Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, Kota Kinabalu

This marine park is beautiful. Clear water, soft sand, tropical wind, and coral blooms nearby the beach make it a wonderful place to enjoy a seashore vacation. The best part, it is just 15 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu. 

A cluster of islands- Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, and Sulug have their own identity. We didn't want to be rushing around. So, we put Manukan and Sapi in our list. Both of us visited Manukan once respectively, long long time ago, maybe 15 - 20 years ago when we were just kids. However, not many things have changed. Our memory refreshed by many old set up. Well done to the preservation of the park!

Let us start with Jesselton Point in Kota Kinabalu. It is the jetty for our island hopping. Located at the northern most of the city, Jesselton Point is around 25 minutes from Centre Point by foot. Of course, we parked our car at the car park right in front of the jetty, and had been changed about RM25 (8 hours). That was the most expensive public parking fee we have ever got so far. So, our advice, in case of driving, you might consider to park your car somewhere else, such as Jesselton Point Car Park with cheaper rate (should be RM1 per hour). Or, why not simply park your car at Suria Sabah Shopping Mall nearby? We are not sure about the parking rate, but we are pretty sure it won't hit RM25 for 8 hours.

All right, back to Jesselton Point. The speed boat service starts at 8:30 am, with a trip every 30 minutes thereafter. The ticket counters open from 8:00 onwards. The island hopping is highly customizable. We can choose the islands (which are opened for visitors) and decide the time to spend of each of the islands. There are many companies offering the transportation service, but the fare is more or less fixed. The latest fare is available at Sabah Tourism Webpage. Another thing, renting snorkeling equipments from the transportation companies at Jesselton Point is cheaper than renting the same equipment from the islands. For us, we rented 2 snorkeling set for whole day trip (mask, snorkel, and vest) with RM20 each.

We reached Pulau Manukan (Manukan Island) before 9 am.  The beach was quiet, with clear sound of waves sweeping the beach softly. Not many visitors were there yet. Well, either mid-August was not the peak season, or we were simply lucky to have the privilege to enjoy the tranquility.

Entrance of Jesselton Point. Located at Haji Saman Road, the northern part of the city, is the main jetty connecting the marine park with the mainland. The jetty can be accessed by foot from most hotels within the city.

From the entrance, Suria Sabah Shopping Mall, one of the shopping malls in Kota Kinabalu, is just 100 meters away (upper left). Upper right shows the scene of the city inside the entrance. Food stalls and cafe at jetty were mostly closed due to Ramadhan month (lower left). 8:15 in the morning, most of the "water taxis" are still lying in the parking lots, awaiting for their customers.

The ticketing counters are located in a hall with plenty of seats (upper row). Many transportation companies offering similar services with similar rates (lower left). After the payment, the receipt needs to be kept for the whole trip for identification purposes.

Kota Kinabalu from the speed boat.

15 minutes from Kota Kinabalu, Manukan Island, paradise of blue and green awaits.

Calm sea makes the marine park a perfect place for water activities. We were advised to move further from the jetty for snorkeling, as the frequent speed boat trips have somehow disturbed the growing corals.

Another scene of Manukan Island from the jetty. Can you see the small white speed boat far from the beach? That's the place we went for snorkeling.

 Gear up for snorkeling. We had Nancy together with us in our trip.

Fish of the marine park. We saw many of them. A bit worry about the presence of sharks in the marine park, although they don't have the habit of biting anything as big as human being.

Any fish in the sea? This picture should be a clear answer to the question.

We saw the remnant of world war on Manukan Island (upper left). Manukan Island Resort is the sole resort on the island (upper right). The information of the hotel is available at the hotel's official site. There is a restaurant (lower left) and a small building with several shops, including a food stall (lower right) on the island.

We took our lunch on the island. There were limited choices, but enough to recharge our energy. The price, not much different from Kota Kinabalu.

We passed by Mamutik Island, on our way to Sapi Island.

Jetty of Sapi Island, a small beautiful island.

Protected by Gaya Island, Sapi owns a wide area for snorkeling. The corals grow near to the beach. As the water was shallow during our visit, we needed to keep our feet up all the time to avoid stepping on the corals. This photo shows our first snorkeling site, north to the island. Northern edge of Sapi Island is on the left. Gaya Island is on the right.

How well is Sapi Island being protected? We took this photo at the southern part of the island. Towards the north, the whole beach line is covered by Gaya Island (far behind the red roof jetty), forming a snorkeling heaven right between two islands.

Feel like want a dip in the water? That's what we did. Towards the east, we can see Manukan Island and Mamutik Island far away on the horizon. This is our second snorkeling site, located on the southern part of the island (in fact, both of the snorkeling sites are nearby).

Let's catch some fish and corals... with our eyes :)

Like other marine parks, we need to follow the rules and beware of the potential threats.

A small wooden building at Sapi Island, houses an office and a grocery shop. The grocery shop has only a few items for sale (upper left). Last trip from Sapi to mainland, visitors are crowding the island's jetty, awaiting for their pickups (upper right). There are many canvas shades and canopies on the island. These artificial sun blockers provide perfect shelter for buffet lunch, at the same time spoilt the natural feel of the beach (lower row).

We really like the islands, and definitely will return for more fun. To be frank, that was our first time experienced the fun of snorkeling. For us, Sapi is a much better snorkeling site for beginners like us. First, the corals are growing closer to the beach, and secondly, the sea is calmer compared to Manukan Island. For both islands, there are places for us to take bath, to change, and to sit for a rest. The toilets are clean and well maintained. There are life guards on duty, and they were very friendly and helpful.

For us, the price of food on the islands are reasonable. The soft drinks are sold with RM2.50 - 3.00 per can, while shandy was sold with RM3.00 at Sapi. Fried rice with 3 dishes (1 meat and 2 vege) was charged at RM10 at Manukan's food stall. That was good. However, at Sapi, we could not find any canteen there except the grocery shop that we had mentioned before.

So, if you want to visit the islands, sun block (highest SPF that you can find), extra clothes, towels, swimming suits, and sandals are essential. You might need to bring enough drinking water as well, unless you want to buy the water on the islands. Bring some snacks might be a good idea. Buffet lunch on island trip might not worth the money paid (our personal opinion). Renting the snorkeling equipments from the transportation company is better than from the islands, if you plan to visit more than one island, as the rental for the equipments on the island is per island basis. A mat can be helpful for a sun bath, or to place our picnic set.

We wrote some of our experience in Kota Kinabalu, as listed below. Please visit All Our Destinations to read more on our travel experiences.


  1. Very interesting blog. Useful for me. Thank you.


  2. Canteen at Sapi is right beside the "grocery shop" :)

    1. Dear Cath, thank you for the information. Very interesting when you put inverted comma on grocery shop. Those who went to Sapi before will surely understand why. Cheers!

  3. Hello!
    Is September good for snorkeling there?
    Thank you=]

    1. Sure my friend. The marine park is quite well-protected. Basically, we can snorkel there all year round.

  4. Hello, thank you for this write up, it's very useful!
    If I may know how long did you spend your time for the island hopping?

    Thank you in advance!

  5. Hi,ur review help me so much.if we arrive 9.30 am at jeselton, is it possible to get boat on that time?tq gor answer

    1. Sure, you will get a boat to the islands. there are several companies providing the transportation services, with very frequent boat service. Please make sure you get the package with the islands that you wish to visit at Jesselton point.