Sunlight can’t enter a room full of furniture, similarly, we need more spaces sometimes to light up our hearts. That’s why I like the sense of freedom in sunset cruise. The feeling of watching sunset from the vast open sea is very different. On the land, sunset is only a nice background to mark the end of day. On the ocean, you are like an audience standing on the stage of sunset for its magic moment.
Pic: our cruise boat, Hydian Way
Kota Kinabalu City (KK) has nice sunset and our beautiful islands are just a few Kilometers away, so all we need is a boat for the trip. For the New Year Sunset Cruise Gathering, Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society chartered a cruise boat which could accommodate up to 50 people.
Hydian Way looks like a double-decker bus of the sea. It’s designed for fun cruising and not optimized for speed. The lower and upper decks are flat surface with many chairs and tables, so passengers can carry out any activity and enjoy open view of the sea, exactly what we need for a leisure ride. Most area is sheltered from rain and hot sun, another plus.
Pic: lower and upper decks of Hydian Way. The toilet is at the rear of lower deck.
We departed around 5pm from Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal and headed to the sea and islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. Everyone was so excited onboard, we explored around as this was our first time experience on sunset cruise.
Most seemed to like upper deck better, where we could see the surrounding on higher vantage point and enjoyed the sea breeze. Lower deck is more stable and suitable for those who are prone to seasick. Anyway, the swaying motion wasn’t strong when the boat was moving.
I also walked around to find the best viewpoint. After a while, everyone was settling down and started their romantic or family time.
Pic: our boat leaving KK and head to the sun!
Pic: a cruise ship in Sabah Port. I wonder how it feels to see sunset from that huge ship.
It had been raining in past few days, we didn’t know if the sunset view would be nice. The sky was cloudy, so I didn’t expect a spectacular sunset. As long as it didn’t rain, I was happy.
Even if the sunset wasn’t nice, we still had nice food onboard. Yeah, check out that BBQ lamb, it’s the one of the highlight man.
Everyone’s spirit is high. For company annual dinner, you may consider organizing a sunset cruise party. Conventional dinner in hotel is just boring and everyone wants to leave after meal.
Pic: the sunset is about to start. When the sun moved closer to the horizon, the sea water turned into silvery blue, an interesting color that only can be seen from open sea.
Then the boat brought us behind Sapi Island, where we could snorkel (snorkelling gears provided onboard). It was a bit cool probably due to the recent rainy season, so only one person doing it. Just to let you know that you can have this activity, and the boat can take you to snorkelling spot far away from crowded tourist area. If it was a hot day, I would take a swim.
Our barbecue chicken wings and satay were ready, just in time for the sunset. With free flow of soft drink, it couldn’t be better.
Pic: satay for the sunset!
Pic: more BBQ food. Wish you were there.
We were so happy about the exceptional view of sunset. In fact, we thought of postponing the trip because of the possible bad weather, now we have no regret.
Alex, the owner of the boat, was happy too. We were the only group on the open sea that day, this sunset view was exclusively for us.
We were busy taking and posting sunset photos to our Facebook. Some even updated their profile photos with sunset as background. Bet these photos got many likes and made their friends envious.
Pic: the magic moment with the most intense colors, cloud and sea were painted with rosy colors but only lasted a few minutes.
After the sunset was over, our boat moved further and anchored in open sea for next activity, fishing. The crews had prepared fishing rods and bait for us.
We caught a few snapper and grouper. However, the fishes were too small, so we released them back into the sea after photo taking. If we were lucky, we would have BBQ fishes.
Though we have no BBQ fish, there’s something better waiting for us. Our BBQ lamb is ready. We started second round of feasting. The lamb was roasted slowly, so the meat was kept juicy inside, very yummy.
For buffet dinner, we also had fried noodles, curry chicken, butter prawns, mixed vegetables, salad and sweet & sour fish. The BBQ just now was more like high tea lol.
Our eyes and mouth were satisfied, next it’s the turn for our ears. Let’s have some music. The boat has karaoke set in lower deck, so you can show your talent. Your voice will be broadcast to upper deck too, so nobody could escape from your performance, unless they jump into the sea. Sing as loud as you can, because there no neighbour will complain you.
We had fun until 8:30pm, then we had to go home at last. Watching night view of KK city is the last part of our trip. The bustling KK looks like a sleepy city from a distance.
Instead of heading straight to the port, our boat cruised slowly along the shoreline of KK, to have closer look of KK city night.
To be honest, though lovely, the night view of KK is not as magnificent as big cities. Anyway, I don’t see this every day, so I still enjoy the moment.
Pic: Le Meridien Hotel and Sinsuran Night Market are the brightest section of the KK night view.
Pic: Sinsuran Night Market with busy hawkers and customers. Guess they didn’t know they were being watched.
Pic: KK Waterfront Esplanade won my award as the most colorful night view of KK, haha.
Overall, this is a delightful trip and a luxury to me, who spend most of my time living and working in a world as small as an office cubicle and bedroom. I bet you will enjoy such tour.
Pic: 40 passengers and 40 happy faces
Organize a Sunset Cruise
It’s fairly easy to organize a sunset cruise party because the boat owner will do most works for you. You just need to charter the boat and order the services. The rental fee for Hydian Way is RM2,500 to RM5,000 (≈US$700 to 1,400) for 4 hours, depending on what types of services you want (e.g. fishing, food, snorkelling). Boatman and crews are included of course. For booking and enquiry, please contact Alex Yong at (mobile) +60 12 8866673, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com. Hydian Way can host up to 50 people (30 would be the most comfortable size).
The photos in this article are small. You may browse my photo album for bigger and better photos:
I had tried sunset cruise with different types of boats too. You may check them out and compare the experience:
Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo
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Though sea covers 71% of Earth’s surface, scientists say we know our Moon better than our ocean. But there’s a mysterious but beautiful garden down below, a world which has no human settlement. Sabah is lucky as part of Coral Triangle (a.k.a. Amazon of the Sea) thriving with over 600 coral and 2,000 reef fish species. The Aquarium & Marine Museum of University Malaysia Sabah (UMS) lets us explore our ocean world without getting our hair wet.
Pic: the building of UMS’s Aquarium & Marine Museum. The signage is in Malay language (translated as Welcome to Aquarium & Marine Museum, Borneo Marine Research Institute).
Managed by Borneo Marine Research Institute (BMRI), Aquarium & Marine Museum is a 2-in-1 showcase where visitors can see interesting specimens in their museum, and the live ones in aquarium. It’s not big and it takes ordinary tourists less than an hour to tour around and leave with some pictures, or it can take hours if you come with an intention to learn and leave with more knowledge.
When you walk in, just look up and you will see the diorama of Sipadan Island deep dive. That reminds me of my previous wall diving trip in Sipadan. It’s a tranquil environment full of vibrant marine lives.
This musuem exhibits and documents some of the extraordinary specimens and flora & fauna records of Borneo ocean. The goal is to educate the public to protect our marine environment so museum won’t become the only place to see them. Most of the labels, posters and news clips are in English and Malay languages.
Pic: skeleton of Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
The highlight is the 4.43-Meter skeleton of Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, it’s the first record of this whale appears in Malaysia (Sabah). You also can see the preserved remains of Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis) and 4 species of turtles from Sabah. FYI, there are 15 marine mammal species (dolphin, whale, dugong) live in the sea of Sabah and Sarawak. Do you know Irrawaddy Dolphin was used to be common in Sabah rivers?
Pic: hard corals and seashells exhibition
There are many beautiful seashells displayed here. Our beaches are no longer carpeted by seashells nowadays because of beach-combing by tourists and locals, and many end up in handicraft shops and seafood restaurants too.
Pic: Porcupine Ray (Urogymnus asperrimus)
One of the rare specimens is the Porcupine Ray, locally known as Durian Ray, which is the only “sting-less” stingray that uses heavily spiked skin as defense mechanism. It is first found in Sabah at Banggi Island. It attracted a lot of spectators in the fish market then the researchers moved it here.
Pic: hard corals on display
The rich variety of hard corals in this gallery are mainly from Semporna and Lahad Datu. Most of them are collected from 6-week Galaxea Expedition 98 in Darvel Bay of Lahad Datu, where they identified 1 new genus and 8 new species of corals in the world (and over 100 new records in Sabah)! The 8 newly discovered coral species are on display here.
Many medicines are developed from coral reef animals and plants and 1/4 of our catch are from coral reefs, so destroying corals is same as destroying the home of seafood and our hope to cure cancer, arthritis, etc.
Visitors can see big and small marine lives up-close in 2 huge aquariums and couples of fish tanks and tube tanks. Is Nemo the only fish your children know? This aquarium is a fun “classroom” to show them what are squirrel fish, parrot fish, angel fish, surgeon fish, etc.
Pic: oval fish tank filled with regal blue tang, clown fish, feather star, starfish, sea cucumber, banner fish, etc.
Pic: Banded cleaner shrimp and sea anemone
Cleaner shrimps help to remove parasites from fishes for free and fishes won’t eat them. For fun, some scuba divers open their mouths to let cleaner shrimp to get in cleaning their teeth. This is just one of the wonders in ocean life.
In 3 hours, I saw many tourists from Hong Kong, China and Australia in the aquarium. Their mouths opened wide when their tour guide told them that corals are animals, not plant. Besides fishes, you can see hard and soft corals in the tanks.
Pic: A 16-month old Green Turtle adopted from turtle hatchery at Borneo Divers and Seasports Mabul, Semporna.
Many kids were excited by the exhibition and fish tanks. Their curiosity peaked and kept asking questions, and their parents busy answering patiently (by peeking at the labels), what a great place to play and learn for family.
This deep reef tank holds 11,000 Liters of seawater and houses high value commercial species such as groupers, seabass and snapper.
The feeding time is between 3:30pm and 4pm, the best time to see all the fishes come out of their hiding place for food.
The tube tanks, which house Humphead Wrasse, Napoleon Wrasse and Nile Tilapia, look like incubator capsule of space lab in science fiction movies.
Pic: a Chocolate Chip Star (yes, it’s really named like that), keen to give it a lick? LOL
Starfish has amazing regenerating ability. It’s able to re-grow arms that are lost. The broken arms may also regenerate to another complete starfish!
Pic: Nemo and giant clams
Clownfish (Nemo) can change sex from female to male, a characteristic known as Protandrous Hermaphroditism. Sabah has 7 out of 9 giant clam species in the world, due to overfishing, it’s hard to see one in the wild.
Pic: UMS also conducts research on farming of Giant Freshwater Prawn (Udang Galah) for commercial purpose.
Guess which fish attracts the most attention? It’s not Nemo but the hybrid grouper couple, which is a cross between tiger grouper (Epiphelus fuscoguttatus) and giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus), the first hybrid grouper (named as TGG hybrid) in the world. This is one of the BMRI projects to improve high-market-value grouper species in fish farm.
Many tourists lined up to take photo with them. These two big groupers are very cooperative and “friendly”, as if they enjoy being photographed. Since they are hybrid, you won’t find this fish in the wild. Well, groupers not only look good on plate.
Pic: these two TGG groupers love to stick together.
However, as elephant isn’t around, monkey steals the show. The true superstar in this aquarium is a 15-year-old Giant Grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus), which is weight 60-70 Kg and about 4 feet long. It’s away for some health and maturity test at the hatchery during my visit, so I don’t have its photo here. Anyway, you should check out this monster.
There are also Tiger groupers, Orange-spotted groupers and Seabass in another tank.
Other hybrids that were successfully produced are, Orange-spotted grouper x Giant grouper (E. coioides x E. fuscoguttatus) and Mouse grouper x Tiger grouper (Cromileptes altevelis x E. fuscoguttatus).
Other Things to Do
Visitors can do other fun activities in the aquarium.
Pic: taking photo in stand ins in Ocean Outreach Corner. The 110 Sq. Meter Ocean Outreach Corner is a small room suitable for group activity. There are some informative posters about fishery and conservation such as fishing gears of Malaysia, commercial rays, aquaculture, hatchery projects, sea turtle research and academic marine programs.
Pic: Mini Theater in the Aquarium
You can watch video about marine biodiversity of Sabah in this 50-seat mini theatre equipped with audio-visual facilities.
Pic: mangrove walk
There’s a mangrove walk section at the exit of aquarium, with some dense mangrove plant (Rhizophora spp.) in a muddy pond. Though mangrove is a swamp, it’s vital for marine life because over 70 fish species such as grouper use mangrove as a feeding, breeding and nursery area.
Sea View & UMS Jetty
I noticed a few tour buses didn’t leave the university after the visit, they brought their tourists to another side, so I followed them and found a nice beach.
Pic: the aquarium is situated next to a scenic seaside (see left).
Pic: you can follow this road to walk 300 Meters to the beach. You already can see Kota Kinabalu City (KK) from the road.
Pic: you will pass by the aquaculture hatchery of BMRI along the way
Pic: view of KK from the beach of UMS
Pic: At the end of the road is UMS jetty. The gate is locked but you still can have a scenic view of islands, KK and Sepanggar Bay.
Pic: The rocky beach next to UMS jetty. I joined other tourists to enjoy the sea view and breeze there.
More Info & Contact
The following are some useful info for visitors:
|Ticket / Fee||Malaysian||Foreigner|
|Child (4-6 years)||RM2||RM4 (≈US$1.20)|
|Student (7-17 years)||RM3||RM6 (≈US$1.70)|
|Adult (18 & above)||RM5||RM10 (≈US$2.80)|
|Camera Pass (optional)||RM5||RM10 (≈US$2.80)|
Pic: ticketing counter next to entrance of UMS Aquarium & Marine Museum
Mon -Thu, Sat: 9am – 12:30pm, 2pm-4pm
Fri: 9am-11:30am, 2pm-4pm
Sun & Public Holiday: closed
Pic: the tickets to the aquarium. You can take photo (without flash) in the aquarium if you buy the Camera Pass.
Address (see Location Map): University Malaysia Sabah, Borneo Marine Research Institute, Jalan UMS, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 88-320 121
How to get there
Aquarium & Marine Museum is located in the campus of UMS (see Location Map) and about 6 KM away from KK. It is open to public and you can walk-in during opening hours without prior arrangement. The aquarium is about 2 KM away from the entrance of UMS, so I advise you to go there by taxi or own transport.
Pic: the junction to the Aquarium
Pic: the direction signage is in Malay language. If you see the words “Akuarium dan Muzium” (means Aquarium & Marine Museum) and “Institut Penyelidikan Marin Borneo” (means Borneo Marine Research Institute) on it, you are on the right way.
UMS Aquarium & Marine Museum is worth a visit, especially for family and student groups. Though it’s not a world-class oceanarium, the aquarium can give you a good overview of ocean biodiversity in Borneo. To impress the visitors more, it’ll be great if the aquarium has more variety of popular marine animals such as sharks, seahorses, eel, manta ray and probably… mermaid, haha.
Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo
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