Monday, July 15, 2013

Labuan Island



Labuan Island, located off the northwest coast of Borneo, in the state of Sabah, is the main island of the Malaysian Federal Territory of Labuan. This federal territory consists of this main island of Labuan and six smaller neighboring islands namely Kuraman, Daat, Rusukan Besar, Rusukan Kecil, Papan, Mayat and Burung. Labuan was established as an important offshore financial center and Islamic financial hub in October 1990. It continues to offer these services via the Labuan International Business and Financial Centre (Labuan IBFC) until today.  In addition to functioning as an off shore center for finance, the island is also a free trade and tax free zone and operates as a center for deepwater oil and gas activities in the region. At present the island hosts more than 6500 off shore companies and around 300 licensed financial institutions including outposts of the world’s leading banks.
In addition to its important financial profile, the island of Labuan is also a choice tourist destination with local residents of Sabah and scuba diving enthusiasts, though the island is yet to feature on the radar of international visitors to Malaysia.  The city fathers of  the island of Labuan are thus undertaking various efforts in order to promote the island as a tourist destination. Plans for this endeavor involve building a bridge connecting the island to the mainland of Sabah and expanding the local Labuan airport in order to make it ready for international arrivals.
Origins of the name
The name of Labuan Island is believed to have been derived from the Malay word labuhan meaning harbor.
Best time to visit
Labuan Island is a year round destination, which can be visited at any time during the year. However, between the months of November and February, the island does receive a significant amount of rainfall due to the typhoon season prevailing north of the island Borneo.
Accommodations on the island
Unlike the island of Penang, the island of Labuan has yet to develop a tourist infrastructure and its accommodation choices are currently  limited to the few hotels and resorts located on the island like Grand Dorsett Labuan Hotel (the only high end accommodation on the island), Tiare Labuan Resort, the Waterfront Labuan Financial Hotel, Hotel Mariner and Manikar Beach resort.
Getting to Labuan
Labuan can be accessed by a variety of sea or air routes. A daily ferry service departs from Kampung Menumbok on the mainland and provides access to Labuan Island. There is also a ferry service to Labuan Island from Kota Kinabalu, but the journey is quite taxing for it takes over three hours to get to Labuan Island. It is therefore definitely not recommended for those passengers who suffer from seasickness. However, most visitors to Labuan tend to use the many air connections to Labuan Island provided by carriers like Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia and MASWing from cities like Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.
Getting around
Labuan Town is the capital of Labuan Island. This compact town can be easily explored on foot or then via bus or taxi. However, taxi drivers on Labuan don’t usually use the meter and you have to bargain and negotiate with the driver before setting on your sight-seeing tourney.

Attractions

The island offers a wide variety of tourist attractions that offer a valuable insight into the history of Labuan Island and the multi-ethnic character of its society. Prominent attractions on the island include the World War II Memorial, the Peace Park and cemeteries of fallen soldiers, the Labuan Museum, the Labuan Bird Park, the Ba San Miao Temple, the Gurdwara  Sahib Temple, the Jamek An-Nur Mosque, Labuan Square and Bazaar Labuan wet market.

Shopping

Even though Labuan is a duty free enclave in Malaysia, it is not really known as a shopping destination. The island hosts  a few shopping complexes and stores, and   is equipped with only one mall, which is located within the Financial Park area.

Beaches and water sporting action

Labuan Island d is littered with several stunning beaches and is a popular spot for shipwreck diving. The main dive sites on Labuan Island are Cement wreck, the American wreck, the Australian wreck and the Blue Water wreck.

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