14 Best Islands In Sabah

Did you know that Sabah island is the third largest island in the world, just after Greenland and New Guinea? The best islands in Sabah have also been known as the Maldives of Malaysia! You will see why in a moment. 

Also, did you know that according to WorldWildLife(WWF), Sabah is known as the heart of the coral triangle, which is the world’s heart for the marine ecosystem? 

best island in sabah
(Photo Courtesy WWF: Coral reef Tun Mustapha)

Sabah island is not only surrounded by crystal clear waters but also surrounded by beautiful mountains and jungles.

WWB Writer, Rebecca has made a list of 14 best islands in Sabah for you to check out and she has given you a few reasons why Sabah Island has to be on one of your ‘MUST VISIT’ lists!

  • Home to one of the world-famous dive sites – Sipadan Island
  • Rich with exotic flora and fauna that you can’t see in any other parts of the world (eg: Tarsier)
  • Known for one of the drop-dead-gorgeous sunset spots in the world.
  • If you look at the map of Sabah Island, you’d understand how it got its nickname ‘Land Beneath The Wind. Its geographical position which is right below the tropical typhoon belt allows the coastal beauty and corals to remain in their natural breathtaking state.

Related Posts:

14 Best Islands In Sabah

  1. Mataking Island
  2. Tun Sukaran Marine Park
  3. Lankayan Island
  4. Mabul Island
  5. Mantanani Island
  6. Pulau Tiga Island
  7. Kapalai Island
  8. Sipadan Island
  9. Pom Pom Island
  10. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
  11. Layang-Layang Island
  12. Turtle Island
  13. Dinawan Island
  14. Sepaggar Island

So, let us explore 14 of Sabah’s most beautiful islands.

Some of the links on here are affiliate links and I may earn if you click on them, AT NO EXTRA cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.

1) Mataking Island

Located in Sabah Island, Mataking island consists of Mataking Besar(main island) and Mataking Kecil. It is a diamond-shaped island and you can walk from the main island to Mataking Kecil when the tide is down.

Mataking Island is known as the best island for a honeymoon in the entire Sabah Island. 

Sabah Island
Mataking Island – (Pic courtesy: Mataking)

The only accommodation in the entire Mataking Island, Reef Dive Resort, has a wedding package. Couples can get married on the island and have their honeymoon surrounded by pristine clear waters!

beautiful beaches on Sabah Island
(Pic Courtesy: Mataking; of Reef Dive Resort)

They have other packages too which you can check out here if you are traveling with family and don’t want to worry about planning the activities.

If you are traveling solo or are looking for more budget-friendly accommodations, I would advise you to stay at Semporna town and take a boat just for the activities.

How To Get There?

Travelers can fly in from Kuala Lumpur to the nearest airport which is Tawau. There are daily flights by Malaysian Airlines and AirAsia

The flights are normally within $250, both ways.

Once you reach Tawau, you will have to either take:

  •  a bus(2-hour journey BUT cheap, only $3) or 
  • take a taxi (1 and half hour journey for $70) to Semporna where you will have to take a boat to Mataking Island. 

The last boat ride is at 3.00 pm as it is a one and half hour boat ride. Don’t worry, though it seems like it’s taking forever to reach Mataking Island, you’ll squeal with delight once you arrive there and are mesmerized by the beauty.

PS: If you decide to stay at Reef Dive Resort, the packages are inclusive of picking up and dropping off. 

What To Do There?

Water Activities

  1. Diving
  • Mataking Island is a certified PADI dive center. You can do your bookings at their official site and you’re good to go and explore more than 30+ dive sites surrounding Mataking Island(PERFECT SPOT FOR DIVERS!)
  • If you are living at Reef Dive Resort, your accommodation package is normally inclusive of the diving package. But, if you are not, you can check out their rental charges for equipment here.
  • While you’re in there, don’t forget to check out the underwater post office, which is the first of it’s kind in Malaysia. Although now it has become an artificial reef, you can still post a letter using that service with a waterproof vacuum bag. 
  • All letters and postcards are stamped with a unique rubber stamp to memorialize this one of a kind event.
Sabah Island
(Pic Courtesy: Mataking; Photo of Malaysia’s first underwater post office)
  1. Snorkeling
  • If you’re afraid of deep seas but still want to enjoy the exquisite flora and fauna present in Mataking Island and its neighboring islands, this is the perfect activity for you!
  1. Kayak 
  • Don’t want to get yourself wet or afraid of the water but still wanna check out the beautiful corals and fishes at this place? THIS ACTIVITY IS PERFECT FOR YOU!
  • A transparent kayak is provided and you can enjoy the view underneath you and all around you!
beautiful island in Sabah
(Pic Courtesy: Mataking)

Dry Land Activity

  1. Peacock Sanctuary
  • Perfect for nature lovers and children. On this island, they conserve these animals in a safe environment
beautiful beaches on Sabah Island
(Pic Courtesy: Mataking)
  1. Turtle Hatchery
  • Did you know that sea turtles are on the brink of extinction? And at Mataking Island, marine biologists have created a sanctuary for these precious creatures to lay their eggs in a safe space.
  • Want to enjoy nature and also pitch in this noble act, you can do it here!
best island for a honeymoon
(Pic Courtesy: Mataking; Baby Turtles in Their Safe Space)

3. Night Beach Walk

  • Since Mataking Island is famous for its coral reef, these reefs light up during the night and you can see these exotic creatures during your night walk. 
  • One of them being this ‘ OrangUtan Crab that may be occasionally spotted at
                the reefs.
Sabah Island
(Pic Courtesy: TwoFishDivers)

You may check out the other activities that you can do on Mataking Island here

2) Tun Sakaran Marine Park

This beautiful island in Sabah is not only a famous tourist spot but it is also home to almost 2000 villagers who belong to the Bajau Laut(Sea Gypsy) community. 

They live in wooden stills huts built on top of coral reefs near Semporna. 

Also known as “The Semporna Island Park”, this beautiful island comprises 8 individual breathtaking islands laid and 2 reef in the deep blue crown of the Celebes Sea.

The islands are : 

island at Sabah
Tun Sakaran Marine Park
  1. Bohedulang Island
  2. Bodgaya Island
  3. Maiga Island
  4. Selakan Island
  5. Sebangkat Island
  6. Sibuan Island
  7. Mantabuan Island
  8. Tetagan Island

The reefs are:

a) Church Reef
b) Kapikan Reef

How To Get There?

This is mostly the same as Pulau Mataking. 

The only difference is the boat ride from the tourist jetty at Kampung Bangau-Bangau, Semporna to Tun Sakaran Marine Park which is mostly for a day trip, not an overnight trip as there is no accommodation on Tun Sakaran Marine Park Islands. 

Nevertheless, for visitors, there is one rental chalet facility in the TSMP complex. 

You may contact SabahParks for more details. There are many chalets available at Semporna. If I may suggest, Lato Lato Resort has a beautiful overview of Tun Sakaran Marine Park and is built on stilts built on top of coral reefs to give you the feels of how the locals there stay.

Their rates are only $37/night per person inclusive of breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Things To Do:

  1. Snorkeling While Island Hopping
  • You will see Tun Sakaran Marine Parks island-hopping day trips promoted all over Semporna Island.
  • Normally the packages would include a return boat trip, snorkeling gear, lunch, jetty fees, conservation fees, and Sabah Park entrance fees.
  • If you would like your a private trip, you can choose your packages here:
  1. Snorkeling
  2. Island hopping and sea walking 

      2)   Hiking

  • Visitors are encouraged to hike to Bohey Dulang Nature Trail. The tallest peak is
                353 meters whereas the viewpoint is at 265 meters.
  • Remember to wear hiking shoes or you can even rent one for $1.20. The path is
              well maintained and has wooden stairs for most parts of it.
  • If you are an experienced hiker, it will probably take you about 30 minutes, if not,
                a max of one hour probably.
best island in sabah
(Pic Courtesy: TripAdvisor; The view from above)

      3) Diving

  • Tun Sakaran Marine Park is PADI certified. You can check out some deals on their official page or you may check these links out.
  • For learners: 
  1. For a 2-day PADI Advanced Open Water Course: $346/person(inclusive of all equipment, safety gears, and professional instructors)
  2. For a 3-day PADI Advanced Open Water Course: $337/person(inclusive of all equipment, safety gears, and professional instructors)
  • For professionals : 
  1. Discover Scuba Diving experience: $111/person (inclusive of equipment and certified instructors)
  2. Leisure Diving Experience: $87/person(inclusive of gears and certified instructor)

3) Lankayan Island

This mini island in the shape of a jewel is situated on the northeastern coast of Sabah Island. 

It is also a part of the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA)

This means this particular best island in Sabah is preserved and handled with extra care to protect its habitual condition. Of course not forgetting to present outstanding recreational opportunities

How To Get There

To get to this island in Sabah, you will have to travel from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan.

There are a couple of options for this.

  1. Direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan via AirAsia = $89(Two ways, but flights are limited to some days)
  2. Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan via MalaysianAirlines =$185(Two ways, but there is a layover at Kota Kinabalu for about 2 hours and flights are available EVERY DAY)
  3. Or if you would like to be a little more adventurous and enjoy the scenery on your way from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu by any of the flight services mentioned above which may range between $89-$145 then take a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan which will take you about 7 hours but only for $10

Once you are in Sandakan, you will have to get to the Sandakan Yacht Club at which the Lankayan Island Dive Resort’s boat will pick you up to get you to the island since there are no other accommodations available at that island and the journey is about 105-120 minutes.

You will have to make reservations before arriving.

NOTE: Please ensure you click on the correct resort as there is a ‘Lankayan Island Resort’ and a ‘Kapalai Island Resort’

Things To Do:

  1. Diving
  • Lankayan Island is a diver’s paradise as you can find exquisite reefs and animals here during your dive. Some may even say there are unknown species present there and that is simply because this island is still very protected and clean
  • This beautiful island in Sabah has PADI courses and you can check them out together with one of the resorts available on Lankayan Island. There are 14 dive spots!
  • You may spot some baby sharks if you are lucky too!
beautiful island in Sabah
Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash
  1. Snorkeling
  • For areas that are not deep, you can snorkel and still enjoy the picturesque fishes and corals.
  1. Ocean Kayaking
  • You can choose not to get wet and enjoy the beauty of the clear waters of Lankayan Island
  1. Turtle Reserve
  • Visitors are given the chance to watch turtles lay eggs at the turtle hatchery that is present on this island.

4) Mabul Island

Mabul Island Sabah is a small island about an hour away from Semporna by boat. It was initially only a fishing village in the ’70s but soon became a diving spot due to its proximity to Sipadan Island which we will check out later below.

How To Get There?

The journey here is the same as how you’d get to Mataking Island and Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

You need to take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau, and from Tawau, get a bus or a taxi to Semporna and from the jetty, a boat to Mabul Island.

If you are staying at Mabul Island itself, the resorts would normally arrange transportation for you. You may also arrange packages for diving and snorkeling with them.

What To Do There?

  1. Ocean Kayaking
  • A variety of kayaks are available with instructors at an affordable price.
  • They are normally about $8 per hour
Mabul Island Sabah
Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash
  1. Snorkeling
  • The island provides a variety of fishes and reefs for the eyes to feast on.
Mabul Island Sabah
Photo by Patrick Jansen on Unsplash
  1. Visit the Sea Gypsy (Bajau Laut) Village
  • We covered this above. And since these islands are quite nearby each other, you can choose to visit them while staying on this island
  • The sea gypsies are very kind people and love it when there are visitors around.
  • Just make sure to keep the area clean.
  1. Stargazing 
  • Because of the lack of pollution in these areas, the milky way is quite clear at night.
Mabul Island Sabah
Photo by Chris Leggat on Unsplash
  1. Sunset and Sunrise
  • Sabah Island is famous for its one-of-a-kind sunset and sunrise.
  1. Diving
  • Of course, the most done activities on these islands, DIVING!
  • There are PADI-certified instructors for you to take up lessons or even if you would like to free dive in this island or any other neighboring island.
  • You may arrange them with your hotel or there are multiple packages available at Semporna jetty if you’re not planning to stay on the island
Mabul Island Sabah
Photo by Alan Youngblood on Unsplash

Note: If you are planning to do any activity in Sipadan, you will need a special permit which we will talk about more below.

5) Mantanani Island(s)

This island is made up of three islands on the northwest coast of Sabah. The largest of the three islands is called Mantanani Besar, the other two are Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan.

beautiful beaches on Sabah Island
Source: Researchgate

Fun Fact: According to the Small Island Research Center(SIRC) of UMS, this island contained  fossils which could be traced back to 13-20 million years ago, specifically the Miocene period.

This island is also called the ‘Mermaid Island’ because of the occasional presence of dugong(sea cow). Although there are three islands at Mantanani Island, accommodations are only available at Mantanani Besar. 

You can take a diving trip to Mantanani Kecil and adventurous visitors can kayak around Lungisan Island as it is the smallest among the three islands.

How To Get There?

You will need to rent a car or take a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Kampung Kuala Abai Jetty in Kota Belud. From there, you will have to take a speedboat to Mantanani Island. Mind you, there is only one boat that travels from the jetty to the island every day and it departs at 9.30 am. 

You may arrange transportation with the resorts if you choose to stay at Mantanani Island or if you are not, you may want to check if the packages you choose include transportation.

All in all, it should take you about 3 hours from Kota Kinabalu to Pulau Mantanani Besar.

What To Do There?

  1. Diving
  • This place can easily be divers heaven with over 16 diving spots and 3 different World War II shipwreck dives.
  • There are also PADI instructors available to bring you to the best diving spots.
  • You may spot one of these beauties if you are lucky – dugong!
Sabah Island
Photo by Simon Infanger on Unsplash
  1. Snorkeling
  • Don’t know how to dive but wanna enjoy nature on this beautiful island, this is your go-to activity!
beautiful beaches on Sabah Island
Photo by Paul Hewart on Unsplash
  1. Kayaking
  • The resorts or the packages you book normally would include the equipment needed.
  • If you are adventurous enough, you  may visit the small Lungisan Island
  1. Fishing trips
  • If you would like to do something different, you can book a fishing trip which is provided by Little Dolphin Hotel.
  1. Sunsets
  • Sabah Island has one of the most beautiful sunsets globally and Mantanani Besar has one of the best views.
beautiful beaches on Sabah Island
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

6) Pulau Tiga Island

Also known as ‘Survivor Island’ since the famous reality TV show was hosted here several years back, this island is made up of 3 islands named, Pulau Tiga, Pulau Kalampunian Besar(Sand Spit Island), and Pulau Kalampunian Damit(also known as Snake Island).

Pulau Tiga is the only island that has an accommodation among the 3 islands. 

You can go for a day trip to cover the other 2 islands by boat that is either arranged by the accommodation on the island itself or any other packages that you choose.

You shouldn’t miss staying in either one of the resorts if you visit this island. Borneo Eagle Resort and Pulau Tiga Resort.

How To Get There

This island in Sabah is located about 2 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu City to Kuala Penyu at which you take a 40-minute boat ride to Pulau Tiga Island

What To Do There?

  1. Mud Volcano
  • This island has 3 mud volcanoes of which 2 have dried up. The active one can be reached via a 1100 meters jungle trail. Enjoy a good hike and soak in the mud which is said to have medicinal or therapeutic values to it. 
  1. Visit Snake Island
  • In Snake Island, you will be able to check out Banded Sea Kraits which is one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. You’d probably enjoy it if you are a reptile lover.
  • It is normally included in a day trip after which you can visit Sand Spit Island
  1. Visit Sand Spit Island.
  • This was initially known as a sea bar but now due to the lack of humans on the land, it is covered with salt-tolerant creeping vine a.k.a Beach Morning Glory. It is known to be one of the most beautiful beaches on Sabah Island. 
  • A long white sandy beach with crystal clear water makes it a perfect spot to just unwind and be alone with your thoughts for a bit before snorkeling nearby.
  1. Snorkeling
  • Pulau Tiga island has some amazing snorkeling spots to which you can spot some clownfish, parrotfish, and even seahorses.
  1. Diving
  • Those who would like to see more beautiful coral and exquisite fishes may choose to do so by diving at selected dive spots nearby. Don’t worry, there are guided trainers to bring you around.
  1. Kayaking

NOTE: If you plan to take a day trip to Pulau Tiga Island, you may choose to take this package at a good price which includes snorkeling and a trekking experience.

7) Kapalai Island

Also known as the Maldives of Malaysia, this island is truly a beauty by itself. It’s a very small island and known for its best diving spots due to its proximity to the ‘GodFather’ of diving spots, Sipadan Island.

Whoever would like to go diving at Sipadan Island either has to stay here or Mabul Island.

There is only one accommodation here which is Sipadan-Kapalai Resort.

How To Get There?

From Kota Kinabalu City, you would have to fly to Tawau then get a taxi or a cheaper option, a bus to Semporna Jetty. From there, you will take a speedboat to the island. If you are staying at the accommodation, this is all arranged by the hotel services.

What To Do There?

  1. Diving
  • People normally come here to dive at this island or the famous diving site Sipadan Island which normally needs a permit to dive. Kapalai Resorts are among the 12 locations that have been allocated Sipadan Permits by the state!
  • You will be able to see colorful fish that you won’t be able to see in any other part of the world
  • You can even choose to do some night diving which is guided by their PADI trained divers
best island in sabah
(Photo by Dorothea OLDANI on Unsplash)
  1. Snorkeling
  • The resort provides you gear to do some snorkeling activities for non-divers
  1. Ocean Kayaking

8) Sipadan Island

This island has been mentioned before a couple of times. There is no accommodation on this island but is worth the mention as one of the best islands in Sabah because divers from all over the world come to this island for its one-of-a-kind diving experience.

It is one of the top 3 diving sites in the world and has appeared many times on National Geographic.

Barracuda Point is a must-visit for a diving experience like no other!

Visitors who would like to visit this island either can stay at Semporna, Mabul Island, or Kapalai Island. A make-shift oil rig can accommodate several divers for a one-of-a-kind staying experience called Seaventures Dive Rig.

How To Get Here?

You would have to fly into Tawau and get either a bus or a taxi to Semporna and get a speedboat to Mabul or Kapalai where you will stay.

From these islands, Sipadan Island is about 40-60 minutes away.

What To Do There?

Diving and Snorkeling

  • Sabah parks only give out 176 permits each day which is valid for a day trip diving or snorkeling at Sipadan Island.
  • You cant get the permits directly. It can only be accessed via these 12 hotels, resorts, dive operators, and liveaboards.
  • During your diving trip, you can easily spot over 10 sea turtles.
best island for a honeymoon
Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

9) Pom-Pom Island

This island at Sabah is situated about 30 kilometers northeast of Semporna town, this white sand coral beach is home to the Green and Hawksbill marine turtles. 

Visitors can choose to either stay at the island which only has one accommodation, Pom Pom Island Resort or stay at Semporna town and visit this island as part of an Island Hoping Trip. 

How To Get There?

Similar to a few other Islands in this vicinity, visitors will have to take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau and get a bus or taxi to Semporna town. To get to the island, you will need to hop on a speedboat and travel about 45-60 minutes to reach Pom Pom Island.

If you are living at the accommodation on Pom Pom Island, the transfers will be managed by the hotel authorities. 

What To Do There?

  1. Diving

As part of the Coral Triangle, this island offers excellent drift dives with much pelagic fish and sea fans. The resort provides PADI courses and dives too. 

  1. Snorkeling

Since Pom Pom Island has a marine conservation project, the Tropical Research and Conservation Centre(TRACC), they have reduced fishing activities on this island so that the fishes and corals can be protected.

So during your snorkeling activity, you’d be able to see starfishes and other beautiful fishes and corals.

best island for a honeymoon
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
  1. Kayaking

You can rent the equipment from the resort on the island.

  1. Boheydulang Island trekking.

The resort on Pom Pom Island recently has introduced a trekking experience for their guests to see the island from a different view.

10) Tunku Abdul Rahman(TAR) Island

beautiful beaches on Sabah Island
Photo by Pascal van de Vendel on Unsplash

FUN FACT: This island existed before the Ice Age at which it formed part of the Crocker Range. But about one million years ago, the melting ice isolated these islands from the range and formed 5 islands, namely : 

  • Gaya Island
  • Sapi Island
  • Manukan Island 
  • Mamutik Island
  • Sulug Island

Out of the 5 islands, lavish accommodations are only present on Manukan Island and Gaya Island(Gayana Resort and Bunga Raya Resort). You can choose to stay at budget accommodation or campsites on the other islands.

If you don’t want to stay at either one of these places and would just like to visit these islands, you can book your Island tours at Jesselton Jetty on the spot. 

How To Get Here?

Fly in from Kota Kinabalu and get to Jesselton Jetty which is only 15-20 minutes apart. 

You can check the schedules from the link above. Their boat services start typically at 8.30 am and end by 4.15 pm

You can either do your booking online or head there directly and do it.

What To Do There?

  1. Hiking
  • There is a nature trail at Gaya Island and Manukan Island that you can check out at Sabah Parks Headquarters.
  1. Island Hopping
  • If you are not staying at any one of the resorts, you may opt to do this and visit all the islands. Packages can be checked out online or even at Jesselton Point.
  • If you would like to visit Manukan Island and Sapi Island and do some fun activities like snorkeling, walking undersea, parasailing, you may check this out and get a better price.
  1. Snorkeling
  • Due to its crystal clear water, Tunku Abdul Rahman Island is a perfect spot for snorkeling. You may check these packages out.
  • For a snorkeling and fishing experience at Gaya Island for only $67 per person, you wouldn’t wanna miss this.
  1. Diving
  • For a PADI diving experience, you may check this out. It is available for anyone above 10 years old, so it will be a good experience to introduce children to the underwater world too!
  1. Zipline
  • Malaysia’s longest island-to-island zipline is present in Gaya Island which will take you directly to Sapi Island. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and why not do it with a snorkeling package at Sapi Island.

11) Layang-Layang Island

Also known as Swallow Reef, you will find this island located 300km northwest of Kota Kinabalu on the map of Sabah. It is a small island in the South China Sea, not too far from the shores of Sabah Island. 

This island of Sabah is part of an atoll that consists of a hollow lagoon on one side and a profound drop-off into the open ocean on the other end. This little island only consists of one resort, a navy base, and an airport strip. 

How To Get There?

You will have to take a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu. And get a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Layang-Layang Island. The second flight normally comes in a package with your accommodation.

There is only one place to stay on the island which is Layang-Layang Resort

Their packages are inclusive of the flights to and from Layang-Layang Island, accommodation, food, diving trips(inclusive equipment). You may check out their various packages here.

NOTE: The resort on the island is only open from March to October since the other times this island is affected by the monsoon season.

What To Do There?

This is not the safest place for a beginner diver BUT it is heaven for adventurous professional divers.


  • Layang-Layang Island is a favorite place for the hammerheads shark during mating season in May.
  • The visibility of the waters in this island exceeds 40 meters and it undoubtedly has the healthiest reefs since it is rarely populated by people.
  • Divers may also be able to spot grey reef sharks and leopard sharks on their dives.
island at Sabah
Photo by Jéan Béller on Unsplash

12) Turtle Island

This island in Sabah consists of 10 islands in total, 3 of which are part of the Turtle Island Park of Malaysia and the remaining 7 islands belong to Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary of Tawi-Tawi province in the Philippines. 

Out of the 3 islands, only Selingan Island has accommodations.

How To Get There?

You will have to fly from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. 

After which you can take a boat to Selingan Island. Visitors will have to stay one night on the island to see the turtles coming to shore to lay their eggs as that normally happens after dusk.

Only 50 visitor permits are available each day and you can get them from the same place you would do your booking for the boat to stay a night at Selingan Island. You can do your booking through Crystal Quest, the only company that does trips to this island

What To Do There?

During the daytime, visitors are allowed to check out the crystal clear beach and free to do any beach activities such as snorkeling.

Nobody is allowed on the beach after 5 pm as the two famous turtles, Greenhawk Turtle and Hawksbill Turtle will surface to lay their eggs.

The rangers on this island will inform the visitors if any of the turtles have come to shore. 

Visitors are advised against shining lights or taking photos with flashlights as it will startle the turtles and affect the egg-laying process.

best island in sabah
Photo by David Reynolds on Unsplash

Once the eggs are laid, the rangers will collect them to place them at a safer place away from predators. The final stage of the evening is the release of hatchlings – baby turtles! They are normally released at night to reduce being caught by predators. 

13) Dinawan Island

beautiful island in Sabah
Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

Bored of all the fancy resorts and would like a glamping experience instead? 

This island in Sabah just has the retreat for you to experience camping in a glamorous way(aka glamping). Dinawan island is located on the West Coast of the state of Sabah. 

Ara Dinawan Island is one of the two accommodations available on this island and has Malaysia’s first eco-friendly chalets which are in the shape of a tent for a wholesome experience of the island.

How To Get There?

Get a car from Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Dinawan Jetty@Beringis Seafood Restaurant. That should take you about 30-45 minutes after which you will get on a boat ride for 20 minutes before you reach this beautiful island in Sabah.

What To Do There?

You can either opt for a day trip or an overnight trip which you can book either via the resort or other online means.

Among the activities you can do in Dinawan Island are: 

  1. Snorkeling
  2. Kayaking
  3. Paddle Boarding.

14) Sepaggar Island

island at Sabah
Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

One of the ‘forgotten’ beaches in Sabah Island, this island is a protected forest reserve and is covered by thick lush rainforest. The reason I said the forgotten beach is that lots of people are always wanting to visit the more famous beaches at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. 

So if you are looking for a quiet place nearer to Kota Kinabalu town and still want turquoise water, colorful reefs, and a white sandy beach, this is your place!

How To Get There?

This island is only a 10 minutes boat ride from Jesselton Jetty in Kota Kinabalu. You can either opt to go on a day trip or stay overnight at the Mari Mari Sepaggar Island. They offer packages for both. You are free to choose your packages on their page or at the Jetty.

What To Do There?

  1. Water Sports
  • Sea walking 
  • Parasailing
  • Stand-up paddleboard
  • Banana boat 
  • Jetski
  1. Diving
  • Discover scuba dive for divers who would like to learn how to dive
  • Open water dive course to be certified by PADI and then you can dive anywhere in the world
  1. Snorkeling
  2. Night Snorkeling – for overnight stayers
  3. Hiking
  • For the adventurous ones, you can trek up the rainforest trail to the South Peak(the highest peak of the island). From here you can have a panoramic view of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and all of its beautiful islands.

How Many Islands Are In Sabah?

Sabah is not one of the biggest states in Malaysia but it surely has the most islands, 392 islands in this beautiful state!

Which Part Of Borneo Is The Best?

I suppose this depends on what is your favorite among these three. The sea, mountains, or the city?

If you are a lover of the sea, then Sabah Island is the best for you!

But if you are a lover of mountains, hike up Mount Kota Kinabalu which is the highest after the Himalayas and New Guinea. Besides that, you would like to visit Mulu National Park in Sarawak which is part of a UNESCO world heritage site. 

If you are a lover of the city and would like to check out some history, Kuching City in Sarawak which is part of Borneo is a place you should visit. 

Is It Safe To Travel To Sabah Islands?

Since the east coast of Sabah Island is close to the Sulu archipelago in the Southern Philippines, there have been reports of kidnapping occurring in past times. 

The last incident was in 2016, after which the Malaysian government formed Eastern Sabah Security Command(ESSCOM) 

So, it is safe to say that it is safe to travel to the islands in Sabah. 

Listen to the instructions given by the hotel authorities as most hotels or resorts have a cut-off time for daytime activities. 

There are police and army marines at the borders who are always on the watch for any illegal activities which allow visitors to do their activities in peace.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Sabah?

Sabah Island is located in the equatorial region. So, it has a tropical climate. It is constantly summer but it also gets plenty of rainfall. 

The wet seasons are normally between September – January and the sunny season is said to be between February to August.

Do You Need A Passport or A Visa During Your Visit To Sabah Islands?

  1. Foreigners 
  • Yes, you will need a passport. As for visas, you may check on the Immigration site to see if your arrival from your country would need a visa to enter Sabah Island.
  1. Peninsular Malaysians
  • You can choose to come in either with your passport or identity card(IC).
  • If you come in with your IC, you will be given a white card which you need to keep safe. If you lose it, you will have to make a police report.
  • Regardless if you come in with a passport or an IC, you only can stay a maximum of 90 days. If you are gonna work or visit for a longer period, yes you will need to get a visa too.


Sabah Island is truly a one-of-a-kind beauty. You must visit it to believe it. These pictures don’t do justice. 

Do note though that if you are traveling on a budget, you don’t necessarily have to live on the resorts mentioned above. 

You can choose to do an island hopping trip and get packages from Traveloka and Klook for international sites. If you are looking for more local feels, you may check out SabahTravel, KKday, and SabahBooking.

Or if you are more of a spontaneous kinda person, you may randomly pick a package for yourself at the initial points where boats depart to islands for island hopping activities such as Jesselton Point or Sandakan Yacht Club.

Sabah Island is truly a perfect blend of cultural heritage, open seas, and thick dense rainforest. If this is not on your bucket list, what are you waiting for?

14 Best Islands In Sabah

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