Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (or TAR Marine Park) is a park off the coast of the island of Borneo in Malaysia made up of five islands: Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik.

Understand

The marine park is under the administration of the Sabah Parks Authority, which has the mandate to oversee designated protected areas and ensure their maintenance and upkeep as reserves while catering to tourists wanting to enjoy the natural beauty that Sabah has to offer.

The largest amongst the island group is Pulau Gaya at 15sq km of untouched dense rainforest on which there is a small settlement of locals who have built wooden housing over the coastal edges while the rest is pristine jungle.

Gaya Island boasts some of the best coral and un-spoilt beaches in the entire park.

Landscape

All five islands are hilly and forested, with a mixture of rocky coastlines and white sand beaches. They are located closely together, well within sight of each other and of the Kota Kinabalu city on the mainland. Gaya is by far the largest of the islands, with Manukan coming in at a distant second, the remaining three are very small.

Flora and fauna

The TARP (Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park) islands are home to some areas of old growth forest. The Dipterocarpaceae family of tropical lowland rainforest trees can be found especially on the Gaya Island, the biggest of the group of five TARP islands. Tongkat Ali, a small everred treelet growing to 15m and Eucalyptus trees can be found on a nature walk within the islands. Mangrove trees also make up an important part of the coastal ecosystem within the park.

The Marine Park also has diverse wildlife. Some of the islands are home to wild boars, long-tailed macaques, monitor lizards and proboscis monkeys (found on Gaya island). Also on Gaya island, you are likely to find green pit viper and the yellow banded mangrove snake. An albino python has also been seen there.

Get in

Travel to the TAR Marine Park is easy as hourly speedboat rides can be caught at the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in the northern end of Kota Kinabalu, along Jalan Fuad Stephens. Once inside the terminal, pick from one of the tour boat companies who will all call out for your attention. Prices are fixed: It costs RM17 per person for each island visited (return to Jesselton Point included). A compulsory Tariff Fee of RM6 per person must also be paid at the Jesselton Point Terminal before departing. A RM10 per person Environmental Conservation Fee is payable upon arrival to the first island of the day visited (some unscrupulous vendors collect the RM10 fee prior to departure, pocketing the money). Each additional island you want to visit will cost an extra RM17 pp. Boats depart every hour to the island of your choice, with earliest departure at 7:30AM and last departure at 4:30PM. The last return boats are at 5PM. You can choose to spend as little as an hour on one island, or all day, or hop in between islands depending on how many trips you purchase at the terminal. The trip takes 15-20 minutes depending on the island. For unscheduled trips, you can charter a boat starting at about RM200 (though you may be able to bargain it down).

It is best to try and go to these islands during the week as the islands are a popular destination for locals and it can get busy during the weekend. The further the island is that you visit the less amenities on the island and also the more secluded. An alternative that avoids the hassle and expense of staying on the islands is to stay in Kota Kinabalu and head over to the islands on day trips. If don't want to face the crowds then pre-book your trip with one of the operators below.

Fees/Permits

Sabah Parks diving permits are RM 50 for Non-Malaysians and RM 20 for Malaysians. Islanda conservation fee is RM 10 for adults.

See

If wishing to travel to Sulug, Gaya and other islands please ensure you check with authoritative and reliable sources as to the safety of the trip prior to booking. The waters surrounding the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park can be subject to extreme weather events, especially in the middle of the Monsoon season when the seas may become quite rough.

Do

There are 2 full service Dive Centres providing services to TARP: Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures, based on Gaya Island, and Borneo Dream based in Kota Kinabalu). Both centres have good access to the surrounding dive sites.
  • Borneo Dream, F-G-1 Plaza Tanjung Aru, Jl. Mat Salleh,  +60 17 811 8149, fax: +60 88 244 931, e-mail: . A boat transfer service is available to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park for snorkelling or diving trips. Over 20 sites for diving and protected areas for snorkelling. Suitable for day trips. Goes to four of the main wreck dive sites on a regular basis. PADI Dive Boat, 10mx4m catamaran and a 9mx3m RIB, SDI resort dive centre, BSAC diver training centre, TDI resort dive centre and IANTD facility. Also offer SCR courses and training certified via the PADI with both a semi closed rebreather diver speciality course and closed circuit rebreather (CCR) training courses.
  • Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures (DiveDownbelow), Gaya Island (Based on Gaya Island at the Beach House, nearby to the Sabah Parks HQ),  +60 12 866 1935, +60 88 232 375. PADI 5 Star IDC Dive & Adventures Centre, PADI enriched air Nitrox diver courses. Offer structured and guided snorkelling, sea kayaking and trekking. Can accommodate very large groups for team building events and adventure training. Camping ground nearby with basic toilets and showers for guests. 3 dive boats, 37ft, 35ft & 32ft. Programs include a free pick up from Kota Kinabalu city hotels

Sleep

You can stay on 3 of the islands, either camping or staying in lodges.

Lodging

Stay safe

As always, swimmers should be careful of dangerous ocean creatures, especially jellyfish. The park authority posts warning signs during jellyfish season (October - May), although you should stay vigilant at all times. Most jellyfish in the area will cause nothing more than a painful sting, but deadly box jellyfish have also been reported on rare occasions, and there is at least one reported case of a child dying from box jellyfish stings in the park. Jellyfish stings should be rinsed with seawater then treated with vinegar, if it is available. If you are stung by a box jellyfish, seek immediate medical attention, and they are known to be fatal.

The western tip of Gaya Island, directly opposite the city of Kota Kinabalu, is populated by a floating colony of mostly illegal immigrants. This part of the island is locally considered to be a dangerous area due to a high risk of crime. Most other locations on Gaya Island, however, including the Gayana Resort, Police Beach, and the dive center, are far from this part of the island, so you shouldn't have any problems.

Go next

Unless you are spending the night on the islands, or have chartered a boat, the last boats back to the city leave at 5PM. Be on time, because the boat operators will charge you a large fee for after hours pickups.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 10, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.