Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Kota Kinabalu Overview

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a collection of five Malaysian islands just off the coast of Borneo that are the perfect travel location for anyone looking for a day (or a few) of underwater activities and relaxing at the white sandy beaches, perfect for a day of lazing around and sunbathing.

One of the biggest attractions of the islands is the wide variety of aquatic life found in the waters surrounding the islands, and travellers who love natural beauty and the underwater experience will love a trip to the marine park which has many attractive diving and snorkelling sites where incredible untouched reefs attract a multitude of aquatic animals. Some of the islands also have resorts where travellers can spend a few days, like in Gaya. One can also choose to set up camp with tents on the islands and spend the night under the stars. 

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The 5 Islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

The marine park is comprised of a total of five islands, all of which are a short boat ride away from each other. The islands are named after an element of their history or their characteristics. 

Gaya Island
‘Gaya’ means big, and is named rightly so. Gaya is the biggest island in the park, but not the most developed. It has light forest trails for trekking activities. 

Manukan Island
'Manukan’  means fish. This island is named for the varied aquatic life in its surrounding waters. It is the second largest island in the park and the most developed. It is also more likely to find secluded spots here, for those looking for some peace and quiet It also has forest trails and trekking is very popular here. 

Sapi Island
‘Sapi’ is named after the ‘sound of a mowing buffalo’. It is another one of the most developed islands in the park and has most services and amenities, and tends to be the most popular island of all. 

Sulug Island
‘Sulug’ island is named in commemoration of the ‘Sulug’ peoples of Sabah. This is one of the least developed islands and has nearly no facilities. 

Mamutik Island
‘Mamutik’ island is named for the wide array of ‘seashells’ that can be found on its beaches. This is another one of the lesser developed islands and has few amenities, except for some basic forms of accommodation, but tends to be much quieter and is ideal for relaxation and snorkelling.

How to Reach Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The only way to reach the islands within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is by ferry. Every hour, boats depart from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, to the islands in the park. A trip from Jesselton Point to the park takes about 15-20 mins, depending on which island you travel to. The first boats to the islands depart at 7:30 AM and the last at 4:30 PM. The last ferry boats back to Kota Kinabalu tend to be very crowded, so leave earlier, by 3:00 PM to avoid the crowds. 

Need to Know

  • Be mindful of the weather when heading out to the marine park. Do not plan a trip during  bad or rainy weather. 
  • Avoid the local community in the western part of the Gaya Island, towards the town. 
  • The more closed off islands do not have many services, so be sure to carry your own sustenance (food, water, etc.)
  • Do not feed bread to the fishes as this ruins their eating habits and damages the corals.

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