Snake Island of Borneo – Kuala Penyu, Malaysia - Atlas Obscura

Snake Island of Borneo

Kuala Penyu, Malaysia

This tiny island in the South China Sea is crawling with venomous sea snakes. 


Pulau Tiga Park encompasses 158 square kilometers of open ocean containing three islands that were formed by mud volcano eruptions in the late 19th century. While the largest island (Tiga) is known for its natural volcanic mud baths, the smallest island (Kalampunian Damit) boasts an attraction that is far less relaxing but perhaps a bit more fascinating: lots and lots of deadly snakes.

An isolated rock covered with tall silver Pisonia trees, the calm pale surroundings of Kalampunian Damit — also known as Snake Island — stand in stark contrast to the community of wild serpents that call the island home. Known as yellow-lipped sea kraits or banded sea kraits, the venomous sea snakes spend their nights hunting deep waters for eels and small fish, returning to land by day to digest and get some sleep. Individual kraits tend to have one specific home island to which they return, forming a constant and fairly stable population. They also use their home base as a breeding ground, meaning Kalampunian Damit tends to be particularly snakey during mating season.

While banded sea kraits are considerably more poisonous than cobras, they are also fairly reclusive and non-aggressive and bite humans only in rare occasions where they are harassed or trod upon — which can admittedly be easy to do on a tiny island full of snakes, but as long as visitors watch their step they are in little danger.

Being somewhat off the beaten path, Pulau Tiga Park sees few visitors, and is most famous for being the shooting location of the first season of Survivor.

Know Before You Go

Getting to the island is easy and just requires a booking set with an agent who will take you to Kuala Penyu Town, where a direct boat will leave from the jetty.

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