Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Kota Kinabalu and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

After spending five days diving in southern Borneo, I flew north to Kota Kinabalu. I visited the area in 2009, so keep in mind the prices have likely increased since then. Though checking the price of a room at the Lavender Lodge in 2018, the rooms are still only $30 a night. 

Kota Kinabalu and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Well it doesn’t seem that northern Borneo is any cooler than southern Borneo. Once again I’m sweating about a minute and a half after I leave an air conditioned building. The walk from my hotel (Lavender Lodge) and the Jesselton Jetty is a good 15 minutes and in some spots I walked past air conditioned offices with their doors open. 

Kota Kinabalu Views
The view from the “Grand Port View” hotel. I checked on google maps and the view hasn’t improved since, but the building on the left was completed.

Arriving at the jetty entrance, I walked into the building where you purchase tickets for boats out to the islands. I had no idea there were six or so different companies, so I just went over to the first one I saw. I ended up paying 56 RM for a trip to two islands plus 6 RM for the jetty fee and another 10 RM once I arrived at the first island for a park maintenance fee. The woman at my hotel told me I shouldn’t pay more than about 35 RM but by the time I realized it, I had purchased a non-refundable ticket. Ah well, I’ll know for next time!

For current (2018) prices click here.

For more information on the Jesselton Jerry click here.

The ride over to Pulau Manukan took about 10 minutes. On the island there is a hotel with bungalow type accommodation and a restaurant. There was also an all you can eat buffet for 105 RM but I passed that up for the 6.50 RM rice, veggies and omelette. I was getting picked up at 2pm for a transfer to another island so I had 4 hours to lay on the beach and snorkel. The snorkeling is hardly what I would call first class but not much is going to impress me after Sipadan. The other tourists in their life jackets in 3 feet of water seemed to be enjoying themselves. You can see some fish from the jetty but they are mostly miscellaneous white or grey fish although I did see one parrot fish and a couple confused looking trumpet fish (not a turtle in sight).

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Not to scale
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
The jetty at Pulau Manukan
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
View of the fishes from the Jetty

 I chose to lay in the shade and rotate between reading, listening to my ipod and sleeping. 

I walked around the end of the island to get away from the crowds on the beach and found a picnic table by the water where the “beach” is a bunch of rocks. There I was undisturbed except for the sighting of a rather large lizard. My view was of palm trees or if I turned my head left I  saw turquoise ocean. Life is good!

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
The beach at Pulau Manukan and my chilling out spot

There’s quite a bit of confusion at the jetty since the boats aren’t very well marked (and by not very well, I mean not at all) so you don’t know which boat you should be getting onto. I recognized my driver and hopped on. I was the only passenger so I had deluxe service over to Palau Sapi (I love the name). 

I had two hours at this island. When I arrived they were cleaning up from lunch and there was garbage everywhere (kind of like everywhere I’ve been in this country).

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
The jetty at Pulau Sapi
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Pulau Manukan
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Underwater scuba gear for people wanting to see underwater but who don’t dive or snorkel. I didn’t see anyone use one and they sure look funny

 So it wasn’t a very pleasant sight when I arrived. I walked through the mess and found the beach. After a short attempt to find some fish and finding nothing I decided to lay on the beach for the rest of my time there. 

Arriving back at Jesselton Jetty I was majorly craving ice cream. A minute later I was standing in line for a gelato. I ordered Oreo but it tasted nothing like Oreo or cookies and cream but it was still ice cream-ish tasting and hit the spot. Oh what I would give for a pistachio and hazelnut gelato in Italy right now! (some things never change!)

In the evening I met up with two guys from South Africa at the Cock and Bull bar down on the waterfront for some beers. I had met Roscoe earlier that evening and he invited me to join them. Before meeting them at the bar, I went looking for something to eat. I was roaming around aimlessly and came across a restaurant with outdoor seating that was showing ESPN Sportscenter on the TV. That was all I needed as a reason to eat there. The face that it was busy and my meal of fried noodles and seafood and a drink came to less than 10 RM.

I met the boys at the bar and we proceeded to drink a large amount of Tiger Beer. Around midnight we decided to go to a dance bar which was next door. The venue had a big stage where there was a band with three girls singing in the front. They were quite good. When we walked in they were singing “Right Round” by Flo Rider and then “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas and the Papas and then they’d switch to house music. It was quite the mix but made for some good times, aided slightly by shots of tequila and vodka 🙂

Last day in Borneo

Today is my last day in Borneo and as I’m writing this I’m looking over the street in front of the hotel and it’s raining quite heavily. Looks like I chose a good day to leave, although from what I was told, it rains here in the afternoon and clears up again for the evening. I will miss the heat but I won’t be missing the humidity and the constant sweating while outdoors!

Luckily my hotel doesn’t have a strict check out time because I slept in until almost 1pm. The boys got up this morning for their 8:30am taxi. I was going to go if I woke up in time but missed out by about 4 hours!

I hadn’t done any shopping since I’d been here so a trip to the air conditioned mall was in order. I bought a couple clay vases from the sweetest old lady I’ve ever met. She was so cute I wanted to buy more but I’m running low on RM. I’m not a big fan of haggling when buying something so it was appreciated when she told me she’d give me a discount and we went from there.

I’ll be sad to leave Borneo but it’s definitely not a “goodbye” but a “see you later”. There’s so much more to see and so little time!

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