Mantanani Island | Sabah Vacation Guide 

Mantanani Island, Kota Belud, Sabah

Sabah Tropical Island Vacation Guide


Mantanani Island is one of the more beautiful islands in the west coast of Sabah as it have managed to maintain its pristine condition. Mantanani Islands are blessed with soft white sandy beaches and swaying coconut tress and are becoming a popular destination for those seeking a beautiful tropical island paradise that is close the city of Kota Kinabalu during their Sabah vacation. These islands are located only about 80 km north-east of Kota Kinabalu city. If you are looking for a short break to a beautiful tropical island paradise that is near to the city center with less crowded and polluted beaches compare to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, then you should go and visit Mantanani Island.

Mantanani Island is a group of three islands named Pulau Mantanani Besar (or Big Mantanani Island), Pulau Mantanani Kecil (Small Mantanani Island) and Lungisan Island. These islands are located at the north-west coast of Sabah, opposite of the town of Kota Belud and are surrounded by clear water with visibility that can reach up to 40 meters. There are an abundance of marine life and corals in the ocean surrounding these islands making it a great place for snorkeling or scuba diving.

Mantanani Island are also famous for its wildlife which is unique to the islands. Here you can have the opportunity to see the rare and endangered sea cow or dugong (in the Malay language) during your Sabah vacation. The dugong is a large sea animal which is related to the Steller’s sea cow. They are said to visit these islands to graze on the sea grass that grows around these islands. However, the sightings of them today are becoming rare and you would be very lucky to spot one. Due to the presence of the sea cow, these islands are often called as 'Mermaid Islands'. Beside dugong, these islands are also famous as the place to spot the Mantanani Scops Owl which can only be found here and areas around the Sulu Sea.

Mantanani Island Aerial View
An Aerial View of Mantanani Island

Things to Do:

Scuba Diving. With more than 15 dive sites (and more still waiting to be explored) around the islands, Mantanani Islands is a great place for diving enthusiast. Here you can choose the kind of diving that interest you such as muck diving or wreck diving. For wreck diving, there are three wrecks here that lie near to each other and which is in the depth of 26 - 40 meter range. These wrecks have been identified as the remains of Japanese ships sunk during World War II and provide interesting and mysterious places for divers to explore during their dive. During the dive, you can also see some unique species such as moray eel, various species of rays, sea slugs, big giant clam and even sea turtles. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can have the opportunity to see or even swim together with some dolphins. If you are new to diving, this is also a good place to learn diving and get your diving certification.

Snorkeling is another activity that should not be missed when visiting Matanani Islands during your Sabah vacation. These islands are surrounded by shallow lagoons and gentle sloping beaches, making it and ideal place for snorkeling although the underwater current can be too strong sometimes. Night snorkeling is another activity that should not be missed as it allows you to explore the underwater world from a different perspective.

Village Exploration. Of the three islands, only Pulau Mantanani Besar is inhabited. Take time to explore the island and visit the local village call ‘Kampung Kuala Abai’ with its distinctive Malays styles homes and get to know more about the life style of the locals who are mostly fishermen. You can also buy some supply from the small shop here. However, the areas around the villages are not that well kept with rubbish littered everywhere and some cows lingering on the beach.

Bird Watching is another popular activity here. Mantanani islands are famous for its bird’s species which are endemic only around these areas such as the endangered Mantanani Scops Owl. Other species of birds that can be found here include the Pied Imperial, Grey Imperial and Nicobar Pigeons, the Philippine Megapode and many other species.

Enjoy life simple pleasure by taking your time to just relax and laze on the beach and watch the sun sets during your Sabah vacation. If you are a morning person, watch the sun rises with the magnificent Mount Kinabalu as its backdrop.

Getting There: Mantanani Islands can be reached by a 45-60 minutes speedboat ride from the jetty in Kota Belud. To reach Kota Belud from Kota Kinabalu city which is about 80 km apart, you will need to travel by road for about 11/2 - 2 hours.
Note: Contact your local tour operator for your travel arrangement and for overnight stay at Mantanani Islands.

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