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Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

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 – 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.

1bTun Abdul Rahman Park

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.

The Islands

1cPulau Manukan

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.

1dPulau Mamutik

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.

How to get there

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.

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Bako National Park – Sarawak, Borneo

Bako National Park – Sarawak, Borneo

It’s been a while since the last visit and butterflies were beginning to flutter in my tummy. 7 years can be a long time in the tropics. lifecycles seem to be shorter and longer at the same time.

It was a 5.30 morning call, we had to get to Bako village for an early check in at the park. Having arrived in Kuching the day before, we had not been able to get to the Visitor’s Information Centre in time to make bookings for a place to stay at the park. Had our quick toast, jam and coffee at Singgahsana Lodge (breakfast included) where we stayed the night before and carrying with us only our overnighters, rushed off to catch the 7.00am bus.

There are a number of ways of getting to Bako. One is to take a tour Or by taxi (RM30 per way) or by mini van. We decided on the bus. This public bus, Petrajaya Transport Co leaves from Bus Stop no. 1 at Jln Market, opposite Elektra House for Bako Village (Kampung Bako) every hour from 7am till 6pm and costs a nominal fee of only RM2.50. Be prepared to wait though. It’s not always on time.

The white mini vans take travellers into the outskirts of Kuching, charge at least double the price of public buses and waits to be filled before leaving. If need be, you can also catch one of these at the car park area opposite Electra House.

About 30 minutes later, we arrived at the bus stop at Kampung Bako. The Bako National Park office (more like a booth really) is by the jetty and manned by very helpful officers. Before entering the park, all visitors are to acquire permits which means just filling up a form and submitting to the officer there. Upon finding out that we hadn’t booked a room at the park he promptly called the park to enquire on availability. The park is now a must see for anyone visiting Kuching and surroundings. Looking at the visitor chart, numbers have certainly jumped from several thousand in the early 90’s to about several 10s of thousands in 2000s. Busy periods are especially on weekends. But on taking a closer look at the visitor chart, the peak seems to coincide with summer and winter holidays in Europe. However, the dormitories are difficult to book some days as tour agents bring in large tour groups. Unfortunate for us, we happened to visit on one of these booked out days.

Rooms at the Park

The officer at the jetty finally got a reply from the park and. there were no dorm bed left but there was a room available for RM105 per room per night. Ouch! Just to give you an idea of the type of accommodation at the park and pricing, have a look at the accommodation page.

Okay, not to scare anyone away from staying overnight. Bako National Park has so much to offer nature wise. The only grouse we had was the housing condition. We had no choice but to stay at a RM105 per night room, with shared bathroom facilities but we had expected a little more of the cleanliness and upkeep of the place …

Boat ride to Bako

Having been to Bako 3 times in my life, one of the highlights is the boat ride. The first two trips, we were totally drenched. The winds were strong, the rain was pelting on us and there was absolutely no cover from the direct bombardment; the boats were open-tops. Lesson no 1. make sure you bring along waterproof luggage. The recent trip in September was of fine weather, the water was still, the winds down and no rain. I’m not sure if the weather has anything to do with boat schedules but when the tide is low, boats have some difficulty getting to the jetty at the park and visitors may have to wade out to sea to the moored boat or enter and leave the park at tide related times ie earlier than expected sometimes.

The officer stationed at the Kampung Bako jetty usually arranges the boats for visitors. The local boatmen are licensed with the park and standard rate is RM40 per person per way and these boats can seat 4 – 6 persons comfortably. The ride takes some 45min, hugging the coastline, passing kelongs and fishermen out on their sampans pulling in their nets left out the night before. Finally, we arrived at the Bako National Park jetty.

Let the boatman know when to expect you for your return trip and don’t forget to ask for his name, just in case you have a change of plans and may need to get in touch with him. Normally, these boatmen will wait for visitors at the canteen so if you do have to change your plans, meet him there or pass on your message to the ranger or any of the other boatmen sitting around and they will be able to help you locate your boatman.

From the jetty, it’s a bit of a walk to the ranger station. At the ranger station, visitors are required to pay RM10 for the entrance fee. For any room bookings, either pay there or present the voucher for the prepaid room. If you’re early and roomkeeping has not completed their cleaning yet, then visitors can leave their baggage in the baggage room at the ranger station – hang around at the canteen or go on the treks.

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Sipadan

Sipadan

Sipadan Island is the only oceanic island in Malaysia. It is well-known for its international diving fraternity as one of the world’s five best dive sites.

Rising 600 meters from the seabed, Sipadan Island is located in the Celebes Sea east of the major town of Tawau and off the coast of East Malaysia on the Island of Borneo. This beautiful oceanic island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcanic cone that took thousands of years to develop.

Sipadan Island is located in the centre of the richest marine habitat in the world, the heart of the Indo-Pacific basin. In this ecosystem, over 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species have been classified.

In the waters around Sipadan, rare diving scenes are frequently seen such as schools of green and hawksbill turtles nesting and mating, schools of barracuda and big-eye trevally in tornado-like formations, pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks. Therefore, Sipadan is popular with its unusually large numbers of green and hawksbill turtles which gather there to mate and nest. And it is not really rare for a diver to see more than seventy turtles on each dive.

Besides that, there is a mysterious turtle tomb lies underneath the column of the Sipadan Island. The turtle tomb was formed by an underwater limestone cave with a labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that contain many skeletal remains of turtles that have become lost and drown before finding the surface.

Currently, this beautiful island is in the care of Wildlife Department. The Wildlife Department has stationed several park rangers to oversee the state of nature of the island. In order to protect the world’s unique flora and fauna on the island as well as the underwater world, the Malaysian Government has made a decision that from the year 2005, no more overnight facilities shall be on the Sipadan Island itself. This implies that all dive operators on the Sipadan Island have to move and diving at Sipadan will be conducted from other destinations likes Mabul and Kapalai.

Why Not Go

You really shouldn’t go to this place for holiday unless you are a scuba diver or you like snorkeling very much. There is nothing much to do on this island except enjoy yourself on the beautiful sandy beaches and watching the coral reef with its rich marine life. Besides that, there is no resort and nothing to buy on the island.

Why Go


The name of Sipadan is a legend in the diving circles, conjuring the images of patrolling hammerhead sharks, millions of colorful reef fish and, above all, dozens of sea turtles swimming peacefully everywhere. As one of the five top diving destinations in the world, Sipadan, the small rainforest-covered tropical island rising from a 700 meter abyss in the Celebes Sea, is an ultimate diving spot that a committed diver cannot miss.

Diving at Sipadan is certainly world class, so this place has attracted many diving lovers. It is well-known that divers are able to see about 150 species of butterfly fish within a single dive in Sipadan. Utilized by marine biologists as the indicators of coral reef health, a great number and species diversity of butterfly fish implies the abundance and diversity of corals. Pristine coral reefs are also landlord to other reef dwellers such as angelfish, snappers, wrasse, sweet lips, and parrotfish as well as the larger pelagic, barracudas, mantas, whales, dolphins and schools of hammerhead sharks.

Besides that, Sipadan Island is well-known with its vast numbers of Green and Hawksbill turtles which feed and breed within its waters before the females climb ashore to lay their eggs in the white sandy beaches. Others than that, diving near the coral reefs surprises you with incredible phenomena likes thousands of schooling chevron barracuda and big-eye trevally or ‘Jacks’. Moreover, floating inside such a tornado of fish is a truly breath-taking experience that is hard to beat.

On the other hand, Sabah is becoming one of the world famous location for ‘muck diving’. ‘Muck diving’ is used by divers to describe the search for rare and exotic small marine animals. Numerous rare and newly identified gobies can be found living in the corals, sand, mud and mangroves of Sabah, along with the rarely seen mimic octopus, neon patterned blue-ringed octopus, delicate flamboyant cuttlefish, psychedelic mandarin fish and ghost pipefish.

It is really worth to have a dive at Sipadan. Generally, the rate for three dives at Sipadan is just around RM260, plus RM40 for equipment (if required). Perhaps the rates might vary slightly among different operators. Boat transfers and packed lunch are included as well. Therefore you no need to worry about the food as there is no restaurant on the island.

It is vital to note that you need to have a permit from Sabah Parks in order to access the island, which will cost you RM40. Only 120 permits will be given out every day and they are typically obtained by the dive operators. You must make sure that the diver operator you choose is diving at Sipadan with permits, as some companies have been caught diving at the island without permits. You should check diver reviews of dive operators in the area before choosing as there are many have had customer complaints regarding faulty equipment.

Besides that, another tourist attraction of Sipadan is snorkeling. Eventually from the beach, the reef is easily accessible and parts of the reef further out can be reached by boat. There are a few dive tour operators bring snorkelers to the island at an all-inclusive rate of around RM170.

Best Time to Visit

You may make your way there any time all around the year but due to Sipadan is now a protected site, there is only 120 dives are allowed on Sipadan in a day. Therefore, it is highly recommended to dive as early as possible to beat the crowds and increase your chances of getting on the roster to dive.

Where to State

Previously, Sipadan Island was used to have resorts. In order to protect the environment, all the resorts were forced to close down around the year 2002. Hence, to dive on Sipadan, you have to stay somewhere nearby. There are resorts on the nearby islands likes Mabul which is 25 minutes away by boat and Kapalai which is 15 minutes away by boat.

As recommended, Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort is the best place to spend your night. It is just a few minutes by boat from the islands of Sipadan. Planned and built in full style as an airy, comfortable, sunny water village with no land in sight, Sipadan-Kapalai Dive Resort boasts a mile-long sandbank of powdery white sand where you can suntan at complete leisure while gazing out to the miles of brilliant turquoise stretching into the horizon offering the purest image of natural serenity. With the combination of sun and water in a unique and serene setting with friendly staff, Sipadan-Kapalai is an ideal stopover for you to have a great holiday experience.

Where & What to Eat

There are no restaurants on the island. You have to bring your own lunch and snacks there. Besides that, you are reminded to bring along your own water and drinks with you.

Nightlife

There is no nightlife on the Sipadan Island as it is not allowed to stay overnight on the island.

My to do List

– Diving
– Go to sandy beaches
– See the coral reef

-‘Muck diving’

– Snorkeling

Stay Away From

You should stay away from those companies that diving on Sipadan without permits from Sabah Parks. Make sure the diver operator you choose has diving permits from Sabah Parks.

Getting There

Getting to the Sipadan Island requires some effort. The best way for first timer is that by plane. At first, you may fly to Tawau from either Kuala Lumpur which is about three hour’s flight or from Kota Kinabalu which is about 50 minutes flight. Then, continue your trip by minivan or taxi to the port town of Semporna which will take you about one to two hours. And from there you may go to Sipadan itself by fast boat, which only spend one hour.

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