Kota Kinabalu is a great place to go island hopping. Just a quick boat ride from the jetty, you can make it to Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Gaya.
During my visit, I went to Manukan and Mamutik. My friend had visited Sapi and the lack of anything other than a beach meant that I didn’t go. We wanted to go to Gaya but the jetty there was seemingly under renovation so there were no boats.
All the islands are beautiful. On the bigger islands, you can go diving, snorkelling and sea walking. From the jetty, you can buy tickets for the individual islands or for a day island hopping. The islands are part of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park so you must pay a fee when entering. On a day island hopping, you just pay the fee once and show the ticket at each island.
Mamutik Island- We spent a few hours snorkelling here. It has a long beach with restaurant facilities so everything you need for a day of relaxation. Unfortunately, the fish were a little nibbly and kept biting at us so I wasn’t all that keen to go back. While there were a good number of people there, it wasn’t over crowded.
Manukan- My favourite place. this is a resort island so possible to stay for a night or two. The beach here is a lot bigger that Mamutik and there is plenty to explore. The night before we went to the island, there was a terrible storm and as a result a lot of debris had washed up on the beach. The water was also quite murky so we had to go far out to get decent snorkelling conditions. We saw lots of different fish and coral. It was a lot quieter here also. You can go trekking on this island also.
Tips for the islands;
1. Go early. The weather changes in the afternoon and it usually rains for a few hours so the morning is the best time for the islands.
2. Instead of going with a company, try negotiating the price with the locals. We got the return tickets for less than what a company was offering and they picked us up at the designated time. (The company we went with to the first island forgot us and left us waiting at the island for over an hour)
3. Bring snacks & water
4. The toilets on the islands are rough so bring your own supplies of tissue etc.