Island Hopping in Sabah: Manukan Island from Kota Kinabalu (Jesselton Point)

As much as I wanted to go to explore Mount Kinabalu, I had to skip it as it turned out to be so expensive. I only spared 3 days in Kota Kinabalu, and I tried to make the most out of it to explore the city itself. One of the dos in the city, through some research prior to my departure, is island hopping to some islands that I could do from Kota Kinabalu.

At first, I was considering to book a tour for the activity. Lucky for me, I met a fellow traveler Yukyeong in Brunei. She told me that she was in Kota Kinabalu a few months before she came to Brunei. And she suggested me to just book the tour go-show from Jesselton Point.

During her trip, she booked the tour online and she found out that the price was much cheaper around Jesselton Point. She also told me that one of the popular islands to go from Kota Kinabalu is Manukan Island, the island that she stopped by in her last travel too.

Island Hopping in Sabah: Manukan Island from Kota Kinabalu (Jesselton Point) - The BeauTraveler

Island Hopping from Kota Kinabalu

Jesselton point terminal.

Kota Kinabalu, often known as KK for both Malaysian and international tourists, is a popular gateway for travelers visiting Sabah and Borneo in general.

On my last day in KK, I met a fellow Indonesian and she mentioned that KK is pretty much like Bali in Indonesia. People go there for vacation, it’s also often visited by travelers from the Peninsular Malaysia for a short getaway and even honeymoon destination.

It’s not without a reason, since the city itself is surrounded by so many small islands. These islands offer rich marine life, from snorkeling experience, water sport to even just clear water and sandy beaches. And the fact that the sky is pretty above Borneo also comes in the package.

Now, many people believe that Malaysia has one of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the world. And one of them is located in Sabah. For exactly that reason, I decided to spare some time to do the island hopping on my own.

Some small island around Kota Kinabalu that I took from the aircraft, en route to Singapore.

Manukan Island from Jesselton Point

Times World, the tour operator that I used for this island hopping activity.

All boat departures to the nearby islands around Kota Kinabalu starts in one place: Jesselton Point.

After listening to Yukyeong’s experience for the island hopping activities, I didn’t book any tour before going to the port. I used Grab from my hotel to Jesselton Point for 5 MYR.

Once I got to the ticketing hall, I was approached by some staff from the tour operators providing the island-hopping tour services. The tour service provider that I ended up using is Times World, whose office is not so far from the entrance hall.

So, here’s the thing… I started quite late since I woke up at around 10 on the day.

I reached Jesselton Point at around 11.15 AM and I decided to just go to one island. Since Yukyeong mentioned about Manukan, and it seems that Manukan is one of the most well-known islands around Kota Kinabalu according to Google, I then chose it as my destination.

I have paid 30 MYR (around $7.3 USD) for the return ticket, including the terminal fee in Jesselton Point. Since I also rented snorkeling mask and a life jacket that cost 10 MYR (around $2.5 USD) each, I’ve paid 50 MYR (around $12 USD) in total for this journey alone.

Since I was aiming to try parasailing for the first time, I also paid 100 MYR (around $24 USD) up front. However, the latter I had to ask for a refund for some reason. Why? I’ll let you know later.

The complete price for any other additional activities on the island(s)

The Overview of Manukan Island

So, apart from Yukyeong’s suggestion, I also googled on some recommended island to visit around Kota Kinabalu before going to Jesselton Point. And since I only got one option to choose, I decided to go to Manukan since it seems to be the most popular one.

According to some articles that I found on the internet, the island is the second biggest island from Kota Kinabalu. And it is a great place for snorkeling, diving, and swimming. And not just that, because they also have the most developed facilities in the resort.

A view from the jetty on Manukan Island.

There’s an extra entrance fee on the island once you arrive, which will cost you 10 MYR for foreign visitors and 5 MYR for the locals.

Since I have to put my belonging somewhere, I also rented a locker for 10 MYR. I mean, at this situation I really wished I was traveling in a group instead of solo. But then again, one had to do it. 😐

Activities around Manukan Island

One of the beach boys on the island, Fauzan, approached me since he probably saw me strolling around alone. And he offered to accompany me for snorkeling, so we went snorkeling together.

While yes it was quite nice to see the sea life around the island, it wasn’t as fantastic as I thought it would be. If anything, I’d rather sunbathing by the beach and probably swimming around there. So, to be frank with you, I wasn’t quite impressed by snorkeling activities on the island.

A view from the beach side.

When I went there, the island wasn’t very crowded so it was such a good place to just chill and stroll around. Thank God it was also very sunny when I went there, so I didn’t have to deal with raining or anything.

I also had lunch there, and it was indeed quite pricey. But it was understandable, given the idea that it is a touristic resort. I even had ice cream there for like 19 MYR, like now that I think about it, why would I do that? But then again, the vibes around the island were so perfect for ice cream!

As I mentioned before, I was meant to do parasailing for the first time. I approached one of the staff for parasailing, only to find out that they couldn’t do it on the day I came because of the wind. The staff then suggested me to ask for a refund at the ticketing booth once I got back to Jesselton Point, which I did.

Manukan Island from My Point of View

The lifeguard at Manukan Island.
It was sadly quite dirty.

Apart from snorkeling and swimming, I also strolled around the island. Honestly, I was quite disappointed.

Not only that snorkeling there wasn’t as good as I expected, but the island was sadly quite dirty. There were trashes around the corner, and I just found it a bit boring.

I mean, maybe I was supposed to purchase the ticket to get to one more island with some spare time I had around Manukan. I spent around 4 hours around Manukan, and I think I had it enough.

I couldn’t speak for other islands around Kota Kinabalu, but if one day I get a chance to go back there, I surely won’t pick Manukan Island for my destination.

Honestly, I just hope that there’s some other island like Sapi or any other island that is more worth-visiting. I even start wondering whether this opinion came simply because I’m Indonesian.

I mean, I know some unpopular islands that I’ve visited that I find indeed prettier. And cheaper. For example, I really thought the money spent on this island alone could actually help me get by around Belitung for like 2 days.

Things I Wish I Knew Before Going to Manukan

From all the activities that I’ve done and paid for, none of them were super impressive. But I think I could avoid some unnecessary stuff around the island.

Renting Snorkeling Tools

One of them would be the rent of the snorkeling mask and life jacket. It was really unnecessary since I really had to exchange the mask with the one Fauzan had when we did snorkeling, it sucked to the bone. And it didn’t help that snorkeling view there wasn’t the best that I’ve ever had.

Some funny sign I saw on the island.

For life jacket, I suppose you should know your capabilities better when you stop by the island. And honestly, I know how to swim already so I guess I could have just skipped renting life jacket as I didn’t use it on the island at all.

The only time it was necessary to wear a life jacket is when we’re in the boat. But even then, the boat attendants will provide you with one. So, I really could have saved 20 MYR for not renting any of them.

Any Additional Activities Outside The One You Could Do On Your Own

Apart from that, I guess since there are so many tour operators available at Jesselton Point, by the time you reach the island, you should communicate clearly about the activities you want to do.

If you want to do some additional activities like banana boat, or in my case parasailing, you should make it clear at Jesselton Point about how to get to the right person for the activities. What happened to me was that the staff at Jesselton Point only told me to show my ticket to the staff around the island. 

It wasn’t the case, since when I asked Fauzan, he had to ask around about the tour provider to his colleagues. And when the staff told me to ask for the refund, at Jesselton Point the staff ended up blaming me for not giving them my phone number since their staff on the island actually expected me.

I gave them my phone number as it was written on my receipt. However, the miscommunication was there with the tour provider staff itself. So I really didn’t give a fuss about it as long as I could get the refund.

A Stop By Gaya Island Before Going Back to Jesselton Point

A crane transiting around Gaya Island.

Before we went back to Jesselton Point, we stopped around Gaya Island where according to the boat attendant, some illegal immigrant originally from the Philippines settled in around 1970s. Nowadays, they have around 6,000 floating populations at Kampung Lok Urai. The latter kind of reminds me of Kampong Ayer in Brunei.

As I mentioned earlier that I met a fellow Indonesian in Kota Kinabalu the next day, she was born and bred in KK from Indonesian parents. And she gave me some additional knowledge about KK itself.

For example, I’m glad that I got the picture of the crane above since it turned out cranes often stop by Kota Kinabalu around September-October before they continued their journey heading to China. In fact, my friend even mentioned there’s one spot where all the cranes usually gathered before they continue flying. 

Is Island Hopping Worth Doing Around Kota Kinabalu?

Yes. There are so many islands that you could opt to go from Jesselton Point. For me personally, I could have really skipped Manukan Island as I didn’t like it that much. But I wouldn’t mind trying to go to some other island, given a chance.

A glimpse of Kota Kinabalu from the boat en route to Jesselton Point.

So, have you been to Manukan Island? Or maybe you even got a chance to visit another island around Kota Kinabalu? What island that you like the best around there? 

Give me a shout if you have any recommendation, and cheerio! 😀

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