Saturday, July 12, 2014

Island Adventure in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

On the third day of our trip, we went on an island experience tour at the famous Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. This Marine Park is one of the key activities (apart from Mt Kinabalu) that tourists would visit as part of their itinerary when visiting Kota Kinabalu.

These are 5 islands are actually not very far from mainland. It is only a 10 to 15 minutes boat ride and the current is usually very calm.

Gaya Island is the biggest island, at 15 square kilometers. Apart from the usual greenery, it is home to a less-spoken-about community in Sabah – the (illegal) Filipinos, who were mainly refugees. While we were in the cruise/boat, we were steered away from that area and I did not manage to take any photos of that area.

It’s funny how the other side of Gaya Island (beyond the water villages at the eastern corner) is also home to luxurious and beautiful resorts. In fact, the zipline which I will be taking later starts from Gaya Island.

Sapi Island is the most popular island among all 5. It is home to white sandy beach and crystal clear turquoise water. It is also the starting point for the zipline.

Pulau Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug are the three other three islands. Sadly, we did not have time to explore them.

We started off our journey at a private jetty which only caters to tour customers. The tour company engaged for this trip was Borneo Passages. They had arranged an itinerary with Borneo Reef World, a floating pontoon which was opened specially for us. We were given a wrist tag with our names at the jetty and we went to the pontoon via speedboat as their bigger boat was under maintenance.

Borneo Reef World houses Asia’s largest pontoon (flat bottom boat) which is anchored to the seabed. To comply to the rules of the Marine Park, they actually shift their pontoon every 3 months to allow sunlight to reach the bottom of the seabed. It is a pretty big pontoon and I think it can accommodate 200 people without any issue.

After reaching the pontoon, we deposited our bags. We were all ready for our first adventure of the day – Para-sailing, followed by Zipline. The GM’s suggestion was a brilliant one as it was not very crowded during the earlier part of the day.

We departed on a speedboat for our para-sailing. Initially, I was a little hesitant as had not been part of the itinerary. Usually, when it comes to high elements like this, I would need some mental preparation. Not wanting to be spoil sport, I hid my fear and accepted the challenge.

If you have tried the ones in Thailand (Phuket/Krabi) or Bali, it’s a little more high tech and safe. You don’t have to run or fly/land from the beach. Instead, you sit down comfortably on the hull of the boat.

Using the retractable string system which is fixed onto the boat, you will lift off from the ground comfortably while sitting down. Before take off, you can indicate your preference of getting wet or staying dry to the boatman and he will give you your desire. The takeoff was very smooth and gradual and I was given a splash of water (thigh deep if I’m not wrong) just for the thrill of it. It kind of scared me off initially as I didn’t expect it to be right at the start.

The parachute will rise slowly and steadily, determined by the speed of the boat and also the adjustable tension of the string. Boatman was nice to me and my time up in the sky did not have much “turbulence”. If the boatman is playing a punk, knowing that you are adventurous, they might steer their boat in such a way which may make your stomach/heart go queasy.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Island Adventure in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah