Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Finding Nemo Snorkeling Around Mamutik Island in Borneo

There are some adventures that stick with you for a lifetime. I’m sure that learning to snorkel at Mamutik Island off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in Malaysian Borneo is one of those for my daughter.

What I’m not sure about is how to top a snorkeling experience like this which included a private guided reef tour, loads of colorful fish even in shallow water and a picnic lunch on the private beach belonging to our host, Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa.

Anyone can visit Mamutik Island, but visiting as a guest of the resort is a different, more intimate experience. But if visiting Kota Kinabalu with kids, snorkeling here with them is easy due to calm and shallow water. And, you just might see clownfish, blacktip reef sharks, eels and so much more.

How to Get to Mamutik Island

At only 15 acres, Mamutik Island (or Pulau Mamutik) is the smallest of the five islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. It’s a lovely place to spend a beach day and you can take a boat easily from Kota Kinabalu.

Shangri-la's Tanjung Aru Resort and Spa’s STAR Marina—which was literally steps from our room—offers daily transport for resort guests to Mamutik and other islands as well as a wide range of water sports ranging from from diving to waterskiing. They have gear rentals, too.

Our first order of business before catching the first 9:00 a.m. boat out was to get outfitted with snorkeling gear and life vests.

Staff will help determine fit and give you a handy bag to carry everything in. Directly outside, we boarded our boat from the resort’s private jetty and set off on the quick trip to Mamutik Island.

I wasn’t counting but I would say it took about five awesome minutes at sea, maybe less. The short distance makes Mamutik Island an easy half-day trip, though a full day of leisure would be even better.

A Tranquil Private Beach

The water was so clear that we could see thousands of fish swarming between the underwater posts of the arrival jetty. After walking a minute or two through a public area—where locals and tourists gather at picnic tables to eat or prepare to swim—we arrived at Shangri-la's secluded private beach. A canopy of trees shade the provided lounge chairs which are located steps away from the designated area for snorkeling.

Hotel staff here make sure that guests are comfortable, assist with snorkel gear and point out where the fish are. Valuables can be placed in lockers onsite for safe-keeping. The resort was at fully-booked during our stay but there is so much to do on and off the property that the private beach here was still quiet.