Although it is lesser-known to divers when compared to the world famous Sipadan, Sabah’s western coast is conveniently located close to the bustling city of Kota Kinabalu. With a focus on the 5 islands surrounding TARP (Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park), the waters here are turquoise and teeming with life.
Kota Kinabalu (KK) is the get away to 15 islands.
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The main islands for scuba diving and snorkeling are:
- Gaya island
- Sapi island
- Mantanani island
- Manukan island
- Mamutik island
- Sulug island
Sapi Island is a good choice for those learning to dive or first-time divers, however it is not just suitable for newbies. For those with experience in scuba diving, Sapi Island has an artificial reef filled with juvenile rock cod, tiny shrimp, a variety of anemones and clownfish species and striped catfish.
Scuba diving around the islands of TARP is a great way to prepare for the more challenging dives at Sipadan. Each of the 5 islands has a sandy sea floor at between 60 to 80 feet and plenty of coral varieties on the reefs encircling each island. Coral enthusiasts will be pleased to see these thriving coral varieties include staghorn plateaus, coral whips, branching plate coral and bommies.
Divers should also look out for large shoals of barracuda around Barracuda Bonanza. You might also be lucky enough to spot a hawksbill turtle or two and larger varieties of cuttlefish.
Borneo Reef World
Moored to the sea floor at Pulau Gaya, Borneo Reef World is just a 30 minute boat trip from Kota Kinabalu. This activity pontoon is the biggest in Asia and is similar to the likes of the ones at the Great Barrier Reef. This is a nice and easy option for those looking to get a great snapshot at the marine life in the South China Sea.
Labuan wreck diving
Another option is to go diving at the excellent wrecks of Labuan island.