Lankayan Island Travel Guide

Overview of Lankayan Island

Lankayan Island is a small pristine coral island located on the north-eastern coast of Sabah, 15 km offshore from the small city of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea. This island paradise is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city living where you can unplug and unwind. The island is shaped like a jewel and what a jewel it is, with its turquoise coloured ocean, swaying casuarinas and fine white sandy beach.

It is also a diving oasis for diving enthusiasts with the surrounding brimming with marine life and the huge underwater diversity. Lankayan Island is part of the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area where all fishing and harvesting activities are prohibited in order to conserve the jewel that it is.

The island is a turtle haven as the green and hawksbill turtle nesting spot and one of the main attractions is watching the turtles hatch. Also known to have the occasional whale shark sighting, a diver’s dream dive companion.

Popular Package in Lankayan Island

What To Do

Scuba Diving

Lankayan island has multiple dive sites with superb coral reefs all just a few minutes away. The diverse sites include fascinating wreck dives like the ‘Lankayan Wreck’ and macro dive paradise. The best sites to explore and experience are Jawfish Lair, Gobby Rock, Jetty Wreck, Lankayan Wreck and Mosquito Wreck.

Pelagics are a common sight. Divers can look forward to seeing yellowtail barracudas, parrotfishes, scads and jacks. Others include blacktip sharks, anemone fishes, seahorses, rays and guitarfish as well as larger marine creatures like marbled stingray, leopard shark and giant grouper. And from March to May, there are higher chances of whale shark sightings. The dive centre is complete with a dive school for those interested to obtain their PADI certification.


For non-divers, snorkeling here is equally mesmerising to appreciate the wonders of the diverse coral and marine life. The resort has snorkeling equipment for rent.

Water Sports

If you do not want to spend everyday underwater, explore Lanyakan and its surroundings from above the water by kayaking. Kayaks are available for rent at the resort.

Turtle Hatchery

It is quite an amazing experience to watch turtles lay their eggs and observe the small turtles hatching and then being released into the sea. This is a seasonal activity.


Beyond Lanyakan Island, there are other experiences which you can combine with your trip. Take a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre where the orphaned orangutans are rehabilitated. Or explore the Gomantong caves where bird’s nests are harvested. You can also enjoy a boat ride along Kinabatangan River for wildlife watching.

Where To Stay

The one and only accommodation on the island is Lankayan Island Dive Resort. This is a family-friendly resort built from local materials and designed to co-exist with the natural surroundings. It consists of 23 wooden chalets with twin and triple chalets on offer. All chalets come with a full sea view and some chalets are over the water. The resort offers dive packages which include transfer from Sandakan and unlimited diving. There are cheaper packages for non-divers. Pricing of packages differ during different periods of the year.

When Is The Best Time To Go

The resort stays open through-out the year as conditions are usually stable for diving, however, for those who would like to avoid chances of rain, the rainy season for northern Borneo is from November to February.

For specific marine life sightings like whale sharks, March to May are known to be the peak months to sight one and June to September is the best period to witness nesting turtles come up to shore to lay their eggs and turtle hatchlings being released back to the sea.

How To Get To Lankayan Island

Sandakan is the nearest city and you can make your way there from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu by flight or any other city with flights direct to Sandakan. There are flights from AirAsia and Malaysian Airlines. From Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, the flight is approximately 40 minutes long. You can get to Kota Kinabalu from Bangkok, Singapore, Brunei, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo, Seoul and Manila.

From Sandakan Airport, you will be transferred to the jetty to take the speedboat to Lanyakan, the boat ride is approximately 1.5 hours and may be a bit bumpy. As the only boat leaves Sandakan at 10.00 a.m., try to get an early flight in or spend a night in Sandakan.

What You Should Know

There is internet access in the resort’s main building with a charge of MYR15.00 for 30 minutes on the desktop or MYR20 per day for your own laptop (wireless). Water sports gear as well as diving equipment are available for rental. There is a small counter-shop selling basic necessities and souvenirs but it is advisable for you to pack anything you require which is out of the ordinary as well as your own medication. There are charges not included in your accommodation and diving package, such as a Malaysian Tourism tax for non-Malaysians and the Lankayan Conservation Fees. There are army personnels at each end of the island as well as on boat transfers for safety.