How to go to Islands nearby Kota Kinabalu city?

Kota Kinabalu ferry terminal
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Kota Kinabalu City (KK) is the gateway to Sabah. Some of our islands are only 15 minutes away from KK by boat. In KK, there are three boat / ferry terminals that can take you to most Sabah islands at west coast. However, their services and charges are slightly different to one another. All of them opens from 8am to 5pm every day (boat service ends about 4:00pm).

map of ferry terminals and islands of Kota Kinabalu
Pic: map of 3 boat terminals (green) and neighboring islands of KK

1. Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal

Jesselton Point is the most popular public ferry terminal at the edge of KK city centre, and it’s packed with local and foreign tourists during weekends. If you stay in KK city centre, it is within walking distance.

entrance of Jesselton Point
Pic: entrance of Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal. The building at the right is ticketing hall.

Their boat service can start as early as 7:30am in weekends, but the boat only moves after it’s full with passengers (about 10 to 12 people). If you go in big group, you can negotiate for discount. Their fares are the cheapest so most people use their boat service to visit islands off KK.

ticket counters in Jesselton Point
Pic: the ticket counters run by over 10 operators competing with one another. This is the place where you buy return boat fare.

ticketing hall of Jesselton Point
Pic: after you buy the ticket, you can sit in the hall (toilet is at the left corner). They will inform you once the boat is full and ready to depart. The waiting time is short if there are many tourists.

Destinations

Below are a list of islands you can go from Jesselton Point:

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

(Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, Sapi Island and Sulug Island)

Return Boat Fare (as of Apr 2015)

  • Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik: RM23 (≈US$7) per Adult, RM18 (≈US$5.40) per Child (below 11 years old)
  • Island Hopping
    Two Islands: Adult RM33 (≈US$10), Child RM28 (≈US$8.40)
    Three Islands: Adult RM43 (≈US$13), Child RM38 (≈US$11.40)
    Four Islands: Adult RM53 (≈US$16), Child RM48 (≈US$14.35)
  • In addition, you need to pay Terminal Fee (6% GST tax included): RM7.63 (≈US$2.30) per Adult, RM3.80 (≈US$1.20) per Child.
  • The fare doesn’t include Conservation Fee imposed by Sabah Parks and to be paid on island (see fees below).
    • Malaysian: Adult: RM3, Child (below 18 years old): RM1
    • Foreigner: Adult: RM10 (≈US$3), Child: RM6 (≈US$1.80)
  • If you want to visit less popular islands such as Sulug and Gaya Base Camp and there are not enough people joining, they will ask you to pay extra or even charter a boat (over RM200)
  • You can tell them what time to pick you up for return. The last boat transfer is around 4pm.

jetty of Jesselton Point
Pic: jetty of Jesselton Point

Though their fare is the cheapest, the boatmen ride the speedboat like cowboy, making the trip very bumpy. Anyway, it’s only 15 minutes so most people can put up with this.

Jesselton Point

Gaya Island

To go to Gayana Eco Resort or Bunga Raya Resort, you can book the tour at the office of these resort operators in this terminal. However, these resorts are private zone, they only allow resort guests to enter, unless you purchase a tour such as lunch package from them.

Jesselton Point ferry terminal

Labuan & Brunei

You can go to Labuan and Brunei from Jesselton Point. They have regular ferry service as the following:

  • KK → Labuan: departs at 8:00am & 1:30pm (take 3.5 hours)
  • KK → Brunei: depart at 8:00am (transit Labuan, take 6.5 hours)

You may visit their website for more info such as fare price.

Other Islands

You also can go to the following islands in west coast. Most operators will require you to book an island tour in advance, so they would or would not accept walk-in customers. Since these islands are far away, they usually use catamaran instead of speedboat.

  1. Mantanani Island
  2. Pulau Tiga Island
  3. Mengalum Island
  4. Sepanggar Island

boats parked in Jesselton Point
Pic: boats parked at Jesselton Point

Amenities

Jesselton Point is more like an activity centre for tourists and locals. Besides island transfer, there are many things you can get or do here. You can charter a boat to go fishing or even fish at their jetty (for a fee). For islanders, they can rent snorkeling set (fin, snorkel, mask) before they depart to islands. You can park your car in the parking lot next to the terminal (for RM1 per hour).

shop in Jesselton Point

store in Jesselton Point
Pic: Jesselton Point has some shops where tourists can buy sunblock lotion, swimwear, sunglass, flip-flop, swimming float, soft drink, snacks, insect repellent, beach mat, souvenirs, etc.

Jesselton Point Hawker Centre
Pic: there are good variety of food and beverages in their hawker centre.

Contact

Below is the contact of the management of Jesselton Point:
Website: www.jesseltonpoint.com.my
Facebook: Jesselton-Point-Ferry-Terminal
E-mail: jesseltonpoint@bumiria.com.my
Phone: +60 88-240709
Address: Jalan Haji Saman, Kota Kinabalu

2. Sutera Harbour Marina Jetty

Sutera Harbour Marina Jetty is a harbour between Pacific Sutera Hotel and Magellan Sutera Resort. Going to islands is very convenient if you stay in one of these hotels (which is 3 KM away from KK City Centre). The services also open to public. Some locals also like the ample free parking space there.

boats and yachts at Sutera Harbour
Pic: Sutera Harbour is a beautiful port parked with many private yacht port and sailboats. At the background is Pacific Sutera Hotel.

Sutera Harbour
Pic: at the right are the kiosks of tour operators who offer boat transfer and island tour. The popular agents here are Sea Quest and Summer Cruise Holiday.

Destinations

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

(Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, Sapi Island)

Same as Jesselton Point, they also offer island transfer to Manukan, Sapi and Mamutik Island. The return fare costs RM60 (≈US$16.75) per adult and RM30 (≈US$9) per Child, which has included jetty fee. Conservation Fee (entry to island) is not included. Island hopping is available for an additional fee of RM10 (≈US$3) per island. The fare may be slightly higher than Jesselton Point, but I like them for a few reasons:

  • Their staff and boatman are more professional (less bumpy ride).
  • The boat departs on time at fixed schedule (no matter it’s full or not).
  • They have staff stations on island to guide you if required.
  • The boat looks newer or well-maintained.

jetty of Sutera Harbour

Other Islands

They also offer trip to the following islands (required booking of island tour in advance).

tourists at Sutera Harbour

Amenities

Besides boat transfer and island tour, they have watersport centre that offers diving courses / services, parasailing, jetski, flyfish, banana boat ride, sea-walking, kayak, sunset cruise, fishing, etc. The harbor also has short and long term rental berthing services for boats.

watersports centre

Contact

Website: www.suteraharbour.com
Facebook: suteraharbour
E-mail: marinaO@suteraharbour.com.my
Phone: +60 88-318888
Address: 1 Sutera Harbour Boulevard, Kota Kinabalu

Sutera Harbour and Pacific Sutera Hotel

3. STAR Marina

STAR Marina is located behind Shangri-la Tanjung Aru Resort (STAR) and operated by Borneo Divers, about 7KM away from KK. They offer full-fledged professional services on all island tours and watersports, not just boat transfer.

STAR Marina and jetty
Pic: STAR Marina (right) and its jetty (left)

main building of STAR Marina

Destinations

Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

(Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, Sapi Island, Gaya Island – Base Camp)

They have fixed schedule to these islands. The fee of return boat transfer is RM65 (≈US$19.50) for Adult and RM40 (≈US$12) for Child (12 & below), which includes 10% service tax. You can purchase optional items such as picnic box for RM50 (≈US$15) and snorkel gears. You may download the brochure of Island Transfer Services for details. They are willing to provide extra service such as sending you to the best spot for snorkeling.

jetty of STAR Marina
Pic: 60-Metre-long jetty designed by Design B.U.BE from Singapore

ticketing hall of STAR Marina
Pic: air-conditioned service centre of STAR Marina

ticket counters
Pic: tour service counters of STAR Marina

snorkelling set for rent
Pic: snorkeling set for rent

lockers and washroom
Pic: they also look after your belonging during the island trip, or you may keep some of your things in the locker in STAR Marina.

Amenities

You can find the most complete motorised and non-motorised watersport activities in STAR Marina. Just to list some, diving (and PADI certitication courses), coastal and deep-sea fishing at Mengalum Island and Pulau Tiga Island, windsurfing, jet-ski, waterski, wakeboard, ocean kayak, paddle board, banana boat, Hobie Cat (a small sailing catamaran).

Scuba Diving Centre
Pic: Dive centre of STAR Marina

To learn more detail about the activities, you may download the following brochures:

souvenir shop of STAR Marina
Pic: souvenir shop

refreshment corner
Pic: refreshment corner

Contact

Website: www.shangri-la.com
E-mail: marina.tah@shangri-la.com
Phone: +60 88-327888
Address: 20 Jalan Aru, Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu

Illegal Operators

A word of cautious to those who want to get island transfer other than the three locations I mentioned above. There are some illegal and unlicensed boat operators around KK Central Market and Wisma Merdeka Shopping Mall lobbying ignorant tourists to employ their services. In one case, a group of tourists were robbed and left on an island. I would say they are lucky because it can be worse, e.g. kidnap, rape (though these haven’t happened yet).

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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