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Sepanggar Island (Pulau Sepangar), the new island destination of Kota Kinabalu

Pulau Sepangar

To enjoy a weekend on island, people of Kota Kinabalu city (KK) always visit Sapi, Manukan or Mamutik Islands. Though Sepanggar Island (Pulau Sepangar) is only 12 minutes by boat ride from KK, it was like a “nobody island.”

Sepanggar Island
Twice the size of Manukan Island, Sepanggar Island looks like a giant manta ray from the sky (see location map) and ten of thousands of motorists see it from the busy road along Tanjung Lipat every day, but most don’t even know the name of this big island.

beach of Sepangar Island
Pic: beach of Sepanggar Island

sandy beach of Sepanggar Island
Sepanggar Island has all the elements such as nice beach and swaying cocnut trees to be a tropical island destination. When the neighbouring islands get really crowded with tourists, Traverse Tours sees the potential, they develop Sepanggar Island into a new attraction and name it Mari Mari Sepanggar Island.

beach of Pulau Sepanggar
Now you have another choice of island, besides those in nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Instead of promoting Sepanggar Island as a cheap and mass tourist destination, this island is meant for visitors who want to stay away from the noisy crowd and chillax at a tranquil seaside.

kayak on the beach
You can laze around its white sandy beach and do nothing, or you can try scuba diving, discovery scuba diving (no diver license required), snorkelling, kayaking, fishing and jungle trekking. Sepanggar Island is a protected forest reserve and covered by thick tropical rainforest. The highest point is 160 Meters, where you can have a panoramic view of Likas Bay, Sepanggar Bay and Kota Kinabalu city. I haven’t explored their jungle but I think its undisturbed forest has interesting fauna and flora waited to be seen.

view of Kota Kinabalu city from Sepanggar Island
Pic: you can see Kota Kinabalu city from Sepanggar Island. The night view should be nice.

fishing around Sepanggar Island
Last month I was in a 1-hour fishing trip around Sepanggar Island in the morning. My travel agent prepared the fishing rod and bait for me.

sea at Sepanggar Island
Pic: the sea of Sepanggar Island is also a fishing spot for local fishermen. There are 8 dive sites near this island.

Kampung Sepanggar Island
Our boat passed by Sepanggar Island Water Village. The water was so clear and we saw a juvenile turtle swimming among corals.

Sepanggar Island Village
Pic: Sepanggar Island Water Village (Kampung Pulau Sepangar)

fishing near Sepanggar Island

our caught in fishing trip
We caught a few fishes about the size of a palm. You would get big fish if you are lucky.

enjoying lunch buffet on Sepanggar Island

my lunch on Sepanggar Island
We enjoyed our lunch buffet after the fishing trip.

Then we just relaxed at the beach side and felt the gentle breeze.

resting on hammock

tree shade at the beach of Sepanggar Island
Pic: from the beach, you can see Mt. Kinabalu at the left and Gaya Island at the right.

Sepangar Island activity centre
Pic: Dive Centre (left) and Activity Centre (right) of Mari-Mari Sepanggar Island. They also have proper toilet, changing room, lockers, activity hall and dining area for the guests.

Sepanggar Island dive centre
Pic: Forestry Department doesn’t encourage them to cut the trees so the centre is inside lush wood. Surprisingly there was very few mosquitoes during my visit.

building of Sepangar Island
Pic: for student group who wants to overnight on the island, there is a wide sleeping area to accommodate them.

sea view chalet of Sepanggar Island
Pic: there are also one or two unit of seaside chalet for couple who wants a nice sea and night view of KK city.

room of seaside chalet
Pic: The room of the seaside chalet. It is quite basic, with ceiling fan and a small attached bathroom/toilet.

forest chalet on Sepanggar Island
Pic: currently a few jungle chalets are being constructed inside the forest. If you are interested, you may check with them in case they are ready.

IMHO, Sepanggar Island is a suitable playground to organise small private beach party and group outing. You can enjoy BBQ and beer at the beach, watching sunset and KK city night view and then spend a night on the island.

Pulau Sepanggar

The tour to Sepanggar Island starts from RM180 (≈US$57). To visit the island, below is the contact of the agent:
Company: Traverse Tours
(The tour operator has a counter (No.12) in Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, where their boat departs to Sepanggar Island)
Tel: +60 13-883 4921 (Hotline), +60 88-260 511, +60 88-260 522
Facebook: Mantanani-Kechil-Island-Sabah-Borneo

sea view of Sepangar Island
However (I wish I don’t need to mention this), I need to tell you that you will see rubbish on the sea and other corners around Sepanggar Island. Most of these garbage are from the water villages of Gaya Island. I hope the government will relocate those villagers ASAP to inland, to solve the littering problem once and for all, because it is also affecting other nearby islands and island resorts. Other than that, the service and location of Mari-Mari Sepanggar Island is great, so it deserves to be the next popular destination.

More Photos

You may check out album of Sepanggar Island for more photos.
Pulau Sepanggar

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Gong of Sabah and Gong Making in Kg. Sumangkap

Rungus beating gong

Gong is the most important idiophone in traditional music of Sabah indigenous people and found throughout Sabah state. Gong is usually made of brass or bronze, it produces muffled sounds of a deep tone, when its thick and broad rim was hit by a stick. As the backbone of most music ensembles, gong is played in almost every social event in Sabah.

Kadazan Papar girls playing gong
Pic: Kadazan Papar girls playing gong in Harvest Festival

When Sabahans want to dance, they beat the gong. When they want to celebrate wedding, they beat the gong. When someone dies, they also beat the gong. Gong is also played in other occasions such as animistic religion ceremonies, festivals and welcoming guests.

Keep Calm and Beat a Gong
Gong is more than a musical instrument in old days that have no phone. Besides showing happiness and sadness, gong was also a communication tool to send signals to other villagers up to 5 miles away. The listeners can tell from the rhythm that if it’s a good or bad news. Slow rhythm means an invitation for having a drink. Fast rhythm indicates danger. When someone is dying the beats start slowly at first increase in speed and then on death resume a slow beat.

Rungus boys beating gong
Pic: Rungus boys beating gong in longhouse

In the past, gong is highly valued and owning gong is a sign of wealth. Villagers would exchange livestock for a gong and gong is one of the common items in brideprice. Gong is valued by its age and tone. People that time can recognise the unique sound from individual gong and even tell if a gong has flaw. Therefore, stealing of gong is rare, because owner (and other villagers) will locate his gong once the thief beats it.

Dusun Tindal people playing gong
Pic: Dusun Tindal people from Kota Belud playing gong

Murut playing gong
Pic: Murut playing gong to welcome guests

Gong is widely used by Kadazandusun, Murut and Bajau people in their traditional music. Each ethnic group has its own distinct musical forms such as the number of gong used, styles, tempos and tunings, and in combinations of other instruments such as drums to accentuate the main rhythms. A set of 5 to 12 gong is being played in most cases, sometimes it can go up to 36 gong.

Sulu Sandakan dancer on the gong
Pic: Sulu Sandakan dancing on the gong

Land Bajau playing gong
Pic: Use of gong in Betitik music of Bajau

VVIP beating gong to launch an event
Pic: Beating gong 1 or 7 times is a common way to launch an event by VVIP

gong on building of KDCA Penampang
Pic: gong as a symbol of Kadazandusun culture on building of KDCA Penampang

“If you can’t sing, you can beat a gong.” – John H. Alman

layout of gong
Pic: structure of gong ensemble of Murut Timugon community (Source: Jacquline Pugh-Kitingan)

There are many types of gongs, but in general gong can be divided into three main groups, namely, tawak, chanang, togung. Some gongs have interesting motif on it. Individual gong also has a name which denotes its sound or rhythm it plays. These musical names vary in different tribes.

Chanang Kimanis with two bosses
Pic: Chanang Kimanis gong, note it has two bosses

You may play the following video to listen to the sound of gong:

Kampung Sumangkap, the Gong Making Village

In Matunggong of Kudat district, you can see gong making process at gong factory of Kampung Sumangkap (Sumangkap Village). When I entered the village, I saw no “factory” but a typical Sabah village of over 60 wooden houses, with 30 or more gong workshop scattered near to them.

Kg. Sumangkap Gong Factory
Pic: entrance of Kg. Sumangkap Gong Factory

Btw, visitor is required to pay a small fee at the ticket booth near the entrance. The gong factory is open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm (including public holiday). The following is the rate of Admission Fee (as of Jul 2014):
Adult (12 years and above): RM5.00 (≈US$1.60)
Children (6 to 12 years old): RM3.00 (≈US$1)
Children (below 6 years old): Free

biggest gong in Malaysia
Pic: trying to lift the Biggest Gong in Malaysia (or in the world?)

The highlight of this village is the Biggest Gong in Malaysia. This giant gong is 20 feet tall and weigh 980 Kilograms. Funded by Malaysia Handicraft, it took 5 weeks for 4 local gong craftsmen to make this gong from 20 pieces of 4′x8′ zincs.

big gongs in Sumangkap Village

tourist taking picture with gong
There are many other big gong displayed in the field for tourists to take photos with.

gong in Kg. Sumangkap
Sumangkap Gong Village was inspired and initiated by a well-known local Gong craftman named Mr. Majabab @ Majabab B. Omlunru in 1968.

gong workshop
Pic: Gong workshop next to village house

Visitors can walk freely in the village and visit individual gong workshop to see craftsman making gong. Probably I visited on weekend, so the village was quiet and only two families busy making gong.

Kampung Sumangkap and chicken

craftsman making gong
Before the visit, I thought I would see sweating gong-smith pounding iron next to a flaming stove, in a smokey and noisy environment. Instead, the gong makers use gas welder to melt and join pieces of galvanized iron sheets together, and occassionally using hammer to touch-up the outline of gong.

craftsman making gong in Kampung Sumangkap
Most villagers are Rungus, the indigenous people of Sabah. Rungus is skillful in all sorts of craftwork and their women are the best weaver and handicraft maker in Sabah. They are very friendly and totally don’t mind I busybody around while they work.

gong making
Pic: a woman making the boss and base of the gong

girl holding gong handicraft
Each gong workshop is a shop by itself. Besides watching gong making and buying gong, variety of smaller souvenirs in gong shape are available for sale on the spot. The smallest item is gong keychain that costs only a few bucks. You also can bargain with the seller.

gong on display
A complete set of gong can cost thousands of dollars. As gong is in good demand, Sabah also imports gong from the Philippines, Indonesia or Brunei.

You also can order custom-made gong, in the size, motif / design and wording that you specify. How cool it is to use gong as an ornamental signage for your shop / house.

junction to Kg. Sumangkap Gong Factory
Sumangkap Gong Village is very accessible but very far, it’s about 140 KM north of Kota Kinabalu city (See location map). Just follow the highway to Kudat town, after 2.5 hours of driving you will see a brown signage reads “Gong Making Factory Kg. Sumangkap” and a big gong at your left in Matunggong area (see photo above). Turn to that junction and you will reach Sumangkap in minutes.

Matunggong Gong Festival

To have more fun with gong, you may visit the annual Gong Festival of Kg. Sumangkap. The upcoming one is from 24 to 25 Oct 2014 (subject to change).

Gong Festival of Matunggong, Kudat
Pic: Rungus people beating gong in Matunggong Gong Festival

Pesta Gong Sabah
As an opening, hundred of gong will be beaten by villagers and tourists, making it the noisiest festival of Sabah.

gong in different size
The gong beating is “fire at will” style. Just beat the gong non-stop until you make all the birds within 10 KM radius flee.

tourists beating gong
Pic: tourists have fun beating gong

After the launching, there are “Queen of Gong” beauty pageant and cultural performance line up for your enjoyment.

Posts related to Gong

Music of Gong Rock

A few children discovered strange rocks on riverbank when they were swimming at a river in Tambunan. When being hit, the rocks produce gong-like sound.
Batu Gong the music rock
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The Cursed Gong Rock

This mysterious rock laying deep in the forest and looks like a gong. Legend says it is from a cursed longhouse. It’ll bring flood when disturbed.
Gong Rock in the forest
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“If you can’t sing, you can beat a gong”, by John H. Alman, Sabah Society Journal September 1961

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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