Cave of Balambangan Island

Cave of Balambangan Island

Pulau Balambangan (Balambangan Island) looks so big on Sabah map. However, very little is known about this island. The British East India Company built their first establishment in Sabah hundred years ago as a trading post. Unfortunately, it was attacked by Sulu pirates and British had to move their base to Kudat.

Map of Balambangan Island

Someone call Balambangan Island a “Treasure Island,” as they believe there was an old Chinese/British ship, carried plenty of gold and other precious, was sunk by storm around this island but yet to be found. Anyway, I was not there for the treasure. I just want to document the caves, before they are gone. There are over 20 limestone caves on Balambangan Island and none of them is named, and only four are studied. I went to this island by following a boat departed from Banggi Island (Pulau Banggi), which is about 10KM away from this island. I stopped by Kg. Selamat (Selamat Village), which has abalone farming (at the left in photo below). Kg Selamat is not so “selamat” (safe) because sometimes you can find aggressive crocodiles swimming under the houses.

Selamat Village

Talking about the salt-water crocodile, a local said the crocodiles were used to live in peace with the people here. One day, a fisherman caught some fishes and left them at the shore. When he came back, he saw a crocodile was eating his caught. In anger, he shot the crocodile. Probably the crocodiles also have “feeling”, so they started to attack the human. Some fishermen were eaten when they setup the fish trap in the water. Nevermind if you don’t believe this story. Below is a photo of limestone hills on the island.

Balambangan Island

Tour package to Mataking

Then we proceeded to other side of the island, with mangrove area infested with crocodiles. Probably they all went to church on Sunday, so I didn’t see any of them around. There was no nice beach for landing, so I crossed the sharp limestones around the shore to get to land.

Landing on Balambangan Island
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Landing on Balambangan Island
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After a 10 minutes walk through a dense forest, I reached the limestone cave, where prehistoric human stayed here about 200,000 years ago. Archaeological findings from the Pleistocene era (the Ice Age – between 1.75 million to 11,000 years ago) was discovered in the cave of Balambangan Island. I also wonder if the Japanese had stationed here during the World War II, like the local mentioned.

Cave of Balambangan Island
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This cave is very big and deep. I saw many unique cave formations consisting of stalactites, stalagmites, flow stone and many other speleotems. I wished I could stay longer to see the art of nature that takes thousands years to form. I started taking photos like crazy, while others kept on yelling, “Hurry Up!! There were more stuffs here!” Busy, busy, busy…

Cave of Balambangan Island
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There were many stalactites on top and stalagmites on the ground, making the cave looked like a big mouth of a monster with sharp teeth. You do not need to be a geologist to appreciate the beauty. These caves are not protected though they are considered as a natural and historic heritage. In the future, some developers would build a clinker plant to mine the limestone, the major raw ingredient of cement. So sad huh. It is like burning our house to keep ourselves warm.

Cave of Balambangan Island
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Some swiftlets and bats made noise to warn the “intruders”. The cave is dark and the floor is uneven, so I have to walk slowly. Otherwise I would step on a stalagmite that takes hundreds years to form (FYI, it grows only 0.5 inch every 100 years). The cave got a few tunnels that went very deep and narrow. None of us had the time and gut to explore the cave network. I also saw some ball-like “Cave Pearls” inside the stream of the cave. I shared over 50 photos in the album, so you can see more about the cave.

Cave of Balambangan Island
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Undoubtedly, this cave is a promising spot as a geo-tourism attraction. Tip of Borneo is nothing if compared with it. To go to this island, you can hire a boat in Banggi Island, which will cost about RM200-300 (for day trip). Who knows you might find treasures in those unexplored caves.

Photos taken in Balambangan Island of Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

24 thoughts on “Cave of Balambangan Island

  1. Wow, there’s no contest – is the world’s greatest Sabah tourism blog – for many places you described in your blog, even locals have never even heard of!!!

  2. ben> long time no see. haha, hopefully that gives you an idea where to go. actually there are still many places i haven’t visited yet. u also remind me it’s time to update my blog. got flu, not feeling very well.

  3. Hello
    Thank you for this wonderful story about the islands in the north.
    I went in 2007 and it remains to me very good memories to the point where I will spend my retirement.
    Fortunately I did not see any crocodiles because we were very often in the water!
    Please write me, I have some questions for you.

    Thank you


  4. Tania> there is a Banggi Resort on Banggi Island. For balambangan, there is none, unless the villager is keen to let you stay in their house.

  5. Dear Tania,
    I’m a teacher frm Selangor in SK Balambangan..actually there is a fishing resort in Balambangan under construction.

  6. Thank you for the reply and me really appreciate it….WWF dint want to protect this beautifull treasure of this island?? coz…even though there is a rumours that there is a treaure….bt for me…that is history….bt for now…the treasure wil be the island….it will like will destroy the treasure of sabah…if nt protected~~ it should develop as tourism industry!!!….me realy will sad if the island is destroy…

  7. WWF can advise the government to protect the island only as they don’t have political power. It is up to the government if they want to preserve it.

  8. im a tour operator, i have been to tht island 6 times & balambangan island 3 times just to explore more of tht island, indeed tht island is a treasure for sabahan in tourism industries, it really had aninteresting history before & after World War 2, thr is still a landmark of the japanese plane crack & broken very old chinese plates & we also found a grave yrd and was burried since 1316 but to bad thr r some village ppl or some intruder digged tht grave..mayb trying to look for gold as mention by local tribes, i will going to voice out to protect tht island, now im still waiting for the report frm Dr Philip(Geologist)for the report to summit to the ministries, tht caves is exccellent for as mention, on May10 2010 i’ll be bringing my guest frm the states to explore on tht island & i would proberly get those media & ministries attention by inviting them, any1 who r interest in exploring tht island can contact me 010-9300987/088-731445 Golden Suria Tour & Travel, as im very close to the village ppl for guiding tht island

  9. anyone who are interested in exploring balambangan island can join me & my guest frm the state on island tour on jun 10th ,not as mention on May 10, packages for 3 days 2 nights at rm550 p/pax(min 6 pax), email me for iternary schedule at

  10. Hi, i would like to know what is the races of the villagers at balambangan island?? do they speak malay too???

  11. hi!!! chua im very much interested in visiting again balambagan island in july, i was there 2 weeks ago, will look for you in july to arrange packages for diving & snookeling

    1. Hi bro, long time no see. Seem like you were having fun with Sumandak at Tambatuon. I want to join u too. 🙂 Seriously, I want to go to Tambatuon. Any advice? Hope the trip is not costly.

    1. Sorry Collin, I didn’t have any GPS device to mark the location during my visit, so I’m not sure if SK Balambangan is near to any of these caves.

  12. Hi.. just dropping by to comment that the shown cave in the picture is still intact and I manage to video some rocks that glitters inside the cave. The cave balls (round solid rocks) are real and it even have a throne-like stone seat in here. I managed to visit it twice in 2021 and 2022.

    To get here, you need a boat ride approximately 1 hour 15 to 30 minutes from Kudat if you are using a 40-hp motorboat .. larger boats are available but will be very expensive, up to 4-figure fee boat ride.

    Some news emerged that this island is being planned by the state government as a silica sand mining location since this island is very rich with it (white sandy beach especially at the Kok Simpul beach).

    1. Hi Nick, thank you for the info and update! I always want to revisit Balambangan Island. I hope this island will receive better protection as it’s part of Tun Mustapha Marine Park now.

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