Manukan Island or Pulau Manukan is a 20 minute boat
ride from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. It’s one of the more popular islands in
Sabah due to the attraction of its white sandy beaches and rich hued
waters teeming with marine life. The abundance of corals and
availability of water sports makes this a premier destination for
island hopping in Sabah.
Manukan Island is part of the chain of islands that makes up Tunku
Abdul Rahman Park in Sabah, Malaysia. The island can be reached by the
jetty at Kota Kinabalu city. The boat ride costs RM 15 and can
accommodate 10 people, so if you’re in a group that’s less than the
quorum, be prepared to wait a while until 10 people sign up.
One can rent a boat for a day too.
The boat that takes you to the island is a modern speed boat and it
easily navigates through the clear waters towards the island of your
choice. The boat had a mixture of travelers from all over the world and
the early morning skies were perfect as we headed towards Pulau
Manukan. Snorkels can be rented from the boat operator at RM 10.
The boats that are allowed to dock at Pulau Manukan has to be
registered with Sabah Parks and it’s required to meet safety
requirements e.g. life jackets must be worn during the journey. The
waterfront of Kota Kinabalu zips by as the boat departs and there is a
constant wind from the speed of the boat billowing at you. The boat
occasionally runs into waves so splashes of water into the boat are
The lush green island soon comes into view as the boat slows down to
dock at the Pulau Manukan island. The natural beauty of the island is
apparent – calm, green waters with a diverse amount of fishes swimming
around and white, sandy beaches at the fringe with deep green lush
trees lining the island.
The rich marine life on Manukan Island is apparent as we disembarked
from the boat – the high tide submerges the lower part of the jetty and
people can be seen feeding the fishes with pieces of bread. The island
is a protected zone so no fishing or harming of the marine life is
permitted. This makes the fish breed with abundance and they’re quite
friendly and unafraid of human contact.
Pulau Manukan has chalets for overnight stays but most people come
here just to relax and enjoy the natural offerings of the island on a
day trip. The red buoys bobbing around the perimeter extending 100
meters out from the beach are designated swimming areas. There is a lot
of boat traffic outside that demarcation and the speed boats carrying
island visitors frequently passes very close to the line so it’s a good
idea to keep inside the perimeter.
The Manukan Island pier is a wooden catwalk hovering over the
vibrant green waters and the natural tranquility of the island is
palpable as you walk towards the beach…
There is a “Welcome to Pulau Manukan” sign at the end of the pier and a RM 3 conservation fee is to be paid at the booth before entry to the beach is permitted.
The chalets nested in lush greenery greet you as you first step on
the beach. The polished wood chalets look perfectly in place on the
island, due to the matching theme and decor of the architecture.
I did not waste any time in hitting the beach as the warm sands and
appealing shade of water looks too tempting to resist. I donned my
snorkels and started to float and swim around, appreciating the
wonderful diverse and unique marine life in the waters.
This is me in the snorkels. The water on Pulau Manukan is incredibly
calm and hosts a wide variety of fishes. I wish I had an underwater
disposable camera to show the readers of sixthseal.com the incredible
scenes that I saw while snorkeling:
There was friendly little swordfish swimming at the top of the water, skimming over my snorkel masks every now and then.
There were many different multicolored fishes which come over
and take bites out of pieces of bread that you offer then, occasionally
nipping at your fingers.
There were sea cucumbers of all sizes, lining the seabed…
There were starfish and corals of mind-boggling variety and complexity.
Since I didn’t have an underwater camera, I had to snorkel out into
the waters to retrieve select pieces of marine life so I can take
photos of them:
This is a starfish taken from about 30 meters out to sea. It’s an unusual blue color with a brown underside.
OMG! My thing fell off! 😉
This is a piece of the ubiquitous dead corals that wash out onto the
beach. I couldn’t very well lug one from the seabed, so this would have
There are lifeguard posts located at the beach for drowning swimmers (though most non-swimmers I saw were wearing life vests).
The beach at Manukan Island is beautiful – the scenic islands surrounding it are easily visible from the shore.
The tranquil waters of Pulau Manukan…perfect for snorkeling…
Reading a good book by the shade of a tree on the beach…
These are two travelers that I met while I was on Manukan Island – very friendly people, they were snorkeling as well.
This is a WWII memorial at Pulau Manukan…there were bombs and
shells on display by the beach, which were presumably recovered on the
beach after the war.
The fishes in the water are clearly visible through the calm, green waters…
…and all too soon, it was time to depart the island.
Pulau Manukan in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah is a great place to relax and unwind. It’s a great island…