Monday, June 16, 2014

Cluster of islands in Sabah presents itself as an eco-tourism paradise

The string of five islands which constitute the 50 sq km Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is only a 15-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu’s downtown area.

For years, the islands with their pristine beaches and waters teeming with marine life, have been a convenient getaway for city residents.

Those wanting to experience an untouched tropical forest, a trek through the hilly terrain of the biggest island of Pulau Gaya and nearby Pulau Manukan would be just the thing.

Pangolins, monkeys and even wild boar have been spotted along the 20km of trails on Gaya while hornbills can occasionally be seen flying overhead.

The highest point of the island is about 300m and the hills gradually slope towards a secluded and sandy beach, among the more popular being Police Beach that faces the South China Sea.

The second largest island in the park is Manukan, which like Gaya, is forested and surrounded by coral reefs that are ideal for snorkelling and diving.

 The other islands that make up the marine park are Mamutik, which is closest to the mainland, Sulug noted for an extensive coral reef and Sapi just adjacent to Gaya and featuring 5km of nature trails.

At low tide, it is possible to wade between Sapi and Gaya.

Indeed, the marine park is a microcosm of some of the best Sabah has to offer its visitors.

Over the years, the islands have become a major revenue earner and receives hundreds of visitors daily.

During school and public holidays, the beaches on the more popular islands such as Manukan and Sapi can become downright crowded.

Infrastructure at these islands have grown, too.