How to Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

How to visit Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is a group of five tranquil islands, just off Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. This is the biggest city in the district of Sabah and when travelling to Borneo, it’ll more than likely to be your entry point. What better way to ease yourself in than a day trip full of activities like snorkelling with a dazzling array of brightly coloured fish, kicking back on the beach, kayaking or riding a zip line between islands!

Sapi Island view at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Sapi Island at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Visiting the Islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

The five islands which make up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park are:

  • Gaya
  • Sapi
  • Mamutik
  • Sulug
  • Manukan

None are further than a 15 minute speed boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, so they’re really easy to visit. We decided to visit Sapi and Mamutik.

Sapi Island

Sapi is one of the smallest and least developed so there’s no accommodation. We’d read that there’s a great 5km hiking trail, which is great for spotting wildlife. Alas the trail was shut when we arrived (and appears to have been for some time). Still, it’s not all bad. There’s some fantastic snorkelling to be had. You can do this either right by the pier or just a two minute walk around the side on another beach. This was the best place to head in to the sea, as nearly everyone goes near the pier (where the water is clouded and there’s less fish).

Around the side of Sapi we saw no end of fish. There’s the cute Nemos  (Clownfish) nesting in the sea anemone who curiously swim right up to your goggles. Loads of multi coloured Parrot fish that look like and oil slick dipped in ice cream. The longest Needlefish we’ve ever seen and Puffer fish that float near the bottom, their chunky bodies being propelled by tiny little propeller fins

Here’s an excellent resource to help identify the fish when snorkelling and diving in Malaysia.

Gaya Island Borneo
The view of Gaya Island as seen from Sapi

Alas, due to an SD card issue on the day, I can’t share gorgeous underwater pictures from my GoPro. You’ll just have to take my word for it, that it was well and truly a beautiful snorkelling experience.

If you’re hungry, Sapi has a restaurant, one small shop for snacks and a place where you can hire Sea Suits. They are a bit like wearing a bubble on your head and going scuba diving, but without the need to learn how to scuba dive! The cost is RM250 per adult. We didn’t try it out.

It’s also possible to take a zip line from Gaya to Sapi. This can be arranged at Sapi pier. A boat takes you over to Gaya and then you zip line back. It looked like a short but sweet experience. The cost is RM65.

If the tide is low, it’s even possible to walk across the sand to Gaya. Just don’t get stranded when the tide comes back in!

Mamutik Island

Mamutik was our next destination. This is renowned for being the best area of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park for snorkelling. It didn’t disappoint. As with Sapi, you can snorkel by the pier, or head around the corner for a more peaceful experience. The fish were in abundance and there was a lot of coral. Colours and fish of all shaped and sizes dashed about. I even saw a Ray gracing along the bottom of the sea and then bury itself in the sand.

Mamutik Island Beach at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Mamutik Island Beach

It’s possible to walk a short hiking trail on Mamutik, but bring your bug spray. Within two minutes, we were both covered in bites. The mosquitoes and insects here are very hungry! The trail takes you up a steep path and in to the forest. Here we spotted huge Malaysian Monitor Lizards. The ones we’d seen before were similar in size to Iguanas. These were the size of small crocodiles!!

Mamutik Island Walking Trail
The walking trail on Mamutik Island
Large Borneo Tree
Tress on the walking trail

Mamutik is also small, but excursions can be arranged at Borneo Dive Centre. There’s also a restaurant here.

How to visit Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

A tour isn’t needed, so here’s how to visit Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park independently:

  1. Make your way to Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, which is likely to be within a 10 – 30 minute walk from your accommodation. Or you can take a taxi which will be RM10 -15 ($ USD). The Grab app is also an option here and will cost around RM5 ($ USD) so you’ll save a bit of money by using that.

     

  2. There are a confusing number of booths at Jessleton Point Ferry Terminal, but go to ‘Island Hop‘, which can be seen in the picture below.
    Island Hop Jessleton Point Ferry
    The Island Hop booth at Jessleton Point Ferry

  3. Depending on how many islands you want to visit, the more you save. A standard journey to one is RM23 ($USD). Two is RM33 ($USD). Four is RMxx. Although all the signs are in Korean and Chinese, everyone at Island Hop spoke excellent English. Ask for the boat times so you can plan your day accordingly. The last boat departs at 5PM. We opted for a 9:30AM boat to Sapi. Then Sapi to Mamutik at 1:00PM, finally returning to Kota Kinabalu at 4:00PM.

    Allow yourself a minimum of two hours on an island and around half an hour for transferring from one to another. (Although the journeys are 10 minutes, you need to arrive early, get a seat, wait for the boat to be late and so on).

     

  4. When you arrive at the first island you’ll pay a Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park tax. This is RM20 ($USD) per adult and valid for all islands you visit. Therefore you only pay the fee once and hold on to your ticket.

    It’s possible to eat on the islands. Allow at least RM12 ($USD) and up to RM20 ($USD) for a meal. It’s still cheap, but more than double what you’d pay on the mainland.
  5. If you don’t have your own snorkel, they can be hired on the islands or at the Jessleton Point Ferry Terminal. The price will be around RM10 ($USD).

     

  6. There’s no need to pay a lot of money to stay on the islands. There’s and Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is an easy day trip. There’s an abundance of good value accommodation in Kota Kinabalu town.
Holding a Malaysian Flag
Welcome to Borneo

 

Get the best value accommodation in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park here:

Booking.com

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How to Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

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