Manukan – An Island with Rare Gems

With over 200,000 visits annually, Manukan (Pulau Manukan) is the most frequented island by domestic and international tourists. It is only 15-minute away by boat ride, almost a no-brainer choice for people who want an island day trip near to Kota Kinabalu City (KK).

Manukan Island is located just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah. However, to be fair, the reason Manukan Island becomes the most famous island is not just because it’s “convenient.” It does have three other outstanding factors that make this beautiful island of South China Sea a favorite destination. For one, Manukan has long stretch of white sandy beach; Besides that, it has the Most Developed Facilities and on top that, Manukan Island has the Best Snorkelling Spot.

Hailed as the second largest island of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and offers extensive water activities such as snorkelling, scuba diving, parasailing and other various water sports activities for those water sports enthusiasts. It also offers one of the best spots to catch Borneo’s famed sunset at the tip of the island called Sunset Point. Immerse yourself in a serene retreat as all premium villas and suites overlook the azure waters of the South China Sea.


You will be spoilt with choices with many water sports on Manukan Island. But the most popular and recommended activity on Manukan is Snorkelling. Snorkelling does not require you to have a diving license, so just wear a life jacket and take a dip into the water. You can rent the snorkelling gears easily on Manukan or boat terminal on mainland.

(photo credit: borneo dream)

When you enter the water, you will see mainly sandy bottom for the first 10 Meters, then the corals become denser and denser, at last you will reach a large “coral garden” about 25 Meters away from shore. The water is only 4 to 7 Meters deep at this distance so the visibility is very good in sunny day.

Corals are the home of fishes, of course you will see many types of fishes such as Sergeant major, Trigger fish, Parrot fish, Butterfly fish and Cleaner Wrasse. The coral area is big and got so many stuffs to see, sometimes I spend 2 to 3 hours have fun snorkelling.

Manukan Island Resort

You can overnight on Manukan Island if you would like to do so to take your time and relax. Manukan Island Resort is the only accommodation on Manukan and they have about 20 units of single- and double-storey chalets. The accommodation fees* range from RM560 per room to RM1,500 per chalet. You may look at their online booking page for room details and updated prices.

*Do take note that full board package which includes accommodation, meals, island entrance fee and boat transfer.

Two types of villa are available , that is Hill Side Chalet and Beach Chalet. Hill Side Chalets have sea view but Beach Chalets don’t. 

If you are wondering if camping is fine here, NO! Camping is strictly prohibited on Manukan Island.

For reservation, you may book the room online or contact Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (management of the resort) at:
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: +60 88-308914+60 88-308915+60 88-308916
Cellphone: +60 17-8335022
They also have a reservation center for walk-in guests (opposite to reception / ticket counter of Manukan).

Other Places of Attraction

The Marine Education Center of Manukan Island is used to exhibit some marine specimens such as seashells, turtle and corals. Currently it is close (since 25 Mar 2015) for construction of a Marine Touch Pool and may open again in June 2015. Now what they show are only a skeleton of Bryde’s whale and a shark head photo booth outside the hall.

Besides, there are football and volleyball fields in the center of island. For Muslims, Surau (prayer room) is available too. I wish they have locker service so I can store my belonging because I can’t bring my wallet to snorkelling. Without locker, life will be a bit difficult for solo traveler to Manukan.

Sunset Point

If you like jungle and have time to spare, you may go to Sunset Point in western edge of Manukan Island. The biggest motivation factor is this: there are two rare mangrove trees, which are critically endangered and only 200 of them left in the wild, are found at Sunset Point.

There are two ways to reach Sunset Point, one by rugged and unpaved jungle trail and another one by jogging track. Do you love bugs and birds? If it’s a BIG yes, take the jungle trail, otherwise follow the jogging track. The bonus of exploring jungle trail is a chance for sighting of Philippine Megapode, a chicken-like bird with red face. If you are the first one entering the jungle trail in the morning, you would spot this elusive bird.

(photo credit:

The jogging track is mostly flat path and easy to navigate. Along the way, you would see some beautiful trees with interesting barks. The soil on Manukan is not fertile, so most trees are short and slim, with dense ferns, palms and vines growing among them. By the way, swarm of mosquitoes is present during wet season but can be none in dry month. Bring your insect repellent just in case.

Having these rare mangrove trees is something we should treasure and guard it with fervent love. No wonder, the Singaporean plant scientist Prof Dr Jean Yong said, “having the tree here is equivalent to China having pandas.” SO, now you got the idea of how we should treasure those trees just as like how pandas are being cared and treasured as national treasure?

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