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Sibuan Island
The Islands of Sabah

Sabah is sought after by ocean loving travelers as the seas are abundant in coral reefs and marine life. Sabah has an astounding number of islands off its coastlines on both its eastern and western regions. These islands make a fantastic gateway for those who want an exciting vacation on the beach.
Clear waters, sun-drenched beaches and un-spoilt tranquility are the main attraction of Sabah’s islands. Underwater and its marine life is absolutely stunning. Surrounded by one of the richest underwater ecosystems in the world along three of its borders, Sabah is one of the premier destinations to view marine life.

There are many rare and endangered sea creatures such as the green and hawksbill turtles, napoleon wrasse, giant clams as well as countless species of sharks and schools of thousands of barracuda and jacks. Sabah is not only known for its reef’s larger inhabitants but and also as a ‘muck diving’ paradise with such rarities as the mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, mandarinfish, harlequin ghost pipefish, seahorses, ribbon eels, plus many types of weird and wonderful frogfish and nudibranches.

Welcome to Sabah Islands in Borneo

Welcome to Islands of Sabah !
Sabah itself is part of an island on its own - the Borneo Island. Sabah tempts visitors with exotic offshore islands. Here Sabah island resorts provide tropical vacations with peace and tranquility, beautiful beaches, sun-bathing and sea sports. Some of the best dive spots of the world are found in Borneo Island. Most of these dive spots are concentrated in Sabah. World-famous dive sites like Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai islands are all near Semporna in the Eastern coast. Another top spot is Layang Layang situated 300km off Kota Kinabalu and Lankayan Island near Sandakan........

Sabah Islands in Malaysia

What makes Malaysia so unique for diving is the geographical position, being in the centre of the richest marine resources in the world. The ocean's currents caused by the Coriolis effect, carry with it the nutrients and food required for the growth of many species of corals & plants resulting in a fantastic reef system of hard and soft corals. It is the abundance of varied species of marine life the reef supports that draws scuba divers from the world over to our shores. Purely examining it from a diver's point of view, contributing factors to the top dive locations in Malaysia include the presence of the most unusual marine creatures, the health of the coral reef, visibility and clarity of the waters, the number of marine species it has and the experience of one's stay at the resorts in the vicinity of islands around Sabah.

Sabah has 394 islands
“Sabah has the largest number of islands in Malaysia and is one of the most active states in naming islands and other geographical features.”

Ahmad Fauzi Nordin - Deputy director
Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (JUPEM)
Seminar on Geographical Names, Kota Kinabalu, 11 April 2011

There are total 394 Official Islands in Sabah’s territory.

Based on JUPEM’s statistics,Malaysia has a total 878 islands and there are about 100 of them in the West Malaysia have yet to be named.

Apart from 878 islands, Malaysia also has 510 geographical features including rocks, sandbanks and ridges.

List of Islands in Sabah

Layang-Layang Island  1 Resort Kota Kinabalu
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park 3 Resorts Kota Kinabalu
Dinawan Island Private Island
Kinarut / Papar
Si Amil Island Semporna
Mantabuan Island Semporna
Bohey Dulang Island Semporna
Sibuan Island Semporna
Kapalai Island Semporna
Sipadan Island World famous
Mataking Island Private Island
Mabul Island Semporna
Pom Pom Island Private Island
Tun Sakaran Marine Park Semporna
Kelambu Beach Kudat
Lankayan Island Sandakan
Libaran Island Sandakan
Turtle Island Park Sandakan
Pulau Tiga "Survivor Island" Kuala Penyu
Mantanani Island Kota Belud
Usukan Cove Kota Belud
Roach Reef Man-made Private Island


Getting There to the islands of Sabah : Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia provide direct flights from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru to Tawau. At the new Tawau airport you are picked up by an air-condition minivan and transferred 1.5 hours to the Semporna Town.

From Semporna all operators bring their guests by speedboat to the islands. Following traveling times occurs:

· Semporna Town to Mabul Island 30 Minutes
· Semporna Town to Kapalai Island 45 Minutes
· Semporna Town to Sipadan Island 60 Minutes
· Mabul Island to Sipadan Island 20 Minutes
· Kapalai Island to Sipadan Island 15 Minutes
· Mabul Island to Kapalai Island 5 Minutes


The BEST of Sabah for your ISLAND DREAMS :

Sipadan Island -  one of the most beautiful dive spots in the world
Sibuan Island - one of the most beautiful islands in Celebes Sea
Mabul Island - the most popular resort island from 5 star to backpacker
Mantanani Island - one of the most beautiful islands on the west side of Sabah
Manukan Island - most popular picnic island for city people in Sabah
Banggi Island - the largest island in Malaysia is the new Tun Mustapha Marine Park

Sibuan Island
Sibuan Island in Sabah
This most beautiful island in the Celebes Sea

The Caribbean Islands and The Borneo Islands are international popular choice for Tropical Island Vacation.
Sabah, north of Borneo, offers a truly tropical island vacation in a land of tropical wonders from ocean deep to mountain high.
Rich marine and coastal waters, pristine beach and nature, scenic views, abundance of flora and fauna and cultural resources of multi-ethnic groups, Sabah’s tropical tourism assets are aplenty.


Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone)

The Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (Esszone), involving waters off :
1- waters off Semporna
2- waters off Tawau
3- waters off Lahad Datu
4- waters off Sandakan
5- waters off Kinabatangan
6- waters off Kunak

in the eastern Sabah coastal areas from Tanjung Pundaras in Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Semporna to the Tawau Jetty, a distance of 362 nautical miles and coverng an area of 121,270 square nautical miles.


Sunday May 4, 2014 :
Fresh off a piracy case on Sunday May 4, 2014, Sabah was shaken by the kidnapping of another Chinese national from an island nearby.

Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman has since announced that a curfew and travels restrictions would be imposed in high risk areas off the coast of Sabah.

The kidnapping of 34-year-old fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin from Guangzhou saw five Filipino gunmen in a brief shootout with the pursuing Malaysian security forces before they fled to Sibutu Island in the southern Philippines.

Monday 14 July 2014 : The British Foreign and Commonwealth office has advised its citizens against non-essential travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, following recent terrorist attacks.

The move came following the killing of a Malaysian policeman and kidnapping of another off Pulau Mabul, Semporna on July 12, 2014

It said the advisory covers travel to all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah from Kudat to Tawau, including, but not limited to :
1- Lankayan
2- Mabul
3- Pom Pom
4- Kapalai
5- Litigan
6- Sipadan
7- Mataking

Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom)

ESSCom is a system to protect the security of the islands in the east coast of Sabah.
There were a total of 1.6 million Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia in 2013.
Sabah is home to some of the world's top diving sites, in violence that has hurt the local tourism industry.
In April 2000, some 21 people were kidnapped by Filipino militants, including 12 foreigners. The kidnappers released the hostages after US$20 million was paid by the Philippine government at the mediation of Libya.
February, 2013, armed Sulu terrorists breached Malaysian territorial waters to stake a claim on their '"ancestral land" in Sabah culminating in bloody clashes with Malaysian military.
November, 2013, a Taiwanese couple was assaulted on Bon Bon island off Sabah. The husband was killed while the wife was abducted, to be released only after a large sum of ransom was paid to the kidnappers several months later.

In July, 2014 the shooting in Mabul Island was the latest in a spate of kidnapping raids in Sabah

In June 2014, Filipino gunmen seized a Malaysian fish breeder and his Filipino worker from their farm in Sabah. They have not yet been freed.

In May, 2014 a Chinese fish farm manager was abducted from his farm,
On April 2, 2014 a Chinese tourist and a Filipino worker identified as Gao Hua Yuan, 29, and Marcy Dayawan @ Mimi, 40, were abducted from Singamata Adventures Reef and Resort in Semporna by masked gunmen, believed to be part of the KFR group from the southern Philippines around 10.30pm. All three were released in July the same year
Authorities usually did not disclose if ransoms were paid, but the kidnappers always demanded money in exchange for their release.
The formation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) is not to allow the terrorists to roam so freely into Sabah's territory any longer.


Sabah is blessed with many natural attractions such as Mount Kinabalu, numerous islands and other well-preserved natural habitats.
The abundance of fresh seafood and friendly locals people attract domestic and international tourists

Tourist arrivals in Malaysia 2011 was 24.8 million, while for State of Sabah, it was 2.85 million.

Banking on its natural beauty to continue attracting tourists, Sabah had recorded 2.88 million tourist arrivals in 2012. The figure was a 1.1 per cent increase from 2011
The 2012 figures were obtained through 131 international flights, 660 domestic flights as well as 18 cruise ships with 12,707 passengers that came to Kota Kinabalu Port in year 2012.

Sabah is unique with beautiful beaches, world-class islands, landmark mountain and diverse communities.

Sabah government made difficult but right decisions to ensure future generations can continue to enjoy all the beautiful islands in Sabah.
A gazette park is supposed to be clean and pristine. The principal purpose of gazetting it is to protect its natural environment, and any human activity on the island should only be to facilitate visitors to enjoy its beauty and pristine nature.
The number of food providers that are allowed to operate on the island should not turn the island into another hawkers’ enclave like those on the mainland.

The future generations can continue to enjoy all the beautiful islands in Sabah only if the present generation to make difficult but right decision today.

Though the target of tourism receipts by end 2015 is RM8 billion, limitation of visitors is imposed to areas to ensure within their carrying capacity. For example :
1- Sabah Parks limit the number of divers per day at Sipadan Island at 120
2- Climbers of Mount Kinabalu is limited to 192 per day

Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Centre
(Marine Research Centre)
Three islands in Sabah are set to a centre for international research into tropical coral reef ecosystems.

1- Billean
2- Lankayan
3- Tegaipil

The Marine Research Centre, which encompasses the islands under the Sugud Islands Conservation Area, off Sabah’s east coast, will also see efforts being undertaken to restock commercially important and threatened marine species in the state of Sabah.

The Sugud Islands Marine Research Centre (SIMRC), covering 46,317ha in shallow reef area, was set up following a memorandum of understanding signed between :
1- Sabah Wildlife Department
2- Reef Guardian Sdn Bhd
3- Cardiff University on Sunday

The centre would provide a world-class education and research facility with the necessary structure and resources to study advanced marine ecosystem science, particularly in the field of small tropical islands and coral reef ecology.


“This will definitely increase the interest of local and international scientists for coral reef ecosystem research in the region as well as boost eco-tourism in the east coast of Sabah,”

Culture and Environment Minister
Datuk Pang Yuk Ming
June 2013

“We will offer field courses to our students and others to undertake training at the centre,”

Cardiff University research associate
Dr Benoit Goossens
June 2013


Discovering Malaysian Borneo in seven days :
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Island Management Plan (IMP)
Managing the islands of Sabah is not an easy job as islands ecosystems were more complex due to environmental sensitivity. The absence of appropriate policies, rules and guidelines for development activities on the islands may lead to wastage of natural resources. A comprehensive study is under way to identify how many of Sabah’s 439 islands are suitable for the development of tourism or agriculture.

The study would also pave the way for an Island Management Plan (IMP) for the many islands in Sabah. This IMP would include comprehensive policies and guidelines for future development projects on the islands.

The study was necessary to ease the pressure on the popular and crowded tourism spots such as Pulau Mabul in the east coast.

Islanders – many of them fishermen – were poorer compared to those staying on the mainland and the authorities were keen to provide more alternative income sources for them.


“There are islands that have potential such as Bohey Dulang near Semporna. But before we do anything, we want to ensure that the islanders there will benefit from any development. We need to take a more holistic approach to ensure any project is environmentally sustainable. ”


 Bolkiah Ismail
Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment
 Bolkiah Ismail
Thursday September 8, 2011

Roach Reefs Resort

Roach Reefs, Tawau, Sabah
Not too far off is the man-made island of Roach Reefs. This 'furthest reef off Tawau has an interesting past, having sunk six disused buses to be artificial reefs in one of the dive sites.
The island was once used as a stopover for anglers, this place has since turned into a dive resort. One of the sites has an endless field of table corals with big fishes queuing at cleaning stations to be cleaned.
From Harlequin Sweetlips to whirling barracudas, the maximum depth here does not exceed 4 meters. Superb coral life and the presence of a school of huge bumphead parrotfash makes the scene very much like that of the oceanic Sipadan.
The six buses are located at Bus Stop, where you can find thousands of fish congregating to go to school! Some does not alight from these buses at all while some move from one bus to another.
The currents here are quite a challenge. Keeping pace with the grouper within require you to hold on to the structure in order to save your air but it doesn't prevent you from the attention of nosy remoras.

Gayana Island EcoResort

Nested into the lush tropical wildness of ancient and dense Dipterocarp forest. Gayana offers a rare glimpse into a primordial jungle. Caressed by the gently, lapping of the South China Sea, visitors will come to an understanding of the fragility of perfection.
Gayana Island Eco Resort located on Pulau Gaya has a Giant Clam Rehabilitation Centre and also run a 'Reef Project'. This island in Sabah has a coral growth nursery and conduct clam induced spawning. Giant clams are one of the many marine species to have demised around Sabah in recent years. University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) run an extensive marine research program especially into alternative marine culture programs designed to reduce fishing intensity from Sabah's coral reefs. Giant clams, groupers and Napoleon wrasse are some of the subjects grown and bred in specialized farms. They also run a whale shark research program, each year when the whale sharks pass through the waters close to Kota Kinabalu they attempt to tag the sharks to document their migration routes. Each year, PADI Project Aware beach and reef cleaning events are run to heighten public awareness in the importance of a clean marine environment. This has become a popular event with all the Dive Resorts and local people participating.
Gayana Island EcoResort has 44 quaint chalets, seafood restaurant, reef rehabilitation research centre, environmental interpretation centre and a beachside bar. It also offers the visitors the unspoiled ambience of island life in such splendid, tantalizing and enlightening style.
Here you can also sit on your private deck and listen to the squawking of the hornbill, watch the soaring of the magnificent sea hawk or scrutiny the flurry life of marine animals swimming beneath you.

Beginning life some 450-500 million years ago, the Earth's coral reefs are now the largest ecosystem upon the planet. They sustain and support over 1 million species worldwide and one coral reef alone may harbor some 3000 species. The major Indo-Pacific ocean currents cross the seas that surround Sabah's sandy shores making them amongst the most bio-diverse marine environments in the world. Within a single dive around Pulau Layang Layang divers may observe many of the 150 species of butterfly fish. Used by marine biologists as indicators of coral reef health, the greater the number and species diversity of butterfly fish reflects the abundance and diversity of corals. Pulau Layang Layang's pristine coral reef not only plays landlord to countless butterfly fish but also other reef dwellers such as, angelfish, snappers, wrasse, sweet lips, parrotfish as well as the larger pelagic; barracuda, manta, schools of hammerhead sharks, dolphins and whales. Pulau Sipadan is famous for its vast numbers of Green and Hawksbill turtles which feed and breed within its waters before the females climb ashore to lay their eggs above the white sandy beaches.

Diving on Sipadan's coral reefs, one can witness the incredible phenomenon of thousands of schooling chevron barracuda and., big-eye 'Jacks'. Floating inside such a tornado of fish is a truly breath-taking experience that's very hard to beat.

Islands in Sabah is also becoming a world famous location for 'muck diving' - the term used by divers to describe the search for the rare and exotic small marine animals. rare and newly identified gobies can be found living in the corals, sand, mud and mangroves of Sabah along with the little understood and rarely seen mimic octopus, neon patterned blue-ringed octopus, delicate flamboyant cuttlefish, psychedelic mandarin fish and ghost pipefish. Sabah's dive guides are specifically trained to find such rarities and can show divers several of these oddities on a single dive. Many new islands and reefs are being explored around the coast of Sabah and with this exploration come the discovery of new dive sites and rarely seen marine creatures.
Around north Sabah and the more recent discovered Mantanani Resort rare sightings of dugongs have been recorded. With the yearly occurrence of whale sharks along the west coast during the months of December to February, Sabah really has some spectacular marine creatures to be discovered by visiting divers.
Sabah and its surrounding waters have been recognized as a marine turtle sanctuary since the opening of the Turtle Island Parks on its east coast. Managed by Sabah Parks, the beaches welcome nesting green and hawksbill turtles every night all year round. Similarly, the Wildlife Department monitors and protects nesting green and hawksbill turtles that visit Pulau Sipadan's shores. On nearby Pulau Mabul, the Fisheries Department together with Sipadan Mabul had sunk hundreds of concrete pipes to form small artificial patch reefs surrounding a small wooden shipwreck. A fish poaching vessel was also sunk off the island of Pulau Lankayan and already hosts a myriad of creatures from the smallest ghost pipefish to the giant stingrays and schooling barracuda.

Sipadan Water Village on Pulau Mabul, is also actively engaged in coral reef research. Dive masters and instructors are encouraged to study both the fish and coral life in detail in collaboration with a Japanese Natural History Museum. Each year, in June, the dive center's management and outside guest speakers run a specialized Marine Day and provide hands on lectures to guests sharing their studies' and encourage them to take part in their coral relocation and growth studies so that divers may learn more about the coral reef environment.


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