Mataking Island is a beautiful tropical island paradise in the Celebes Sea in the part of Sabah, Borneo. It lies on the edge of the continental shelf that is surrounded by shallow sea with beautiful and colorful tropical coral reef. This privately own island is mostly uninhabited except for a resort and a police base. Its interior is still covered with some virgin jungle. The island is blessed with fine and soft white sandy beaches, surrounded by crystal clear blue water with wonderful undersea world with interesting marine life. Mataking Island is a 'recent' addition to the list of the 'must visit' diving paradise in Sabah. As such, its diving sites are not as famous or well known compare to Sipadan, Mabul or Libaran, and has the advantage of being less crowded and more peaceful. However, the diving sites are comparable to those in the more well known islands.
Mataking Island is made up from two islands called 'Big Mataking Island' (or Pulau Mataking Besar in Malay) and 'Small Mataking Island' (or Pulau Mataking Kecil in Malay). These two islands are connected by a 0.6 mile (1 km) sandbar and during low tide you can actually walk from the main island to the smaller island which is located on the north of the main island and get the feeling of 'walking of water' experience. The size of this island is about 1.9 mile (3 km) by (0.9 miles (1.5 km) with a total land area of about 40 acres. It will take about 60 minutes to walk around the island to enjoy its beautiful and peaceful surrounding.
Aerial View of Mataking Island
Diving is the main attraction at Mataking Island. There are about 12 dive sites around the island and another 23 or more other diving sites in the nearby surrounding islands of Pandanan, Timba Timba and the Tun Sakaran Marine Park islands of Bohey Dulang and Gaya. Each of these dive sites has its own features that are unique to the sites and as such divers should try to dive at each site to experience the different undersea scenery during their stay here. The dive sites are a heaven for photographers as it is full with marine creatures such as barracuda, rainbow runner, ray, clams, turtles, octopus, trevallys, tuna, goby, frog fish, wrasse, mandarin fish, reef sharks and many other species. The reefs are made up from various colorful species of soft and hard corals, anemones and nudibranch. However, big fish such as sharks are not common here.
Divers who visit Mataking Island during their Sabah vacation should also not miss the opportunity to visit one of the few underwater post offices in the world which is located at "The Wretch' dive site. This post office is the one and only underwater post office in Malaysia and is house in an old wooden cargo ship which has been sunk in 2006 to create an artificial reef to attract marine life.
When not diving, you can go snorkeling and swim with the sea creatures as the underwater world surrounding the island is just as beautiful and breathtaking as those in the deeper dive sites. During the night, if you are not doing a night dive, go for a romantic stroll on the island and enjoy the twinkling light of the fire flies. If you're here during July to October month, then go and follow the turtle conservation guide in search of turtle eggs for their hatchery. Watch the Green turtles and Hawksbill turtles come to shore and lay their eggs. If you're lucky, you can also watch the tiny baby sea turtles being released to the ocean during your stay here.
There is also a watchtower call the King's Watchtower for you to climb and have a 360 degree view of the island and the surrounding sea. The resort also offered some romantic gateway for honeymooning couples and for those divers planning to marry during their Sabah vacation, they should consider having an underwater wedding ceremony which can be arranged with the resort.
If you haven't been to Sipadan Island which is rated as one of the world's top diving site, you can also arrange for a day trip there from here. The journey to Sipadan from Mataking Island which is about 45 km will take about 90 minutes boat ride. However, a permit is needed before diving in Sipadan, so advance arrangement should be made to avoid disappointment.
Location Map of Mataking Island Dive Sites
Getting There: Mataking Island is located near the fishing town of Semporna, in Southeast coast of Sabah. From Kota Kinabalu to Semporna, you need to take a one hour flight to Tawau. From Tawau to Semporna, you can either take a flight or travel by road. From Semporna to the island which is about 25 km away, you need to take a 45 minutes boat ride.
For hassle free travel, use a travel agent who will arrange all the land transfer and will also apply a permit for you if you want to go to Sipadan for diving during your Sabah vacation. Paying for a guided tour which comes with diving instructor and proper planning will also ensure that you get to dive in as many dive sites as possible during your stay here.