Mataking – Islands of Romance
What makes a perfect honeymoon destination? Tropical island? White sany beach? Crystal clear sea water? Beautiful sunset? Luxury room? Mataking Islands seem to contain all these elements. In fact, many Italian tourists spend their honeymoon on Mataking. To go to Mataking, first you need to take a flight to Tawau city (a 45-minute flight between Kota Kinabalu and Tawau), drive one hour from Tawau to Semporna town, then take a 40 minutes boot ride to Mataking. This island is also gaining popularity among Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and China.
Mataking consists of two islands, namely, Mataking Besar and Mataking Kecil (in Malaysia language, Besar means Big, Kecil means Small). Both islands are connected by a long and narrow beach (isn’t this look like connecting two hearts?). During low tide, you can walk to Mataking Kecil in 20 minutes. All the facilities and accommodation are built on Mataking Besar. At the moment, the island is managed by Reef Dive Resort. I saw a new luxury resort was being built in the middle of the island, so there will be two resorts in the future.
Besides making baby, there are many other activities you can do on Mataking. They have a 5-star dive centre, which can bring you to dive around Mataking Island, as well as dive sites around the islands of Tun Sakaran Marine Park. The dive site that is worth a mention is the “underwater post office” in a ship wreck about 40 feet deep. You can send a letter there, probably Nemo will help to deliver? This is a remote island, so the best ways to spend your time are diving, snorkelling, canoeing, kayaking, batik painting and enjoying SPA. They also have a reading area with a lot of books. Asian tourists NEVER read, but westerners do read a lot.
Upon arrival, we were welcome by a singing group at the jetty, the start of king treatment experience. After a short briefing by a friendly host at reception area, we checked in. I was staying a night in a King Chalet. Everything was perfect, but too bad I was sharing room with a guy, not a female, haha… The room was very comfortable, just like the room in 5-star hotel, completed with bathroom, big bed, air-con, TV, cabinet, etc., but I like their wooden structure and traditional architecture with more natural setting. They have a generator on island so power supply is available 24 hours. Each room was also given a mosquito insecticide. Since the accommodation is under the shade of trees, there are some mosquitoes around. Just keep your door closed all the time and it won’t be a problem. Don’t spray insecticide in your room coz it smells. I hope no tourists would spray this on their bodies like insect repellent.
Chinese New Year was approaching so the restaurant was nicely decorated with new year theme. I didn’t really shoot a lot of nice photos. My external flash (Canon 580 EX II) was malfunction (and it costed me RM427 to fix it later, about USD$120!). Another thing was I had 3 dives at Sipadan Island earlier, so tired that I had little mood to move in such a relaxing environment.
Anyway, I still checked out the sunset from a 20 Metres wooden tower inside the resort. It was a breath-taking view on top. They said we could see island of Philippines just 500 Metres away from east side of the island. Look at the photo below. I didn’t see any island though. FYI, my mobile phone could receive one bar of weak signal at the jetty. Sound quality was bad but I was able to text (sms).
Next morning I waked up early for the sunrise shots. After that, it was low tide so I tried to walk to Mataking Kecil along the exposed sand. But I was a bit late. The connecting sand was flooded by incoming high tide. There were many stuffs washed up to the beach, like tree branches, corals, seaweed, etc. Not quite pretty for beach photos. They say April and May are the best months for photography, as there is little junk on the beach. Mataking Besar is not very big. To walk circling the island only takes 40 minutes.
Previous night I was supposed to join the night safari at 9pm. But they cancelled it, for the reason that part of the trail was blocked by high tide. So disappointed… Because the famous coconut crabs only come out at night. Coconut crab is closely related to lobster and a protected species. They feed on coconut and pandan pineapples, and baby coconut crab also shelters in seashell like hermit crab. Another feature of the night walk is the firefly “Christmas” tree. I am surprised Mataking has fireflies. The fireflies there always gather on a specific plant every night. If you are lucky, you will see turtle laying eggs. They will collect the eggs and put them inside a hatchery area in the resort. When the turtles hatched, they will release them back into the sea. They have released thousands of baby turtles. 99% are green turtles.
Anyway, I decided to exlpore the forest in the morning. The friendly host, Ms Fatimah, was kind to be my company and gave an educational tour. The “jungle” was not so jungle, as the trees on this island are small and short (but quite dense), look more like a city park. It was fairly a short tour. Fatimah introduced the fruits and herb we saw along the trail. The vegetation of this island forest is so different. I had visited so many places and islands in Sabah, but most of the plant in Mataking looks so unfamiliar, may be Mataking is too far from mainland so it has developed its own unique ecology.
There was a police base on the island. On the beach, I saw so many old and new footprints of guide dogs, meaning that patrol is carried out regularly. They also have more police bases in nearby islands. Despite the travel advisory from US, this is really a safe place. I will come back again, hopefully next time bringing a female. I am not that irresistible but the island is. 😉
Photos taken in Semporna, Sabah Malaysia