Mantanani Island: How To Go and What To Do

Mantanani Island is one of the most beloved spots in Sabah for both locals and tourists alike. Found off the coasts of Kota Belud, it has acted as a haven for countless visitors for many years now. While many tourists have discovered this scenic and peaceful spot, it is still considered to be off the beaten path.

Getting to Mantanani Island

In order to reach the beautiful and one-of-a-kind Mantanani Island, one needs to go on a two hour drive to Kampung Kuala Abai jettyin Kota Belud.

From there, another hour is needed to get from Kota Belud to the island itself. Visitors use a speedboat to get there.

It is important to note that on the speedboat ride there, the journey can get rough. That said, if you have a tendency to get seasick, it is advisable to take motion sickness pills before the journey.

Once you get there however, you will see that the journey has been 100 percent worth it. The island is simply breathtaking and many who have seen it have never been the same.

Look For Accommodation? Mantanani Island Resort

It is advisable to make a booking with a nice hotel or guesthouse prior to setting out on your journey to Mantanani Island in order to fully enjoy your stay and not fret about whether you will have a place to stay in once your reach your destination.

There is no shortage of places to stay at. Recommended places is Mari Mari Mantanani Backpacker Lodge.

Laze around at the beach

Once you get there, there is no shortage of activities to engage in. The island is undoubtedly most renowned for what it has to offer divers.

The sheer number of species of fish, coral reefs, sea anemones, and a host of other natures wonders is enough to leave anybody in awe.

If diving or snorkelling are not really your thing, you can also kayak, play volleyball, soccer, build sandcastles, tan and swim, drink fruit shakes, or basically just laze around on the beach.

Whether you prefer to relax or get busy with activities, there is something for everybody to do while on the island.

Essential packing list to Mantanani island

Of course, being on the island, you will inevitably be exposed to the sun at some point unless you choose to hole up in your hotel room during the day.

Having said that be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat with you to protect yourself from the sun.

Snorkelling gear, a bikini, a towel, and swimming trunks are also essential for a beach trip. It may also be a good idea to bring after sun lotion/balm/cream to soothe your sunburn.

Naturally, no trip to Mantanani Island would be complete without a pair of sunglasses. A waterproof case or bag for your things would also ease the burden of worrying about wetting your things.

When is the best time to go?

Malaysia is located in the tropical or equator region. Therefore, the climate is generally warm all year round. However, on certain months like June through December there is a higher chance of experiencing isolated rain showers and thunderstorms.

With that in mind, the best time to visit Mantanani Island would be from January through May.

Here, you will get the best of the sun and it will feel so invigorating to experience the coolness of the waters. You cant help but marvel at the beauty of nature and this hidden treasure that Malaysia has to offer.

The “Almost” Untouched Island

When you think of an island, you think of a place that is isolated from the rest of the world, surrounded only by blue waters, or a patch of unspoiled paradise like the island in ‘Lost’ with sandy beaches on the fringes and a dense jungle in the center, where you can hear the constant chirping of exotic birds and small insects.

Mantanani Island fits into either category, only accessible by jetty from Kota Belud and abundant in raw, spectacular natural scenery.

True Beauty of Mantanani Island

The true beauty of Mantanani Island, though, lies beneath the surface of its surrounding crystal blue waters, where an underwater paradise lies in waiting.

Here, there are 16 marked diving spots to explore, along with a few more that have not yet been mapped, which consist of ancient and fascinating shipwrecks.

The most famous of which are the three wrecks along Usukan Bay, which were Japanese ships sunk by a US submarine during World War II, and magnificent coral reefs swirling with fish of various colors.

The usual wildlife can you spot here

Some species which have been spotted in the area include dolphins, clown fish, sting rays, eagle rays, moray eels, ribbon eels, sea turtles, the blue-ringed octopus, scorpionfish, imperial shrimp and even seahorses.

There are also dugongs here, gentle mammals belonging to the same family as the manatee which have been mistaken for mermaids in the past, lending Mantanani the name ‘Mermaid Island’.

Condition of the sea

Aside from the wealth of marine treasures, the current here is also mild most of the year and the underwater visibility is fairly good up to a depth of 40 meters, which make it even more alluring for divers from all over the world.

Learn to dive!

If you don’t know how to dive, there is a course offered at the PADI-certified dive center on the island, which you can take so you won’t have to miss out on the best that Mantanani Island has to offer.

Lay on soft sands

Even if you don’t go diving, though, you can still enjoy your visit to Mantanani Island. You can simply lounge on the soft sands of Palm Beach, which is the best beach on the island, so named for the palm trees that sway in the gentle breeze and provide enough shade for those who don’t want to get a tan. You have the option to go snorkelling here, as well.

Hidden bird sanctuary

Apart from spending time on the beach, you can also bring along your binoculars and go birdwatching. In fact, Mantanani is a bird sanctuary, a result of the well-preserved habitat and the relative lack of predators.

Choice of resort

If you wish to spend the night on the island, you can also do so at the Mari Mari Backpackers Lodge which has a dormitory, twin bed rooms and single bed rooms.

Some of the rooms have their own private bathrooms and as such, are more expensive, while others share a common bathroom.

Wi-fi is also available at the lodge for an additional charge.

Mantanani Spellbinding Sunset

Most people, though, simply spend the day at Mantanani Island then return to their hotel in Kota Belud or Kota Kinabalu at the end of the day. If you would rather opt for this, just make sure you leave the island after sunset, which is a particularly spellbinding sight from Mantanani, with the clouds painted several shades of orange as they swirl around the fading sun.

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