Tropical Paradise Awaits! Explore the Secret Islands of Sabah

Imagine a tropical paradise with calm seas and pristine white sand beaches—Sabah, often dubbed the "Maldives of Southeast Asia," offers just that. Here are some of the most stunning islands in Sabah that you and your loved ones should explore, along with some essential travel tips for what to do in Sabah.


  1. Sipadan Island

Source: renscubaworx  


Renowned as one of the world's best diving destinations, Sipadan Island boasts an incredible underwater world. Divers can explore vibrant coral reefs, encounter over 3,000 species of fish, and swim alongside numerous green and hawksbill turtles. Unique to Sabah is the Seaventures Dive Rig in Semporna, a converted oil rig that serves as the world's first and only PADI 5-star dive resort. Sipadan Island is an unparalleled destination for any diving enthusiast.


What to Do in Sipadan:

- Diving: Explore underwater treasures and diverse marine life.

- Snorkeling: Experience the rich marine biodiversity from the surface.


  1. Manukan Island

Source: mustseespots


A short 15-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu City brings you to Manukan Island, part of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. This picturesque island offers a range of activities, from snorkeling to water sports, or simply lounging on the beach soaking up the tropical sun. Don't miss the chance to enjoy lunch with a panoramic view from the island's highest point before heading back to the mainland.


What to Do in Manukan:

- Water Sports: Jet skiing, parasailing, and banana boat rides.

- Hiking: Trails that offer stunning island views.

- Beach Relaxation: Lounge on the white sand beaches and enjoy the tropical sun.


  1. Kapalai Island

Source: pulaumabul


Kapalai Island, often likened to the Maldives, features numerous villas built on stilts over crystal-clear waters. However, Kapalai is more of a sandbank than a traditional island, with its sandy base barely peeking above the water. Relax on the sundecks with a refreshing drink and savor the breathtaking views of Borneo’s sunset—a perfect retreat for those looking to unwind.


What to Do in Kapalai:

- Stilt Villas: Stay in accommodations over water.

- Sunset Viewing: Enjoy stunning sunsets from your private deck.

- Snorkeling and Diving: Explore the marine life around the island.


  1. Mabul Island

Source: sipadanborneo


Located near Sipadan, Mabul Island is often visited by divers on the same trip. While Sipadan attracts divers with its large marine species, Mabul is celebrated for its rich macro marine life. The calm, shallow waters are teeming with fascinating creatures like mandarin fish, pygmy seahorses, ribbon eels, and colorful nudibranchs. For an exotic sighting, keep an eye out for the blue-ringed octopus. Mabul is famed as one of the world's premier muck diving locations.


What to Do in Mabul:

- Muck Diving: Discover small, exotic marine creatures in shallow waters.

- Underwater Photography: Capture unique underwater species.

- Village Tour: Visit the local Bajau Laut communities.


  1. Selingan Turtle Island

source: sabahtourism


Selingan Turtle Island is a sanctuary where visitors can witness turtles laying their eggs at night. Accommodations are basic, emphasizing the island's conservation focus. Spend your days strolling along the untouched shores and be sure to stay awake to experience the magical sight of turtles nesting. The island is also near Sandakan, providing access to other attractions like the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and Kinabatangan River cruises.


What to Do in Selingan:

- Turtle Watching: Observe turtles laying eggs and hatchlings being released.

- Beach Walks: Enjoy peaceful walks along the shore.

- Nearby Attractions: Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.


  1. Lankayan Island

Source: kated


Located in the Sulu Sea, Lankayan Island is known for its turtle hatchery and dive resort. The island is well-protected and monitored due to its proximity to the Southern Philippines. Divers can explore rich marine life, including the occasional whale shark, and fascinating shipwrecks colonized by colorful marine creatures. It's an excellent spot for spotting spider crabs, coral shrimp, nudibranchs, and seahorses.


What to Do in Lankayan:

- Diving: Discover shipwrecks and diverse marine life.

- Turtle Hatchery: Learn about turtle conservation efforts.

- Relaxation: Enjoy the serene environment and pristine beaches.


Travel Tips for Visiting Sabah's Islands

1. Plan Ahead: Many popular islands, like Sipadan, require permits due to limited daily visitors. Book your permits and accommodations well in advance.

2. Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Sabah's islands is generally between March and October, during the dry season. This period offers the best weather and water conditions for diving and other activities.

3. Health Precautions: Ensure you have the necessary vaccinations and consider travel insurance. If you're diving, be aware of the necessary health precautions and regulations.

4. Respect Local Wildlife: Many of these islands are protected areas. Follow all guidelines to respect wildlife, especially in turtle sanctuaries and marine parks.

5. Sustainable Travel: Minimize your environmental impact by reducing waste, using reef-safe sunscreen, and supporting eco-friendly resorts and activities.

6. Local Currency: The currency used is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). Make sure to have enough cash as some islands may not have ATMs.

7. Getting There: Most islands require a combination of flights, boat transfers, and land transportation. Plan your itinerary carefully to accommodate travel times.

8. Packing Essentials: Bring lightweight clothing, swimwear, sun protection (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen), insect repellent, a reusable water bottle, and appropriate footwear for beach and water activities.


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