Mantanani Islands Travel Guide

Overview of Mantanani Islands

The best thing comes in threes and Mantanani Islands is a formation of three islands, Mantanani Besar, Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan. The three islands are located off the north-west coast of Sabah, Malaysia, opposite the town of Kota Belud. The biggest of the islands is Mantanani Besar, a knife-shaped island with a long beach stretch.

Hidden and almost unknown, Mantanani Besar is a good getaway. Swaying coconut palm trees, a long stretch of white soft sandy beach, turquoise crystal clear waters, cool sea breeze and an idyllic serene beach greets you.

Mantanani Besar has a few small resorts and Mantanani Kecil has a small dive centre. Day trips are available for visitors who do not want to spend a night, though, sometimes due to weather, the islands might not be accessible for tourists.

What To Do


With visibility up to 40 metres, this island attracts recreational divers. There is diverse marine life here with many species of rays like the marbled stingray or blue spotted ray amongst large schools of fishes. Mantanani is also good for muck diving. A unique attraction is the wreck diving with 3 nearby dive wrecks dating back to the Second World War. For those interested in obtaining PADI certification, the Dive Centre in Mantanani Kecil has experienced and certified instructors.


If you do not dive, there are snorkelling packages available as well. You can explore the crystal clear waters and get acquainted with marine life without needing the skills and equipment scuba diving requires.


Hop onto a kayak to appreciate the clear blue sea and sky with the breeze in your hair and explore the three islands. On a clear day, there is a chance to see the majestic Mount Kinabalu from the sea.


The crystal-clear waters make it a haven for swimming and frolicking in the water followed by a good sun tanning session on the sandy white beach.

Bird Watching

Many island birds nest in these islands as there are not many predators and you will be able to spot rare birds which are rarely seen on the mainland. Many species can be spotted such as German Swiftlets, frigatebirds, sunbirds, doves, pigeons, owls and more.

Island Living

Jungle trekking is a great way to explore the island with the trails available. Relax and laze by the beach or on the hammock, while reading a good book or enjoy the sun as it sets. You can also explore the local fishing villages on Mantanani Besar and buy some freshly caught fish and seafood to be cooked at the resort.

When Is The Best Time to Visit Mantanani Islands

Sabah can be visited all year-round but the best time of the year to visit the islands is from April to September when it is relatively “drier months” . Beyond these months, the sea can be rough at times.

How To Get To Kota Kinabalu

With regular flights going into Kota Kinabalu, you can fly from anywhere in Asia.

For those on the Island of Borneo, you can take a long drive and go by road on a bus or by taking a taxi.

How To Get To The Island

The islands are accessible from Kota Belud by a one-hour speedboat journey which can get a little bumpy. Kota Belud is 80 km north-east of Kota Kinabalu. Make your way from Kota Kinabalu to Kota Belud either by minibus, taxi or car depending on your budget. Though the minibus is the cheapest option, it is also longer in terms of time taking 1 hour and 30 minutes. In Kota Belud, take a speedboat from Rampayan Jetty or Kuala Abai Jetty to reach Mantanani island.

What To Bring

As shopping is next to none and limited, it is recommended to bring along anything out of the ordinary and a necessity for you. Note that toiletries and towels are not provided at Mari Mari Backpackers Lodge, so this is a must pack. If you love snacking, it would be a good idea to bring some along. Those with motion sickness, best to be ready with motion sickness pills.

Spending a whole day out in the sun, the most important items to bring is a good sunblock, a good cap or hat and sunglasses. While in any tropical islands, insect repellent is always good to have on hand to ward off pesky mosquitoes. For divers, remember to pack your diver certification card, dive log book, and your wetsuit.

For day trippers, have your swimmers, bring a good towel and pack a change of clothes to have a dry boat ride back for those taking a day trip. Good to have a bag for your wet items as well as plastic bags to keep your electronic devices and important documents from getting wet. Those planning to go for a hike or to explore the nature trails, it is advisable to wear proper footwear and apply insect repellent.

What To Wear

Proper beachwear such as comfortable cooling light clothes that would also dry easily. Bikinis and swimwear is acceptable though avoiding clothes which are too revealing would be respectful to the community. As Malaysia as a predominantly Muslim country, nudity and going topless is completely unacceptable.

Things To Know

The boat journey to the island can get a little bumpy and wet along the way and is not suitable for visitors who have had recent surgery, back or spinal injury, heart and lung conditions or any bone related diseases like osteoporosis. Pregnant women are also discouraged from the boat ride.

The boat ride to the island depends on the weather and the sea condition and at times may be cancelled or rescheduled. As such, it is advisable not to book your flights too close to the arrival and departure time from the island and afford a leeway of time.

The snorkelling session booked must be utilised on your day of arrival. Be careful of jellyfish which tend to surface after rain. Due to the nature of the package and tours, children below the age of 5 years old are not advised to participate and the age limit for diving with compressed air is 12 years old and above.

For foreign tourists, there is a Malaysian Tourism Tax of MYR 10 per room per night and is required to be paid in cash upon check-in.