Tag Archives: snorkelling

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding in Sapi Island, Sabah

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

(Update (Jul 2015): This activity has stopped until further notice.) I wish I had tried it earlier. Stand-Up Paddleboarding (S.U.P in short) is such a fun new way to explore the beauty of our sea and corals, as if it is specifically designed for beautiful islands of Sabah. Imagine how it feels to ride on a “sea bicycle” that allows us to cruise around the island freely, even for non-swimmers. Stand-Up Paddleboarding is getting popular in many countries and Paddle Below the Wind has introduced this trendy watersport to Sabah since Aug 2014.

Sapi Island and Gaya Island
Pic: The sea of Sapi and Gaya Islands look impressive, but S.U.P will let you see something better than this.

Stand-Up Paddleboard uses surf style board and an adjustable long paddle, like a cross between kayak and surfboard. Besides paddling to any spot you like, you also can surf with S.U.P. It’s a great exercise too because you can paddle, surf and snorkel with S.U.P. I tried it the first time with my brother-in-law from Australia and S.U.P is his favorite trip during his 2-week stay in Sabah.

girls doing Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Now you can experience Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Sapi Island, which is only 10-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu City (KK). The best time for Stand Up Paddle Boarding is between 9am and 11am, when the sea is calm and clear. The visibility is superb when the morning sun lights up everything under the sea at 45° angle.

If you prefer watching video, you may check out this 3-min video of my SUP trip in Sapi Island:

S.U.P at Sapi Island

To go to Sapi Island is easy, just hire a boat from one of the 3 boat terminals in KK City. Though Paddle Below the Wind accepts walk-in customers, it’s better you tell them what time you come in advance (see contact info near the end of this article).

Paddle Below the Wind
Pic: The S.U.P booth of Paddle Below the Wind is just next to the reception building at the entrance of Sapi Island.

Borneo Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Sapi Island
Pic: S.U.P booth on Sapi Island. Kayak is also available for rent there. Just approach their staff to sign up for a S.U.P tour. You will fill up an indemnity form and meet your S.U.P instructor.

routes of Stand Up Paddle Boarding on Sapi Island
Pic: the route of S.U.P at Sapi Island. I tried Area 1 (left in yellow circle), which has a lot of corals, an excellent location for snorkelling.

instructor and Stand Up Paddle Board
My instructor is Richard from Wales UK and also the owner of Paddle Below the Wind. He has been kayaking and surfing all over the world for many years. While travelling in Sabah, he fell in love with Nora, a Sabahan, now they are married with two lovely kids. Before the 1-hour S.U.P tour, we walked to the beach 10 Metres away for a 10-minute S.U.P lesson in shallow water.

taking Stand Up Paddle Boarding lesson on the sea
Stand Up Paddle Board is wider than surfboard, it’s about 10 to 12 feet long and weighs about 10Kg, light enough to be carried by most girls in one hand. This cool toy costs more than RM4K.

close up of Stand Up Paddle Board
Pic: you can secure your snorkel gears, water bottle and other things under the diagonal strings. Note the small black socket where you can mount your GoPro camera for action shots.

leash to the paddleboard
Pic: A long leash links the board to my ankle, making S.U.P my personal life raft.

trying Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Richard taught us the basic paddling techniques and poses (standing, kneeling and sitting). I prefer to stand because it gives me a higher vantage point to see the underwater world better.

Stand Up Paddle Boarding on the sea of Sabah
As a beginner, at first I struggled a bit to stand on the floating board. To balance well, you have to look at your front instead of your feet. We got used to it within 10 minutes and paddled away. The board becomes more stable while moving. The sea was calm so I didn’t fall into the water even once.

corals and Sapi Island

corals in the crystal clear water
Very soon we were already far away from the shore. It was a sunny day and I could see everything more than 5 Meters deep under the surface. I could even see scuba divers.

Stand Up Paddleboarding
It’s a wonderful experience to be able to look at the thriving corals under my feet. My S.U.P was like gliding on a glass on top of a coral garden. My first reaction was, “WOW! I didn’t know Sapi has so many corals”. Boat is forbidden to enter this zone (but S.U.P can) because it’ll crush the corals in shallow sea.

taking photo on Paddle Board
Pic: It was me busy taking photos far behind Richard. Thanks Richard for being patient lol.

I was so excited by the stunning view. It’s nature in its best. The coral area is big and dense, probably spanning across a sea area of over 200 Meters. Despite going to Sapi Island so many times, this is something totally new to me. I stopped paddling many times to take photos like crazy. Remember to bring your smartphone or camera (with Waterproof Case) or you will regret.

Corals of Sapi Island
It’s so hard for me to keep calm seeing these blooming corals, which is far away from beach and unnoticed by ordinary tourists who are already happy with white sandy beach.


We paddled to a few best snorkelling spots about half a KM from “tourist beach”. The corals there are mostly pristine and not damaged by any tourist activity.

go down for snorkelling

snorkelling and paddleboarding around Sapi Island
Pic: you can pick your favorite snorkelling spot.

jumping into the sea
Pic: Be careful with where you enter the water, avoid stepping on corals in shallow water or you will risk damaging the corals and cut yourselves.

corals under the sea surface of Sapi
The water is so crystal clear that we can take decent photos of coral even with cellphone. There are corals in variety of shapes and colors. I saw table corals, staghorn corals, yellow spiral corals, lettuce corals, brain corals, etc. and many schools of fishes foraging among them.

staghorn corals

yellow spiral corals

snorkelling and photo taking
I’m so happy to see Nemo, parrot fishes and giant clam.

corals of Pulau Sapi

table corals

snorkelling with Nemo

Borneo S.U.P in Sapi Island
Our S.U.P also reached a few “hidden” beaches without much effort, which is only accessible to tourists who are willing to trek a long distance on slippery rocky trail along the coast. If you want, you can make a round trip to explore the whole Sapi Island, which takes about 20 to 30 minutes by S.U.P.

rocky shore of Sapi Island
When I indulged in photographing the corals and fishes, Richard signaled me to come to him, like he found something interesting. We saw a big monitor lizard in the water, with a fish in its mouth. We tried to get closer to have a good look then we found another small monitor lizard sunbathed on a boulder on the beach. This is a view you won’t find near the beach full of tourists.

resting on the Paddle Board
Pic: You also can rest on the board.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is addictive. Honestly I didn’t have enough of it and wish to do it all day long.

Info & Booking

The fee to experience Stand-Up Paddle Boarding by Paddle Below the Wind in Sapi Island is RM130 (≈US$40) per person, which includes:

  • 10-minute lession
  • 1-hour of guided S.U.P
  • Snorkel, mask and life jacket

Note: Entrance ticket to Sapi Island and Return boat transfer (between Sapi Island and KK) are not included.

view of corals from Stand Up Paddle Board

S.U.P tour is available from 9am to 1:30pm on Sapi Island. You may contact Nora or Richard for info and booking:
Tel: +60 17-8960341
E-mail: paddlebelow@gmail.com
Website: www.paddlebelowthewind.com
Facebook: BorneoSUPpaddlebelowthewind
To stay comfortable during S.U.P, please wear sunblock lotion, hat and sunglass.

S.U.P at Tanjung Aru First Beach

Paddle Below the Wind also offers S.U.P and surfing lessons at Tanjung Aru First Beach (required booking in advance). For only RM40 (≈US$12) for a 45-min trial session, you can “de-stress” yourselves after work and enjoy the sunset view.

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding briefing in Tanjung Aru Beach

Stand-Up Paddleboarding to sunset

surfing with Paddle Board

More Photos

Please feel free to check out my photo album if you want to see more photos:
photo album of Sabah Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Island Sunset Cruise off Kota Kinabalu City

sunset cruise

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.

our boat Hydian Way
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.

closer look at Hydian Way boat
Hydian Way looks like a double-decker bus of the sea. It’s a 60-feet passengers cruise boat designed for short distance tour cruise. 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.

double deck boat
Pic: lower and upper decks of Hydian Way. The toilet and bathroom are 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. The boat has an area of 1,500 square feet.

enjoying sea breeze and sunset view
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.

gathering on Hydian Way
I also walked around to find the best viewpoint. After a while, everyone was settling down and started their romantic or family time.

view of Kota Kinabalu city from the sea
Pic: our boat leaving KK and head to the sun!

cruise ship at Sabah Port
Pic: a cruise ship in Sabah Port. I wonder how it feels to see sunset from that huge ship.

relaxing on the deck
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.

barbecue on the boat
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.

upper deck of Hydian Way boat
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.

waiting for the sunset
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.

snorkelling at Sapi Island
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.

BBQ Satay and Chicken Wings
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!

BBQ onboard
Pic: more BBQ food. Wish you were there.

family shot with sunset
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.

sunset view from the boat
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.

sunset cruise
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.

looking at the sunset
Pic: the magic moment with the most intense colors, cloud and sea were painted with rosy colors but only lasted a few minutes.

fishing in open sea
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.

red snapper took the bait

small grouper
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.

BBQ lamb

cutting barbecue lamb
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.

buffet dinner onboard
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.

karaoke onboard
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.

KK city night view from the sea
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.

night view of KK City
Instead of heading straight to the port, our boat cruised slowly along the shoreline of KK, to have closer look of KK city night.

cruising along seaside of Kota Kinabalu
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.

Le Meridien Hotel and Night Market of Kota Kinabalu city
Pic: Le Meridien Hotel and Sinsuran Night Market are the brightest section of the KK night view.

Sinsuran Night Market
Pic: Sinsuran Night Market with busy hawkers and customers. Guess they didn’t know they were being watched.

Waterfront of Kota Kinabalu city
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.

group photo of Sabah Wetlands Conservation Society (SWCS) members
Pic: 40 passengers and 40 happy faces

Joining a Sunset Cruise

You can either join a tour or organize a party yourselves. The following are the packages and prices for tours by Hydian Way (as of Jan 2015). You can download their brochure for full details.

Type of Tour Activities Fee
Morning Cruise
Snorkeling, Fishing, Lunch with free flow of drinks RM249 per person (≈US$70)
Sunset Cruise
Night Cityscape, Sunset Viewing, Refreshments RM199 per person (≈US$56)
Sunset Cruise with Fishing
Fishing, Night Cityscape, Sunset Viewing, Refreshments RM249 per person (≈US$70)
Private Chartered Customized
Hydian Way can host up to 50 people (30 would be the most comfortable size)
Rental Fee: RM2,500 to RM5,000 (≈US$700 to 1,400) for 4 hours

For booking and enquiry, please contact Huang Long Travel & Tour (皇龙旅行社) at:
E-mail: info.hydianway@gmail.com
Tel:: +60 16-557-0211 (Terita – Marketing Manager), +60 13-863-1982 (Melessa – Sales Manager)
Address: Ground Floor, Premier Golf Center, Jalan Istiadat, Kompleks Sukan Likas, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

More Photos

The photos in this article are small. You may browse my photo album for bigger and better photos:
Photo album of Sunset Cruise

Related Posts

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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