Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP)

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park in Sabah, Malaysia, is a cluster of 5 tropical islands; Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug.

Highlights

  • TARP is the best place to go snorkeling in Kota Kinabalu
  • Have Fun With Water Sports
  • Trek through lush rainforest in Gaya Island

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP) comprises a group of 5 islands located between 3 to 8 km off Kota Kinabalu. The 5 islands are; Pulau Gaya, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Sapi and Pulau Sulug. The beauty of its natural environment combined with the proximity to the mainland makes the island group a favorite among picnickers, divers, and nature lovers.

Island Hopping in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a fun activity that allows you to visit more than one island. There are several island hopping packages; with 5 islands, 2 islands and with trekking on Gaya Island and snorkeling in Sapi. All the island hopping packages include BBQ lunch on the beach.

With temperatures between 23.8–29.4 degrees Celsius all year round, the islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman are perfect for any type of water sport. You will find a variety of water activities including; Kayak, Jetski, Parasail, Banana Boat, Sea Walking and Fly Fish.

There are dozens of dive sites in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, just within easy reach from Kota Kinabalu city. The best coral reef is between Gaya Island and Sapi Island. The reef is home to different kinds of fish, like butterfly fish, parrot fish, clown fish and dragon fish. If you’re lucky, you will stumble upon the bigger species such as red grouper, barracuda, and catfish. Other interesting marine life to look out for are mollusks, giant clams, sea cucumbers, the beautiful feather starfish, sea urchins in brilliant hues, cowrie, and scorpion shells.

Gaya Island

Gaya Island is a massive paradise that occupies an area of 15km2 or 3, 700 acres. This island, however, is not only famous for its land area but for the various beauties it possesses. Gaya Island, the island that is closest to downtown Kota Kinabalu, is covered with dense, virgin, tropical rain forest which has been a forest reserve since 1923. It has 20-kilometer hiking trails and a couple of luxury resorts.

Coral reefs may also be found along its entire coast making the island very ideal for diving and will be a great haven for diving enthusiasts. Considering its proximity to Kota Kinabalu, this paradise may definitely be a great destination!

The Gaya Island is also famous for a legendary beach at Police Bay which stretches to 400 meters or 0.25 miles of white sand which gently slopes out to the sea, making Police Beach very ideal for swimming. The beach has crystal clear waters and fronts the upmarket Bunga Raya Island Resort.

 

Manukan Island

The beautiful Manukan Island is the second largest island in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park and is the most popular island in the park among locals.

In its southern coastline, travellers will find great stretches of various beaches which are both eye candies and great areas for exploring and enjoying. The best beach is the one located at the eastern tip of the island.

Offshore of Manukan Island are coral reefs that are the best ideal for snorkeling, diving, and swimming.

Out of the five main islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Manukan Island features the most developed tourist facilities including 20 units of chalets, restaurants, and a diving center.

The Manukan Island is covered with dense vegetation and, similar to the Gaya Islan, it has hiking trails which will be very enjoyable for hiking enthusiasts.

 

Mamutik Island

The Mamutik is a tiny tropical island paradise.  Compared to the other four islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Mamutik Island is the smallest but despite this size disadvantage, the island is rich with good beaches and coral reefs. The island also has a jetty, a three – bedroom resthouse for rent, and staff quarters for the Ranger Station. Facilities in its resthouse include changing rooms, toilets, picnic shelters, tables and barbecue pits.

The most interesting part of the island is at its northeast tip where guests may find beautiful coral reefs. However, the beach in the area is rocky and swimmers must need to wear necessary safety gears when going into the waters to avoid getting stung by sea urchins.

 

Sapi Island

The Sapi Island which literally means “Cow Island” in English is located just off the south-western tip of Gaya Island. The twenty-five acre or ten hectares of an island has one of the best beaches in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which is also the most popular snorkeling and scuba diving place for tourists.

Between 10 in the morning and four in the afternoon, this island gets crowded with foreign tourists but after the last ferry leaves, it becomes a tranquil paradise for those who chose to stay overnight.

The island has been developed over the years to fit the needs of its guests by having high-quality facilities which include a jetty, picnic shelters, barbecue pits, tables, changing rooms, and toilets. The forest is inhabited by beautiful macaques which you may here in the area occasionally. Camping and making campfires are allowed as long as you get permission from the park warden.

 

Sulug Island

Of all the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, the Sulug Island is the farthest. It is considered to be relatively untouched, and undeveloped. It has the total of twenty acres or 8.1 hectares of land area and is more popular to tourists who prefer a quiet and a tranquil atmosphere. Along the southern end of the island, you may find great reef patches lying which may give you enjoyment in taking photos. 

Note

The islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park are usually pretty crowded with tourists, and they are not the ideal place to visit if you are looking for a quiet and tranquil place to unwind and chill out. However, it’s the only place in Kota Kinabalu where it’s possible to go snorkeling and scuba diving.

HOW TO GET THERE

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is accessible through Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia. The islands of the park are approximately 10-20 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu by speedboat.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL

The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park can be comfortably visited year-round. As the islands are only a short boat ride away from Kota Kinabalu it is a popular destination among day-trippers (locals and tourists).
The islands can be quite crowded during weekends.

ACCOMMODATION

Gaya Island Resort

Beautifully situated, Gaya Island Resort is set amidst lush rainforest with breathtaking views of the wonders created by nature over thousands of years.

Ancient rainforest and protected mangroves surround the idyllic villas set in the hills. Spacious, tactile and modern yet respectful of local Sabahan elements, each villa uses local materials that blend harmoniously with the natural environment.

Villa interiors are designed with a contemporary elegance and offer a variety of views including mangrove, canopy, tropical rainforest and the South China Sea.

Bunga Raya Resort

A secluded island hideaway of 48 timbered villas, the resort is tucked away on a tranquil and hidden bay framed by crescent shaped white sand beach on one side and the centuries old virgin jungle on the other. Each private villa is rough hewn and hand-crafted by local tradesmen, terraced into the hillside reflecting the traditional simplicity of the Borneo architectural style, blending seamlessly with the comforts and needs of the most sophisticated and discerning luxury traveller.

Private balconies offer jaw dropping vistas of the beach below and the South China Sea beyond. Villas range from simple timbered dwellings, steps from the beach, to opulent 3-bedroom, multi-level units with wrap around decks and indulgent private plunge pools. A dedicated hilltop spa, with exotic private spa pavilions, blends the very finest of Traditional Asian and Western treatments which capture restorative powers of indigenous plants and oils.

Manukan Island Resort

Manukan Island Resort is the only accommodation on Manukan Island, about 15 minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu. The resort, set amongst tropical vegetation, features wooden chalets that combines modern and traditional elements.

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