Sea, Sun and... just 20 minutes from
The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park was
established in 1974, just offshore Kota Kinabalu or some 20 minutes
by speed-boat. The park was named after the Malaysia’s first Prime
Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. Within its 49 square kilometres, of
which two-thirds are sea and coral reefs there are five islands,
Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Suluk, Pulau Sapi and Pulau
Pulau Gaya derives its name from the
Bajau word "gayo," meaning ‘big.’ The island occupies an area of
15km˛ (3,700 acres) and an elevation of 300 meters. Several ridges,
rising more than 600 feet (180 m) and peaking at 1,000 feet (300 m),
form the backbone of Pulau Gaya. It is the largest island of the
park, closest to downtown KK and is covered with dense virgin
tropical forest. It has been a forest reserve since 1923. The island
has a Marine Ecology Research Centre, hiking trails and one resort
built on stilts. The island also hosts very large stilt villages,
the biggest of them located just opposite the KK waterfront. The
villages are mainly occupied by illegal immigrants and are not
considered a tourist attraction!
The major beach area in Gaya is located at Police Bay, a quarter
mile of white sand gently sloping out to the sea and making it ideal
for swimming in the crystal clear water. Where the coral reefs have
not been damaged by commercial and other human activities they are
in excellent condition.
Pulau Manukan is the second largest
island in the park, and the most popular with Kota Kinabalu
residents since KK has no beach of its own despite its location
right on the South China Sea. Offshore of Manukan are coral reefs
ideal for snorkelling, diving and swimming. There are restaurants
with excellent food, fine overnight facilities and other
beach-related activities on the island, such as jet-ski,
parasailing, banana boat rides and more, and over week-ends the
place is positively crowded with local tourists.
There is also a small but interesting
Marine Museum well worth a visit.
Pulau Sapi, Mamutik and Suluk
Sapi is the smallest of all the islands
within the park, with basic facilities (changing rooms, showers and
toilets, BBQ pits). It used to be a popular venue for those wanting
to escape the week-end crowds of Manukan but the island has been
discovered by major hotels as an ideal venue for beach BBQs. Thus
the island can be overrun with Taiwanese.
Suluk Island offers now the best option
for those who want to escape it all and experience a little bit of
that ‘Robinson Crusoe feeling’. As with Sapi there are only the most
basic necessities on the island, and one can camp overnight but has
to be aware of the thievish long tail macaques and giant monitor
lizards that tend to go through the visitors’ possessions in search
of anything edible.
Pulau Mamutik is now almost exclusively for divers. A local dive
operator runs SCUBA diving from the island, an ideal spot because of
its pristine coral reefs and drops.
How to Get to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park & Accommodation
By speedboat (chartered or shuttle), from the KK Jetty at the
northern end of KK. Accommodation on the island should be pre-booked
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges
but since SSL has taken over the chalets and rooms they have
been refurbished and provide an excellent alternative to town
three of the five islands
a little paradise...