Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park: Sabah

Sabah’s famed Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is one of its most prominent marine attractions. This expansive park, which lies within a distance of 3km from Kota Kinabalu, encompasses five islands Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug as it extends over 4929 hectares of land and sea terrain.  Established in 1974 and named after Malaysia’s first prime minister the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a favored haunt of sun-seekers, scuba divers and snorkelers, for it is easily accessible from the mainland. In fact island–hopping in TAR is quite a popular activity with both domestic and international tourists.

Setting off to island-hop in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

You can set off for your island-hopping jaunts from two points in Kota Kinabalu, namely from the jetty at Jesselton point or then from the jetty at the upmarket Sutera Harbor resort. Both jetties are suitably equipped with tour operators who offer island-hopping trips along with sunset cruises, fishing expeditions, dive and snorkel trips and a whole host of water-sporting activities like banana boat riding, parasailing, wind-surfing and so forth.

The five islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park:

The five gazetted islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park are located at a distance of three to eight kilometers off the coast of Sabah. These islands are believed to be a part the Crocker range still present on Borneo. The atolls are renowned for their pristine beaches, verdant rainforests and awe-inspiring stretches of coral reefs, which never fail to enchant and delight the scores of diving enthusiasts who visit all year round.

Pulau  Gaya

Gaya Island, the biggest island in the marine park, is also the closest island to the mainland. Home to luxe resorts like the Gaya Island resort and the Bunga Raya Island Resort, Gaya island also hosts the Marine Ecology Research Centre of the park. Other attractions on this serene and picturesque island include 20 km of walking trails, a tranquil, secluded public-access beach and well-preserved coral reefs, which span its entire length.

Pulau Manukan

Crescent-shaped Manukan, is the second largest island of the five islands and hosts the Park headquarters along with good stretches of beach and stunning coral reefs. The island is a favorite with snorkelers and is thus equipped with well-developed tourist facilities including chalets, restaurants, a clubhouse and a dive center. The island also hosts a swimming pool, a football field and various other sports courts.

Pulau Sapi

Pulau Sapi also offers hiking trails and has some of the best beaches in the marine park. As a result, it is becoming increasingly popular with picnickers, divers and snorkelers though it is equipped with pretty basic facilities when compared with the island of Manukan. Facilities on Pulau Sapi include a small café, a dive shop, toilets and changing rooms. Hornbills and Macaques are spotted all over the island.

Pulau Mamutik

Mamutik, the smallest island of the park offers fantastic opportunities for snorkeling and diving as it is surrounded by beautiful coral gardens. Accommodation options on the island include a small rest house. Camping facilities are available on the island but you have to inform park authorities if you want to avail of them.

Pulau Sulug

Pulau Sulug is the most remote island of the lot. Almost the same size as Pulau Sapi it is not visited much and thus has no facilities as yet.


  • Boats leave from 8am onwards for the islands and you can choose whether you want to visit all or any one or two islands. The last boats for the tour leave at around 4pm. If you are taking a day trip, you should be aware of the returning boats, as you don’t want to be stranded on an island without any accommodation.
  • You are better off starting early for tour boats tend to get crowded at around 10 am.
  • Costing of the trips depend on the number of islands you want to visit. However, the trips are well priced and are not outrageously expensive. If you have a group with you, you can charter a boat and travel to the islands at your own pace.
  • The best time to visit the park, if you want to snorkel and dive is between the months of January and March when visibility in the water is about 5 meters

Responsible Travel

The islands are visited by scores of visitors all year round. Authorities ask tourists to be aware of their environment and not cause disturbances. Also tourists are expected to clear up their rubbish after they leave.




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