Our first few days in Sabah had given us plenty of culture, delicious food, and a taste of their lush forests, but what we were craving now was a healthy dose of the sea! Kota Kinabalu itself is set on the coast, but if you’re serious about getting some beach time then you need to head out to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. This marine park is made up of a cluster of islands, but the most popular ones for beach-goers are Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sapi which were where we headed for the day! From Sutera Harbour we set off to the islands in style on our private speedboat… in just twenty minutes we had gone from city to sea, and moments later we were enjoying the sand between our toes and the soothing sounds of the crashing waves.
Unfortunately, that calm and serenity did not last long. Remember how I mentioned that Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sapi are popular? I hadn’t prepared myself for just how busy they would be; we literally watched boatload after boatload of enthusiastic day-trippers swarm the beach. I quickly came to the conclusion that this is probably not the place to come if you want a relaxing, lazy day of doing not that much on the beach. In fact, all those day-trippers come to these islands because they actually want to do stuff like diving, snorkelling and a couple of other unique activities so we thought if we couldn’t beat them, we’d join them! We packed away the beach towels and any thoughts of sunbathing, and did some more interesting activities instead…
Conquering the Coral Flyer on Sapi Island
I was always a big fan of the flying fox when I was a child because I absolutely loved that little thrill I got whizzing from one side to the other. Getting on the Coral Flyer brought all those happy childhood memories back… but this was definitely like no flying fox I had ever done before! The Coral Flyer is the world’s longest island to island zipline, it’s 250m long and is between Pulau Sapi and Pulau Gaya. A boat took us from Sapi to Gaya where we were helmeted and harnessed, before being hooked onto the line… it was at this point that I started to get just a tad nervous! It took a tiny bit of reassurance from a certain someone, a bit of laughing from the boys in the line after us, and a bit of a push from the guide and I was off! It was over in a flash but we enjoyed the most incredible views from the Coral Flyer – definitely one of the most memorable experiences of our trip!
Seawalking at Borneo Reef World
Borneo Reef World is a pontoon in between Gaya Island and Sapi Island where you can do a range of activities such as snorkelling, diving, and kayaking, but we were here for the most unique one of all – seawalking! Never heard of it? Me neither until I got here and found out that we would be literally be walking along the sea with the help of a ridiculously heavy helmet which creates an air bubble so you can just breathe normally. Once suited and feeling a lot like a member of the Jetsons, we headed under water with the help of a few divers and found ourselves on a small platform surrounded by fish. It was a surreal experience and absolutely perfect for people like a certain someone and I who aren’t the strongest of swimmers and have never dived before!
Lunch at Sutera’s Manukan Island Resort
All those activities are hungry work so we were quite famished by the time we got to our lunch at Sutera’s Manukan Island Resort. There are plenty of casual BBQ-style restaurants on the beach but if you want to enjoy your lunch away from the crowds, definitely seek out a table at the resorts quieter bar area. Here we were spoilt with a range of what I could describe as my Malaysian comfort foods such as nasi goreng (fried rice), mee mamak (fried noodles), grilled chicken wings, and satay! Since we were by the sea, it also seemed fitting to have some fresh prawns and whole fish which had been simply grilled on the BBQ. If you wanted more time on the island, an overnight stay at Sutera’s Manukan Island Resort is also a fantastic idea as you guests get access to a private beach and can fully enjoy the tranquility of the island once the day-trippers have departed!
Sunset Cruise with North Borneo Cruises
When we got back to the mainland, we swapped the speedboat for cruise ship which would take us back out and around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park for a sunset cruise. The difference between what we experienced during the day and then the night was remarkable – the crowds were gone and all the islands were exceptionally tranquil and even more beautiful! This isn’t the kind of thing we often do and we thought it would be a bit cheesy but we found ourselves having such a great time on board the North Borneo Cruise! The boat itself was immaculate and stylish, the staff were really friendly and helpful, and the food wasn’t too bad either. However, the views were the highlight of the evening – I completely understand why people fall in love with the natural surroundings of Borneo!
So Make a Move to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park…
- We hopped around the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park on a tour with Amazing Borneo – priced from £35/pp which included pick up/drop off from our hotel, the speedboat, entry fees for Sapi Island and Manukan Island. If you decide to venture out on your own, you can catch public speedboats from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal – return transfer prices start at MYR 23 (adult) and MYR18 (child) for one island stop.
- Coral Flyer – tickets can be purchased on Sapi Island and cost MYR68/pp.
- Seawalking at Borneo Reef World – priced from MYR250/pp.
- Sunset Cruise with North Borneo Cruises – priced from MYR295 (adult) and MYR180 (child) which included a two hours cruise, dinner, and onboard entertainment.
Have you ever visited Tunku Adbul Rahman Park? What was your favourite activity on the islands?
We travelled as guests of Sabah Tourism Board, Amazing Borneo, and Sutera’s Manukan Island Resort, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!
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