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Travel Guide: Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Looking for some exciting activities to do in Kota Kinabalu? Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park – its a National Marine Park off the coast of the island of Borneo in Malaysia made up of five islands: 5 islands: Gaya Island, Manukan Island, Sapi Island, Sulug Island and Mamutik Island.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia (Photo by Wikipedia)

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Marine Park was named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman and by 1974 it was gazetted as Sabah’s second national park. This state park is located in the Gaya Bay which is 3 kilometers away from the City of Kota Kinabalu. The marine park is a cluster of five islands and this park is of 4,929 hectares in which two third of the park is covered by sea.

The beautiful five islands showcases well preserved coral gardens, shallow waters and white sandy beaches. Initially there were only two islands in the park; Sapi and Gaya but the islands of Sulug, Mamutik and Manukan was added later on to expand the marine preservation. The origin of the islands’ names is historically related to the early discoverers.

Beach in Sapi Island
Beach in Sapi Island

Pulau Gaya Island is the largest among the five islands which has an area of 15 square kilometers and has 300 metres of elevation. It got its name from the word “Gayo’ which has the meaning ‘big’. The thick tropical forest is the main feature of Gaya Island. The 5 star resorts, hiking trails etc. are other peculiarities of this island. It is also known for the beautiful Police Beach which is situated at the Police Bay. Gaya Island is enriched with coral reefs which are in good condition, thereby making the island a good diving destination.

Pulau Mamutik is the smallest among the other islands and the nearest island to Kota Kinabalu mainland. Coral reefs and good beaches are the features of this island. This island is a good place for swimming but the swimmers must be careful because there are sea urchins on the rocks and corals in large numbers in the island.

Beach Front in Manukan Island
Beach Front in Manukan Island

Pulau Manukan is the second largest island among the other islands. It is a crescent shaped island and it is the most developed. The Headquarters of the Sabah Park is located at this island. The best beach is also on this island. This island features the best tourist facilities by providing a club house, diving centers, swimming pools, volleyball courts, football field and a few restaurants. There are hiking trails for those who love adventures.

Pulau Sulug is the undeveloped and remote island compared with the other islands. A tranquil and quiet atmosphere is the main feature of this island. It is a rocky island and it has an area which is less than 200 m.

Pulau Sapi is known as “Cow Island”. Five kilometers of natural trails make this island popular. Pulau Sapi is linked to Gaya Island by a sand bar during lowtide. This island has 200 meter width and half kilometer length. Snorkeling and scuba diving are the main things that attract the tourists. There are many thick forests in this island.

Each island has its own administrative office but the administrative center of the entire Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park can be found in Manukan Island.

Permit and Fees

Sabah Parks diving permits are RM 50 for Non-Malaysians and RM 20 for Malaysians. Island conservation fee is RM 10 for adults.

Where to Stay

  • Gayana Resort – catering to tourists wishing to stay the night and enjoy the excursion in Gaya or island hop to the other islands. is built on stilts and is sited in a bay on the island and offer chalet style accommodations complete with restaurant, souvenir shops and conference facilities.
  • Manukan Island Resort – For the avid diver, the reefs at Manukan Island offers excellent crystal water and beautiful corals. For those who want to enjoy the scenery, take a leisurely stroll along the nature trail or simply laze by the long stretch of beautiful beach.
  • Bunga Raya Island Resort & Spa is the award winning property that sits on Gaya Island. With 52 timbered villas that sits over the hills of Police Bay.

How to get there

You can reach Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park via speedboat avaiable at Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in the northern end of Kota Kinabalu, along Jalan Fuad Stephens. A compulsory Tariff Fee of RM6 per person must also be paid at the Jesselton Point Terminal before departing. A RM10 per person Environmental Conservation Fee is payable upon arrival to the first island you will be visiting.

Each additional island you want to visit will cost an extra RM17. Boats depart every hour to the island of your choice, with earliest departure at 7:30AM and last departure at 4:30PM. The last return boats are at 5PM. The trip takes 15-20 minutes depending on the island.

Travel Tips

  • It is best to visit these islands during the week as the islands are crowded by locals during the weekend.
  • You can rent your own boat if you want to do Island Hopping at your own pace.
  • Be careful during jellyfish season to avoid painful sting.
  • Be on time,  the last boats back to the city leaves at 5PM. Unless you are willing to pay additional fees or rent your own boat.
  • Bring along enough sun lotion and insect repellant.

Contact details of Sabah Parks Headquarters

Lot 45 & 46, Level 1-5
Block H Signature Office
KK Times Square Coastal Highway
88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +6088-486430, 486430, 486432
Email address: [email protected] / [email protected]

This trip was made possible by AirAsia Zest – The Right Way to fly and Sabah Tourism Board – Visit Malaysia 2014. AirAsia Zest now flies to Kota Kinabalu from NAIA Terminal 4 in Manila and Cebu Mactan International Airport. Visit for flight schedules, promos and online flight reservation. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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