Nature, pristine beaches, diving, and relaxation; these are just some of the things that you will find and feel in the islands of Borneo. In this article, you will find our top 5 picks as the most beautiful islands in Borneo.
1. Lankayan Island
Lankayan Island is a beautiful tropical island located in the Sulu Sea, Sabah, and Borneo which is very ideal for diving enthusiasts and especially for those who are looking for peace and tranquility.
Lankayan Island is the best place to spend a tropical holiday filled with relaxation and unspoiled nature.
Where to stay: There is only one resort on the island; The Lankayan Island Dive Resort.
Getting there: Lankayan island is accessible through Sandakan, Sabah Malaysia. Sandakan airport is connected by daily flights from Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur. The transfer to Lankayan is by speedboat departing from the Sandakan Yacht Club and takes about an hour and a half.
>Sandakan Yacht Club Jetty to Lankayan Island – 10:00 am (Daily)
>Lankayan Island to Sandakan Yacht Club Jetty – 07:00 am (Daily)
2. Sipadan Island
In his 1989 ‘Borneo Film: “The Ghost of the Sea Turtle”, the famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau said “I have seen other places like Sipadan, 45 years ago, but now no more. Now we have found an untouched piece of art.”
In late 2002, after a long dispute with Indonesia, the International Court of Justice ruled that the island of Sipadan belongs to the state of Sabah, Malaysia.
The state of Sabah in Borneo has a reason to celebrate since Sipadan is being considered as one of the best dive sites in the world due to its location in the Celebes Sea where you can find the richest biodiversity of the planet. To protect the fragile ecosystem of Sipadan, the government ordered in 2004 to limit the number of visitors into 124 visitors per day as well as the relocation of all resorts in the nearby islands. The government efforts worked and caused the surrounding waters of Sipadan to continue being filled with various kinds of fish and corals. Currently, there are about 3,000 species of fish, hundreds of species of corals, a wide variety of rays and sharks, and large populations of green turtles and hawksbill turtles.
Where to stay: Sipadan was declared a Marine Park in 2005 and in order to protect the marine life, there is no longer accommodation available on the Island. Since then, all the dive operators moved to the nearby islands. We highly recommend Mabul Water Bungalows, Kapalai Island Resort and Mataking Reef Dive Resort.
Getting there: To reach the city of Tawau, you will take a 55-minute flight from Kota Kinabalu. Then you be transported by bus/van for about 1 and a half hour to get to the port of Semporna where you will reach the island by boat within 45 minutes. Transfers are included in packages offered by the resorts.
3. Derawan Archipelago
Derawan islands are a dream for anyone who is looking for the perfect tropical paradise: warm, isolated islands in the ocean with soft white beaches with tall palm trees, pristine seas that changes its color from green to deep blue, and an amazing underwater life of giant turtles, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs, and barracudas. There are also whales sometimes.
Derawan is one of the richest areas in the world for marine biodiversity and is, no wonder, considered as the third best diving destination in the world.
It is located east of Kalimantan, in the district of Berau. Derawan archipelago is composed of 31 islands and the most beautiful among these are Derawan, Maratua, Sangalaki, and Kakaban.
Derawan is also the largest nesting site for turtles throughout Indonesia and you can see turtles laying their eggs in the sand every day. You may also get the chance to swim with turtles which is, almost, always guaranteed.
Getting there: From the city of Balikpapan, take a flight with Kalstar Airlines to reach the town of Berau. From Berau, you will be transferred to the islands by boat.
4. Layang Layang Atoll
With a view of the island from above, you will see a coral reef surrounding an airstrip. The small atoll of Layang Layang is located 300 kilometers north-west of the state capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.
The island was built by the Malay Navy in order to affirm the sovereignty in Spratly islands in the South China Sea still disputed by China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
It is surrounded by crystal clear waters that is 2,000 meters deep and it is often ranked as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world due to its abundant marine life.
And because of the presence of the Navy in the area, the reef was spared from fishing with dynamite. Particularly noteworthy are the herds of hammerhead sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles, and barracuda.
Where to stay: So far, there is only one resort in Layang Layang which is the Layan Resort Avillion Layang.
Getting there:The only way to reach the island is to take the charter flight that departs from Kota Kinabalu which is included in the package offered by the resort.
5. Gaya Island
Gaya Island is just a 15-minute boat ride off the coast of Kota Kinabalu is the state of Sabah, Pulau Gaya is the largest island of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
Gaya offers heavenly white beaches, rich rainforest wildlife, and different dive sites.
Where to stay: You may stay at Gaya Island Resort and Bunga Raya Resort
Getting there: From Jesselton Point (about 15 minutes from Kota Kinabalu airport), you will take a boat to reach the island.