The Park, located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in the West of Sabah, is made up five islands, the largest own as Pulau (island) Gaya, the smallest as Pulau Mamutik. Some of the islands have been previously used by various settlers, however, a large part of Gaya has included in a Forest Reserve since the 1920’s.

All of the islands are popular for day trips with the locals and visitors alike. Activities on the islands include swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving, bush walking on marked trails where you are able to discover the diverse variety of vegetation and animal life, and sun bathing. Some of the islands provide shelters near the beach for day trippers to enjoy a picnic, as well as kiosks and casual dining areas for refreshments and light meals. The closest island to KK is Pulau Mamutik, and is very popular with the local population. It is also the smallest of all the islands. An enjoyable walk to the top of the hill on the island offers excellent views over the surrounding sea and reefs. Pulau Sapi is close to Pulau Gaya, and in fact can be accessed at low tide over a sand bar at the South-Western end of Gaya. It is also very popular and is considered to be one of the best places for swimming and having a picnic. The waters around Sapi are extremely clear and there are many coral beds around the island. There are crab eating monkeys on the island, and the magnificent white bellied Sea Eagle has its nest on the island.

Pulau Gaya which is the largest island has many bays and beaches to explore. There are over 20 km of jungle trails over and around the island, including an interesting boardwalk through a small mangrove forest on the Southern side of the island. Gaya also provides the only example on all the islands of the original forest, including the huge Dipterocarp, which is a member of the family of tropical hardwoods that supplies Borneo with most of its timber. Gaya is also host to some of the island wildlife, including Macaque monkeys (which occasionally wander over to Sapi), Monitor lizards, squirrels and Wood swallows, and Pied Hornbills. The Southern side of the island has some excellent snorkelling sights.


Pulau Sulug is further away from the mainland than the other islands, and has fewer facilities, however, it does offer excellent swimming. Snorkelling and even scuba diving are possible from here as good coral areas are found close to the island.

Pulau Manukan is the second largest island, although in comparison to Pulau Gaya, it is but a pimple, and is today the site of the Park Headquarters. The island has been previously used as a stone quarry – the remains of the manager’s house, and a number of old graves are still visible to the visitor. The island boasts a circular track around the island, taking in a ridge and the beach, which provides the visitor with good views to most of the other islands and back to KK. All the islands offer coral reefs for snorkelling and scuba diving. There is a great diversity of marine life in and about the reefs, including Parrot fish, Wrasse, Butterfly fish, Clown fish, Sea anemones, star fish, delicate corals including plate coral, brain coral, and the ubiquitous staghorn coral.


The islands are easily accessible from KK by shuttle boats, and from Tanjung Aru Resort or Sutera Harbour Resort by a continuous shuttle service provided for guests. We recommend a day trip out to Manukan Island as a good way to unwind while staying in Kota Kinabalu. Photos copyright to Sabah Tourism – John Kong, and Phil Youdale