Friday, April 22, 2011

Islands Hopping in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

The day I spared for island hopping at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park was the day I most awaited. It's not a time for me to leave Kota Kinabalu yet when I haven't got myself here. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a marine park comprises of Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. All these islands are just 10-15 minutes boat ride from Jesselton Point, the ferry terminal where u can charter a boat to the islands.  

Numerous tour operators are available at the jetty terminal offering boat transfer, snorkelling, parasailing and other activities. Ask around to get the best price but honestly they don't differ too much from each other.

What u got to do is just tell them which island u want to go. This decision is mainly affected by what activities u are up to. Here I provide u a brief description of each island to help you choosing your destination in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. But of course u can visit all 5 of the islands if time is not your concern.

Pulau Gaya
The largest island in the park which fits a 5-star resort, stilt village occupied by illegal immigrants and hiking trail in its dense tropical forest. Swimming and snorkelling can still be done but not recommended.

Pulau Manukan
The second largest island and always a chosen island for snorkelling and diving activities for many people. It is the most developed island with many chalets, clubhouse, diving centre and other sports activities (volley ball and takraw court). You can also do sea walking activity here.

Pulau Sapi
Has the most beautiful beach and crystal clear water, ideal for just lazing by the beach. Despite its lesser marine life, people still can enjoy snorkelling.

Pulau Mamutik
The smallest island in the park. Good beautiful beach and coral reef.

Which islands I went to?
My friends and I chose 2M, Mamutik and Manukan. Activity: snorkelling.

For that, we paid RM 60 for boat transfer and island admission fee and RM 10 each for snorkelling equipments (life jacket, snorkel mask) rental. You have to carry along the equipments when u hop to another island and return it to jetty at the end of the day.

And there is also compulsory fee for jetty terminal of RM 7.20 per person.

After all that arrangment done and paid, we followed the tour guy to our boat. Yay!!! It's been a longgggg time since my last sea-related activities. We chose to snorkel in Mamutik then only Manukan.

Sayra & Berry

Oh, that's Mamutik!

Mamutik Jetty

Welcome to Mamutik Island

After you reached the island, you're on your own, freely roam the island finding the best spot to rest. The boat will be waiting for your next island at agreed time at the same jetty. 

There was a foreign company having family day/vacation when we arrived at Mamutik. So, the small island seemed a bit crowded but we managed to find a spot at shaded area near the lifeguard tower to put down our things and get ready to snorkel. I thought it was a good idea to settle near the tower so the lifeguard could help look after our belongings and rescue us in no time when we were in distress. But the idea seemed to turn to brilliant after Jim, the lifeguard offered to snorkel with us and showed around the area he knows best. 

Me in my snorkeling gear

Soon will be in diving gear :D

With corals at depth not more than 2 meters and mild current, the snorkelling was very pleasant. No struggling swimming needed here :) Visibility was very satisfying, I could see numerous species of fish but the only one I remember is the famous clown fish aka Nemo :D The rest of the species will have to wait until I have my diving license because in the course they'll teach u how to identify sea creatures. That afternoon we covered almost every corner of the section and every fish 'house' Jim knew and he even offered us to snorkel beyond the demarcation buoy. It was the best snorkeling experience so far except I didn't have any underwater-suitable camera to capture the amazing sea life down there. It was actually my 1st time snorkeling :p

That is Jim

I was too overwhelmed with what I saw down there and accidentally stepped on dead coral at the shore on my way back to the beach. The small cut hurts so much I almost cried because those tiny sand had started to stick inside it. I was just afraid of it get infected. Running water didn't help washing away the sand at all and at that time all my happy moment started to dissolve. Jim, being a lifeguard (and first aider) he was, could only offered me a waterproof antibacterial spray :( I am a qualified first aider by PBSM and St John but I never come across this waterproof antibacterial spray. At that second I was impressed with what they had in the first aid box. The qualification I have didn't come with bravery to scrap off the sand from the cut myself. So, I chose to spray the unclean cut with antibacterial and let the sand stay underneath it :( That's why I don't qualify to be a doctor.

It was an unwise decision not to clean the wound properly because when it was time to move to Manukan, it became swollen and I couldn't walk without stopping every now and then to ease the pain. It did slow me down a little bit but didn't stop me from enjoying my 2nd snorkeling in Manukan :D

Should've wear this all the time

To avoid this

And this
Or even this

We were given only 2 hours in Manukan and with this kind of school of fish welcoming us at Manukan jetty, I thought even half day wouldn't be enough :')

Manukan Island

We had our packed lunch prior our snorkeling session at the resting area near lifeguard tower. And this time, the snorkeling got better as each of us had our own lifeguard to accompany us. Kinda like private snorkeling tour :)

Compared to Mamutik, Manukan had stronger current and the corals sit much deeper down and honestly, without my lifeguard's help I would surrender swimming as it got me nowhere. I was at the same location practically for 15 minutes how hard I kicked and pushed myself through the water. Yes, i'm an amateur swimmer but try for yourself then you'll know swimming in an open water need triple effort than in swmimming pool.

So, throughout this snorkeling in Manukan, I relied on his help pulling me to spots he identified having sea creatures. I tell you, he was a great swimmer! The lifeguard profession is suitable for him :D Because of him I could see more Nemos and more other fishes. But being the most developed and most visited island, the corals I saw here were dying, at least at the part I went to. But I strongly believe Manukan has more natural beauty than what i've seen. The time was not on my side that day and had to leave the island by 5pm. The same boat brought me, Sayra and Berry back to mainland.

For those who plan to do islands hopping in KK, here are some of my tips:
  • Rent the snorkeling gear at the jetty and carry them to every island u go, including the safety jacket. It'll save you a lot.
  • Ensure you have agreed time to meet up with your boat guy and hop in the same boat as you leave the jetty. Other boats wait for other passengers.
  • Don't you always feel hungry after sea activity? Food is available in the island but you can bring your packed lunch from mainland to save more. 
  • Lifeguards are placed at every 100 meter or so, have no fear of the sea. Anyway, you have the safety jacket with you always. For snorkeling assistance, usually they tend to help all-girl group but be nice and make friends with them, they'll show around :D
  • Spend at least 3 hours at every island, enough for snorkel, walk along the beach, eat, photographing etc. I'm the type of person who take ages to look around an area, feel free to shorten it as you wish.
  • Go with friends, a lot of friends! People say the more, the merrier. It's a place you enjoy each other company and share laughter.

So, whenever you plan to go to Kota Kinabalu, include islands hopping in your itinerary. Do not miss this paradise on earth!

Say yes to islands hopping in KK!


Biqque said...

i cut my knee when i did free dive...tension gile pedih! tapi mmg best kan island hopping ni! :D

Diana Diane Teo said...

Glad that you like Kk island. Yes, I'm from KK too. Hahaha...

Traveller's Anatomy said...

I guess we can't control our excitement right :) Island hopping in KK is awesome!!!

Traveller's Anatomy said...

I wish we know each other earlier so we can spend time together in KK :)

Ms. Littlewing said...

wonderful travel blog and awesome photos.

fatt said...

this entry remind me of my snorkeling trip to 3 islands here which is Manukan, Sapi & Mamutik. i can't really recall which 1 i did enjoy the most. however since i had a jellyfish stung me on my arm...i became afraid to go down again. it was in April and ppl said it's jellyfish season. hoho~

Traveller's Anatomy said...

thank u :)
Glad u like it.

oh no, jellyfish! it must hurt eh? but it was awesome experience isn't it. I love KK :)

Karmen said...

Hey, I am going to KK on next week and I was wondering how to keep my camera at the beach when I go for swimming and snorkeling?
Is there any safety place to keep our personal belongings?


Dayana said...


thanks for providing a lot of info, tips and beautiful pictures.

Just wanna ask you, since you wear hijab, what kind of outfit did you wear when you go snorkeling?

Do u have to wear that special astronaut suit?

by.ya @ Traveller's Anatomy said...

for snorkeling u don't have to wear that astronout-like suit but it is for diving.

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