Tunku Abdul Rahman Park comprises a group of 5 islands located 3 & 8 km off Kota Kinabalu – Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug.
The park is spread over 4,929 hectares, two thirds of which cover the sea. Before the Ice Age, it formed part of the Crocker Range mass of sandstone and sedimentary rock on the mainland. However, towards the end of the Ice Age about one million years ago, the melting ice brought about changes in the sea level and and parts of the mainland were cut off by the sea to form the islands of Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. Evidence of this can be seen from the exposed sandstone of the coastline forming the cliffs, caves, honeycombs and deep crevices. The beauty of its natural environment combine with its close proximity to the mainland makes the island group a favourite among picnickers, divers and nature lovers. In a bid to protect the natural environment with its coral reefs, marine life and its flora and fauna, the islands were gazetted as a National Park, beginning with Pulau Sapi and part of Pulau Gaya in 1974 and then embracing the three nearby islands in 1979.
FLORA & FAUNA
The plant life feature a mix of typical shoreline vegetation such as Pandanus dubius and Podocarpus polystachyus with those of the dipterocarp forests. Representative of the latter group are the Keruing with their narrow crowns of large dark green leaves and unique ridged two-winged fruits. The Seraya, Kapur and Selagan Batu are also to be found in abundance. The only undisturbed coastal dipterocarp forests are on Pulau Gaya, where the Hopea philipineansis and Quassia borneensis are abundant. The Fish Tail and Nibong Palm flourish in the shady gulleys. The park is home to the bearded pig, scaly pangolin, rats, squirrels and monkeys. Snake and monitor lizards make up the reptile population. Large birds such as the white breasted sea-eagle, pied hornbill and green heron are found in large numbers. Smaller varieties such as the sandpiper, the pink-necked green pigeon, bulbul, flycatcher, sunbird and swiftlets also flourish within the tranquil park environment.
One of the most intriguing birds around is the Megapode or Burung Tambun, a ‘chicken look-alike’, with large feet and which meows like a cat! It lays its eggs in huge mounds of sand and leaves at the edge of the beach. The fermentation of the leaves produces the heat necessary to incubate the eggs for successful hatching. The best coral reefs are those between Pulau Sapi and Pulau Gaya. The colourful and delicately beautiful corals are living organisms which feed on the plankton floating in the sea. The reefs is home to many different kind of fish, in all shapes and colours of the rainbow – the butterfly fish, parrot fish, clown fish in stripes of bright yellow and white, and dragon fish; and those of the bigger variety such as the red grouper, barracuda and catfish. Other marine life include mollusks, giant clams, sea cucumbers, the beautiful feather-starfish, sea urchins in brilliant hues, cowrie shells and scorpion shells.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
Pulau Manukan shaped like a boomerang, Manukan covers 51 acres and is the second largest island in the group. The southern and eastern coastlines have a number of beautiful beaches – the best stretch being on the eastern tip. The surrounding crystal clear waters is ideal for snorkeling, diving and swimming. Trails around the island provide endless hours of exciting trekking in the cool, shady forest. Facilities such as chalets, a clubhouse, restaurants, souvenir centre, diving centre, a swimming pool, tennis and squash courts are provided to make your stay an enjoyable and fun-filled experience.
There are 20 units of wooden chalets, situated on the lush green slope overlooking the sea. Set within a garden of swaying palms and vivid tropical blooms, they provide the perfect hide-away for overnight stays or leisurely weekends.
The smallest of the group, this island covers only 15 acres. Nevertheless, it is endowed with rich coral life with a colourful underwater treasure trove. The rare white distichopora and reddendrophyllia are to be found in the reef at the north eastern tip. This is the place for diving enthusiasts and snorkelers! Facilities such as changing rooms and toilets; picnic shelters and tables are provided for day trippers. There are no accommodation facilities but overnight camping on the island is allowed with prior permission from the Park Warden.
This 20 acre island, being th least developed and the farthest away, has an almost untouched quality, making it ideal for those seeking a more tranquil and deserted atmosphere. The shoreline is mostly rocky with beautiful patches of reef at the southern end. Corals such as the Acropora, Echnipora, Montipora and Seriapora are a visual delight with their variety, delicate shape and brilliant colours. Facilities such as changing rooms and toilets; picnic shelters and tables are provided for day trippers. There are no accommodation facilities but overnight camping on the island is allowed with prior permission from the Park Warden.
A small island of 25 acres has the distinct advantage of having some of the nicest beaches of clean white sand and sparkling crystal clear water and a coastline fringed with beautiful coral reefs. It is the ideal place for snorkeling, diving and swimming. If you can do neither of this but do not want to be left out in the discovery of the rich underwater treasures, take heart-a glass boat rental service will allow you to see it all just as closely. Hiking trail through the interior provide an excellent opportunity for nature appreciation…
There are no accommodation facilities but picnic shelters, barbeque pits, tables, changing rooms and toilets are provided for day use. Overnight camping on the island is allowed with the permission from the Park Warden.
The largest island, is located about 15 miles from Kota Kinabalu. The 3,665 acre islands has 16 miles of shoreline, certain stretches consisting of fine white sand. Popular beaches include Bulijong Bay and Police Beach, a quarter mile of beautiful sand sloping gently into the crystal clear bay, perfect for swimming, snorkeling and diving. The untouched coastal dipterocarp forest makes it ideal for trekking and graded nature trails through the inland forest provides opportunities for a study of the various species of plant and animal life within. Day use facilities include public shelters, changing rooms and public toilets.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR VISITORS
The park was created for the protection of the natural environment, including the coral reefs, marine life and the flora and fauna. Visitors are strictly prohibited to engage in any of the following activities:
- Hunt or carry firearms, poison, spear guns and dangerous weapons within the park.
- Harm or disturb any plant, animal or other living things.
- Pick, cut or collect plants, insects, corals, shells and any other materials, dead or alive.
- Write names on rocks, trees or shelters.
- Bring pets into the park.
Boats to the islands are available at the Jesselton Point (near the Royal Malaysian customs office) and the Marina Jetty (within Sutera Harbour Resort). They run from 7.30am to 5pm daily.