Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia seems to have two personalities: traditional and modern, nature and infrastructure, rural and urban. While this capital city of the Malayan state of Sabah is very modern and progressive, it is also widely known for its beaches, reefs, and islands. For this reason, swimming and other water sports in Kota Kinabalu are as popular as shopping in modern supermalls and dining in upscale restaurants.
The prime area for all kinds of water activities in Kota Kinabalu takes place in Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, a marine park that covers five charming tropical islands. These islands are Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sulug and the popular Pulau Manukan. These islands have three things in common: white sand beaches, brightly colored coral reefs, and clear shallow waters. The marine park is teeming with all sorts of beautiful marine wildlife such as scorpion fish, blue-spotted rays, cuttlefish, mantis shrimps, hawksbill turtles, and the rare harlequin ghost pipefish.
Among the park’s five islands, Manukan is most popular to swimmers, snorkelers and beach bums. To the far left of Manukan Beach is a frequently visited snorkeling site for its spectacular corals and a wide variety of fish, which include anemonefish, damselfish, butterfly fish, parrotfish, wrasse, and rabbitfish grouper, among many others. First time visitors would be surprised at the seemingly infinite variety of fishes in the area, many of which are unnamable by the regular tourist. In the first place, tourists wouldn’t mind not knowing the fish names as long as they enjoy swimming alongside these rare colorful underwater creatures.
Manukan Island is the most developed island in the marine park, which is why it gets the most number of visitors at weekends. Its beaches get noisy and crowded at times. Sadly, there are also a number of hawkers and persistent local vendors that could ruin a tourist’s personal moment on the pristine beaches. Nonetheless, swimming and snorkeling is perfect here, as well as simply reclining on the soft white sands while watching the azure waters of the South China Sea.
A really exciting water activity in this park happens from November to February when gigantic whale sharks come to feed on planktons that bloom in abundance during these cool months. Tourists can easily visit this cluster of islands as they are only 15-20 minutes away from the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in the city by speedboat.
Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of Sabah, the second largest state in Malaysia. Other than its beaches and islands, this bustling city is also popular for many other activities away from the waters. Trekking and mountain climbing on Mount Kinabalu is one of the best activities in Sabah, as well as visiting the Kinabalu National Park. Within the city, the three most popular and most frequently visited attractions are the historic Atkinson Clock Tower, Signal Hill Observatory overlooking the city, and Green Connection Aquarium. Clearly, swimming and other water sports in Kota Kinabalu are not the only tourist draws in this part of the world.