Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park or TAR Marine Park consists of five different islands, namely Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, PulauManukan, PulauMamutik and PulauSulug, Gaya being the largest of all. The National Park is considered as Kota Kinabalu’s chief landmark and is famous for its crystal clear waterbody and its extensive diversity of creatures including marine life, plant life, and animal life.
TAR Marine Park is located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu in the States of Sabah.
Best time to visit:
Since there is no real monsoon season on the island, it could be visited year-round. Avoid visiting the Park during the months of November-February since the weather might tend to be bad. The park tends to be a little crowded during holidays.
How to reach:
TARP can be usually reached via speedboat from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal in the northern end of Kota Kinabalu, which takes around 15-20 minutes. Kota Kinabalu can be reached from Kuala Lumpur via air, directly.
What to do while you’re here:
The Park is home to several popular activities including the following:
- Diving: There are over 25 dive-sites within the park. Borneo Dream and Downbelow both run PADI Open Water diving programs on Pulau Gaya. There are up around 364 species of fishes which could be found near the park. You might be lucky enough to witness black-tip reef shark, blue-ringed octopus, shape-shifting cuttlefish, blue spotted stingrays, mantis shrimp, the occasional Hawksbill turtle and possibly a whale shark.
- Snorkeling: The best snorkeling sites are around Manukan Island and Sapi Island. Though you can even go snorkeling at the public beaches.
- Sun-bathing: Go sunbathing at its stunning beaches of your choice.
- Ocean Kayaking: Sea Kayaking can be quite a mesmerizing experience, especially for non-divers.
- Windsurfing: Windsurfing can be really fun around some areas of the park.
- Barbeque: Every food-lover knows how special is a barbeque on the beach.
- Fishing: Enjoy fishing with the locals and other tourists while you’re at it.
- Parasailing: Get the breathtaking view of the islands and the city from the top.
The plant life is richer in Palau Gaya and Manukan, providing one of the biggest opportunities for people who love exploring jungles. Manukan, Sapi, and Gaya islands are the most developed ones whereas the other two offer almost no facility. The islands have several sand beaches, a few being extremely less frequented while the others tend to be crowded during holidays.
You can also enjoy picnicking, sailing, trekking around the jungles of Gaya or even beach sports.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is usually visited by day-trippers, be it tourists or locals. Though, if one wants to stay on the islands, there are a few resorts on Pulau Gaya, PulauManukan andPulauMamutik.Manukan Island Resort at Palau Manukan and Gayana Eco Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort at Gaya Island are the most sophisticated ones.
You can even stay in your own makeshift tents or rent it for the stay, but you need proper permits beforehand.
- TAR Marine Park was named after Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rehman.
- It was gazetted as Sabah’s second National Park in 1957.
Things to keep in mind:
- The islands can be a little crowded on weekends or on holidays.
- Try to avoid taking the last boat leaving the island as it might tend to be overcrowded.
- Take enough water and little snacks with you if you’re planning to visit neighboring islands too since it might be hard to find food on those islands.
- ATMs are available on the mainland.