Gaya island derived its name from the Bajau word "Gayo" which means big and occupies an area of 15 km² (3,700 acres) with an elevation of up to 300 metres. Several ridges rise more than 600 feet (180 m), peaking at 1,000 feet (300 m), along the backbone of Pulau Gaya. Gaya island is the largest island in the park, closest to downtown Kota Kinabalu (KK) and is covered with dense virgin, tropical forest. It has been a forest reserve since 1923. The island has 20km of hiking trails and two 5 star resorts named Gayana Eco Resort, home to the Marine Ecology Research Centre, and Bunga Raya Island Resort on the north-east part of the island. Another resort is being constructed on what used to be Hornbill Bay near Gayana Eco Resort. Gaya island is also host to a very large (and growing) stilt village located just opposite the KK waterfront.

A development on the edge of Gaya island nearest to Sapi island is also used by Sabah Parks and offers a small, quiet beach for public recreational use.

Gaya island is also known for a legendary beach at Police Bay. The 400 metres (0.25 mile) stretch of white sand, gently slopes out to the sea and makes Police Beach ideal for swimming in the crystal clear water. Police Beach fronts the upmarket Bunga Raya Island Resort.

The coral reefs along the entire coast of Gaya island are in excellent condition, making it a surprisingly good diving destination, considering its proximity to Kota Kinabalu city.

Pulau Sapi, literally known as "Cow Island" in Malay is just off the south-western tip of Pulau Gaya. The 25 acre (10 ha) island features one of the nicest beaches in the park and most popular with tourists for snorkeling and scuba diving. Between 10am and 4pm the island gets quite busy with foreign tourists but after the last ferry leaves it becomes a tranquil island with only those staying overnight.It is developed with tourist facilities that includes a jetty, picnic shelters, barbecue pits, tables, changing rooms and toilets. The forest is inhabited by macaques. Camping and campfires are allowed with the permission from the Park Warden.

The second largest island in the park, Manukan is the most popular with Kota Kinabalu residents. Manukan has some good stretches of beaches on the southern coastline. The best beach is on the eastern tip of the island. Offshore of Manukan are coral reefs, which is ideal for snorkeling, diving and swimming. Out of 5 islands, Manukan features the most developed tourist facilities that includes 20 units of chalets, a clubhouse, and few restaurants and a diving centre. Recreation facilities include a swimming pool, football field, Volleyball and Sepak Takraw courts.

Infrastructural facilities include support-water, electricity, desalination plant, sewerage system, and even a solar public telephone. It is covered in dense vegetation and has hiking trails.

The 15 acres (61,000 m2) island makes Mamutik the smallest of the park. Despite being the smallest, the island offers some good beaches and coral reefs. It also has a jetty, a 3 bedroom resthouse for rent, and staff quarters for Rangers station. Facilities include changing rooms, toilets, picnic shelters, tables and barbecue pits. Fresh water and electricity are available. Mamutik would be an ideal venue to get away from it all. The corals to the north-eastern tip of the island are quite interesting. The beach is rocky and swimmers must be careful of sea urchins that exist in large numbers beside the corals and rocks.

Padang Pointis the farthest island of them all. Considered relatively untouched, remote and undeveloped, the 20 acre (16 ha) island is more popular with foreign tourists who prefer a quiet and tranquil atmosphere. Good reef patches lie along the southern end of the island.

During formation, a long sand spit jutting out into the ocean formed a round hill.

Diving at Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park



Only twenty minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu is a large marine park, Tunku Abdul Rahman, consisting of five islands, Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Padang Point. The surrounding reefs are shallow (max. 25m) with gentle slopes with hard coral gardens, sandy bottom and coral blocks and with little current. During November to March plankton blooms and attracts whale sharks (Rhincodon typus). Visibility is not so good (10 to 15m). The best time to visit is from March to October.
Map of Tunku Abdul Rahman National park with its dive sites: 1. Clement reef Seafans / 2. Agill Reef / 3. Police Bay (Bulijong Bay) / 4. Merangis Reef / 5. Sapi Jetty / 6. Ron Reef / 7. Mid Reef (black coral) / 8. Manukan Reef / 9. South Reef / 10. Sulug Reef - print version of this map
Police Bay (Bulijong Bay No. 3): this dive site is located in the north of Pulau Gaya. It is a coral garden with staghorn corals and a slope with sandy bottom. Mostly small reef fishes, some stingrays. On Clement Reef (No. 1), close to Gaya island a lot of large table corals, staghorn corals, brain corals and sponges can be found. Sapi Jetty (No. 5) consists of a sandy area where you find a lot of special animals like fingered dragonets, flounders, gobies, cuttlefish and even the occasional sea snake. Mid Reef (No. 7) is situated east of Pulau Manukan and is a submerged reef covered with hard coral, sponges and anemones. Click here for a photo of a Marble mouth Frogfish (Lophiocharon lithinostomus) found there.

Nullam ut neque neque

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