The islands around Kota Kinabalu are charming and picturesque. The five islands of Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug and the surrounding seas covering a total area of approximately 12,185 acres have been designated as the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park.
Crystal-clear waters are just a ten-minute boat ride away from Kota Kinabalu. For the better part of the year, the seas are usually very calm in the mornings. A journey to the islands by speedboat would be an exhilarating ride across a smooth shimmering surface. Those wishing for a quiet holiday will find peace and tranquility especially during the weekdays when there are few bathers around. Water skiers would likewise find the seas of Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sapi excellent because of the gentle waves.
The islands can be visited all year round. Temperatures are between 23.8-29.4 degrees Celsius and humidity remains relatively high throughout the year.
The islands, under laid by folded sandstone and sedimentary rock, are part of the Crocker Range Rock Formation of the western coast of Sabah. Towards the end of the Ice Age about a million years ago, changes in sea level occurred, resulting in portions of the mainland being cut off by the sea, thus forming the islands as we know today. Exposed sandstone outcrops still feature coasts of most of these islands forming cliffs, caves, honeycombs and deep crevasses along the shore.
Coral reefs fringe all the islands and are exposed during low tide. The best reefs are around Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug islands. Excellent reef patches Coral Fish are found between Pulau Sapi and Pulau Gaya. This living organism are carnivorous animals feeding on plankton floating in the sea. The different species form coral of different shapes and are named accordingly – stag horn, mushroom, cabbage, brain, and so on. They come in a variety of colours and shades – yellow, green, blue and purple. Coral reefs are home to many kinds of fish, molluscs, the giant clam, scorpion shell, sea-cucumber, feather starfish, cowry shell, black and brilliant blue sea-urchins. The coral fish include the butterfly, parrot, clown, dragon, soldier – in all their brilliant colours. Bigger fish, like the red carp, grouper, barracuda and catfish, and occasionally shark, can also be found in the deeper waters.
There are many water sports activities available on the islands, such as Sea Walking (RM 250 per person, 30 minutes), Jet Ski (RM 150 for 30 minutes), diving (RM 250 for 1 hour), snorkeling, Parasailing (RM 80 per person), Banana Boat (RM 30 per person, 4 persons per boat), Water Ski (RM 60 per person for 15 minutes) and many more.
How to go
From Jesselton Jetty (a public jetty terminal), it cost about RM 7 – RM 10 by taxi from Kota Kinabalu town center. You can also walk there from Gaya street, it’s about 15 to 20 minutes by foot.
One way ticket to Mamutik island, Manukan island, Sapi island cost RM 17, one way ticket to Gaya island cost RM 10. There is no regular ferry services going to Sulug island, you may need to charter a boat. You may also purchase two or three islands ticket for RM 24 and RM 34 respectively. The boat will normally wait till full passengers load before departing. It is advised that to go in the morning before 11 am as there will be fewer people going in the afternoon.
Only Gaya island and Manukan island providing accommodation services.
You may rent a tent if you wish to stay overnight in the other islands. Overnight fee: RM 5 per person. Tent Rental: RM 30 (4 persons), RM 40 (6 persons)