetation. Many visitors are fascinated by this and some even spread the cold mud over their face and body – nature’s beauty treatment! One of the sapling of special interest encountered along this trail is the Tongkat Ali which is well-known for its medicinal properties.Sea erosion has reduced Pulau Kalampunian Besar to a small sand cay built up from unconsolidated coral fragments.
Whilst Pulau Kalampunian Damit is composed of sandstone, limestone and shale with thick vegetation where hundreds of poisonous sea snakes can be found resting under rocks, in crevices or on tree stumps. All three islands have brackish inland lagoons.
Unlike many other offshore islands of Borneo, the vegetation on these islands are practically untouched. White sand beaches and coral reefs, ideal for swimming & snorkeling, surround all three islands. The coral reefs which fringe part of Pulau Tiga Park are easily accessible and contains some species not found in the reefs on the west coast. Within the emerald depths are found delicate sea fans, staghorn corals and schools of brightly coloured coral fish.
The pristine natural environment of Pulau Tiga Park is protected by the Malaysian governmen. Pulau Tiga and its surrounding sea is home to a diverse number of interesting animal species. Poisonous sea snakes, proboscis and macaque monkeys, flying foxes, bats, sharks, monitor lizards, barracuda (a total of 132 species of fish exist in the park), sea turtles, and a plethora of birds – including megapodes, hornbills and sea eagles all call Pulau Tiga home. The sea snakes, twice as poisonous as the King Cobra, are capable of killing a human with its venom in approximately five minutes. The megapode birds build their nests on the ground and lay their eggs a few feet deep in piles of sand and debris; when the chicks hatch they dig their way out of their nest, unguarded by their parents.