Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
image credit: Nora Carol (Flickr)
Located 20 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu and named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park comprises of a group of five islands â€“ Pualu Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Sulug and Pulau Gaya. Spreading over 4,929 hectares, two thirds of which is sea, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a State Park created to protect the natural environment which includes the coral reefs, marine life, the fauna and flora. The reefs lie in shallow waters with little current making it an ideal location for novice divers; however, the diverse and sometimes rare marine creatures also make it an interesting dive location for experienced divers and underwater photographers.
All five islands can be visited all year round; temperature here ranged between 23.8 – 29.4 degrees Celsius and humidity remains high.
The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is popular for activities such as sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, barbeque, bird-watching, nature walks along guided forest and mangrove trails, beach fishing (only hook and line permitted), outdoor camping (only on Sapi and Mamutik, with prior permission from the Sabah Parks office or the Park Ranger at the islands. Cost is about RM5.00 per person per night), water sports such as windsurfing and kayaking and recently parasailing which offers visitors a great bird’s eye view of the islands and Mount Kinabalu.
PULAU MANUKAN is the second largest island of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and the island with the most complete facilities: Tropical timber chalets managed by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, restaurants, swimming pool and tennis courts, and infrastructure support water, electricity, desalination plant, sewerage system, and even a solar powered public telephone are provided. Visitors who wish to stay overnight at the chalet can make their bookings through local tour operators. One of the star attractions and must see on Pulau Manukan is the fish feeding at the jetty where large school of fishes have made their home.
PULAU MAMUTIK is rather underdeveloped but is still accessible by jetty. Its 15-acres make it the smallest of the 5 islands of the Park. Rich coral life surrounds the islands. Facilities include changing rooms, toilets, picnic shelters, tables and barbecue pits. Chalet can be arranged with Sabah Park if you don’t wish to camp. Visitors staying at the resthouse must bring their own food, as there are no canteen facilities on the island. This little island of slightly bigger than a football field is very diver friendly. Most open water courses are done here, visibility varies from 4m to 10m. PADI Instructor Examinations are also conducted here. Lifeguards are on patrol during the day.
PULAU SULUG: Farthest away and relatively undeveloped is the 20-acres Pulau Sulug, visitors can opt to camp if they wish to stay overnight. Changing rooms and toilets, picnic shelters and tables are provided. Supply of fresh water is available. The island is inhabited and dive operator have daily trips there for diving off the corals on the northern shore as it is one of the best site around in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
PULAU SAPI: A small island of 25 acres, Pulau Sapi has one of the nicest beaches in the Park – its clean white sand and crystal clear water and coral reefs fringing the shoreline makes it ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving. Day use facilities include a jetty, picnic shelters, barbecue pits, tables, changing rooms and toilets. Camping is allowed, with the permission of the Park Warden.
A sand-bar connects Pulau Sapi to Pulau Gaya, and it is possible to walk across in shallow water at very low tides. This is also one of the best spots for swimming and picnicking and it is very popular for island BBQ tours. They are no overnight facilities available on this island but during week-ends light refreshments are sold, and snorkeling gear is available for rent.
PULAU GAYA is the largest island of the Park. Water at Police Beach is crystal clear, up to 50 feet and it is a great place to dive and snorkel. Pulau Gaya has 16 miles of shoreline with beaches ranging from fine white sandy to pebbly, and mudflats, mangrove and sandstone cliffs. Remember to bring your own food, drinks and gears, as there are non for rental.
It is best to try and go to these islands during the week as the islands are a popular destination for locals and it can get busy during the weekend. It is also advisable to go before noon as the boat operators usually fill their respective boats up before leaving the jetty.
Go to the Sabah Parks Jetty just right at the end of Jalan (about 8-10 mins walk from Trekkers Lodge Kota Kinabalu) to purchase your ticket. Tell the staff at the ticket counter which island you wish to visit, and what time you want to be picked up. Please note that the boats leave the KK jetty from 7:00am onwards, and the last boat from the island departs at about 4:00pm. Boat ride takes about 15 to 20 minutes, depending of which island you are visiting and most boats accommodate up to 12 passengers.