It might be a cliché but the ‘take nothing but photographs; leave nothing but footprints’ mantra on tourist signs around Manukan Island perfectly encapsulates the easy–going and respectful vibe of this beautiful jungle island. The short boat ride to the island was anything but easy–going. Fun though.
It’s rained every day for almost two weeks but today looks wilder than usual. It’s touch and go whether we will be able to jump on the boat for the short journey from Sabah’s biggest city Kota Kinabalu (KK) to nearby Manukan Island thanks to the weather. We’ve been waiting for an hour at the harbour of KK’s Sutera Harbour Resort, huddled near the travel office like meerkats sheltering from the rain. The day trippers are told to come back another day. Only the overnighters remain. We wait. Finally after three hours of wishing the storm away, we get the all clear, and jump in the speed boat for the journey to Manukan Island, which usually takes 20 minutes, but today takes longer. The trip starts out fine, but as the boat picks up speed and moves out of the harbour, it starts to get hairy. The boat rides waves before crash landing metres below creating a turbulence effect with buckets of water thrown over you for good measure. The guides of other travellers love it. They whoop and holler with every wave that crashes over us. The guides are either doing this out of kindness – to put our minds to rest and show that we have nothing to fear (which we haven’t) – or they are merely jerks. Still, their excitement gives the short trip an adventure-like quality before docking at one of the most tranquil islands I’ve ever visited: Manukan Island. The second largest of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (Malaysia’s first marine national park) five islands, Manukan Island accommodates day-trippers and overnighters with its attractive sandy beaches and walks through the rainforest. Unlike other island paradises, Manukun Island is not tainted with bars, resorts and an influx of people. It is quiet and peaceful. The only accommodation available is the Manukan Island Resort, a beautiful private luxury resort which includes hillside and beachside chalets. The hillside chalets are the pick of the accommodation despite the walk up the hillside stairs to get to them. After the workout, you reap the reward of your effort when you reach a beautiful private chalet (hidden by the forest trees) with a magnificent view over the beach from the deck and the room’s large windows. Manukan Island is the perfect destination for taking it easy. After a quick laksa at the P’rahu restaurant for lunch, you either take a walk through the rainforest, snorkel or scuba dive the surrounding coral reef, island-hop or just lie on the beach. Just before sunset, you can take the 1.5km hike up to Sunset Point to view the island’s famous sunset before returning to P’rahu for an evening seafood BBQ for dinner. Surrounded by a coral reef and embedded in a rainforest, Manukan Island is the perfect place to unwind with a loved one, even if it is only for a night or two. manukan.com The author was a guest of Sabah Tourism