Islands

Where are they?

Reef Check

Islands in Sabah

Sabah is surrounded by many islands, with over 50 islands, some islands remained unofficially unnamed. With Sabah itself located outside the Pacific Rim of fire, these islands have remained tucked safely from major natural disasters. While Sipadan Island has made both its fame and shame for the state of Sabah, there are many more islands intact and yet fully crowded with humans. Predominantly the sea-nomads from Sulu and upper Philippines would occupy a few of these islands but like all nomads, they tend to move from one place to another.

Sabah Islands from east and west side has made its fame, namely Pulau Tiga on the west coast and Pulau Sipadan on the east coast. The east coast islands offers marvel beyond words, with sandy white beaches, turtles paying homage to their birthing place, macro diving and exotic reefs. The west coast offers wreck diving, with Labuan as a top recommendation choice as it is has been a witness to conflicts during World War II. A bit further, approaching the controversial Spratly Islands is the Layang Layang Reef well known for its wall dives.

Sipadan was made popular by the late Jacques Costeau. The island is the number 1 attraction from both local and foreign divers. Later on the infamous Sipadan kidnapping drew the attention of the world again. Attraction and fame has it' s price, early in the 21 century, all human made structures are ordered demolished and remove from the island to avoid further environmental loses. Resorts once exists on the island is no longer available and with the authority of Sabah Parks, only limited visitors are allowed to visit or dive around Sipadan Island.

Mabul Islands became popular after all the resorts at Sipadan were moved out. Mabul is currently the nearest designation for those wanting to visit Sipadan since you can overnight at Sipadan anymore. Mabul has plenty of operators to choose from. There is an option to stay aboard a abandoned floating jacket (oil rig platform) now fully converted to put up with tourists.

Kapalai is best well known for 2 things. Macro dives recommendation and the fact it's actually a sinking island. There is no beach but instead shallow sandy waters. The place has been consistently recommended for its macro dives.





Survivor Island or Pulau Tiga made famous when the island was the featured site of the first Survivor reality show series. Before it had fame, these islands are like the many islands that once exist in our waters, uncharted by modern visitors and usually ignored by locals.

Mantanani Islands was newly introduced not too long ago and offers pristine clear waters plus the fact a dugong research centre is nearby. While the centre is not open for public, the destination is well popuularized among the locals. There are only 2 operators there so you won't be wrong if you pick anyone of them.

The 'anchor island' as is known off, Mengalum Island offers anglers to test their angling skills within this deep waters. The island is less visited and is located abit further past Manukan. There is an old ancient anchor thought to be left by one Magellan's fleet but it has yet to be truly identified.

If you are short on time, the nearby islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park will offer you limited preview of what other islands would offer. The Manukan and Sapi Islands being the most visited with daily visits available depending on sea and weather conditions.

Most of the diving sites offering dives are mainly based in East Coast, normally due to the fame brought by Sipadan. There are resorts like Pom Pom, Kapalai and Mataking that offers luxurious overnight stay, however if you are on budget they still other ways to secure an unforgettable diving trips.

While Sandakan has Pulau Libaran and Pulau Lankayan to offer, the 'turtle island' or Pulau Selingan is more well known for its Turtle Rehabilation Program while entertaining visitors who would find it interesting to catch a turtle laying egss or releasing pockets of turtles back to the sea. If the idea is charming for you then make sure you book 4 to 5 months apart for Selingan with an overnight stay as this is among the number of places 'hardest to book', second none to mountain climbs bookings.