The cluster of five scenic inshore coral islands called Pulau
Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug, lying between 3 and
8km west of Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu, had by 1979 all been declared the 'Tunku
Abdul Rahman Marine Park' in honour of Malaysia's first Prime Minister.
The islands are covered with lowland forest and mangrove, which form a sanctuary
for a variety of birds, insects, reptiles and small mammals.
The waters are mainly colonised by hard corals with isolated patches of black and
colourful soft tree corals. Some areas have spectacular aggregations of lionfish
and stonefish. The reefs lie in shallow water with little current, ideal for training
A major surprise so close to a densely populated area is that during the cooler months
from November to February, a build up of plankton attracts krill, which in turn attracts
Whale Sharks, the world's largest fish. As many as five of these majestic animals
have been seen in a circular formation, feeding. The Krill are so thick that the
water is brown and the visibility terrible, in these conditions underwater encounters
with these colossal animals can be frightening as they suddenly appear out of the
Among the islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Pulau Sapi is the favourite
for an easy day's diving. Though no deeper than 10m, the abundance of marine life
along the 100m stretch of sandy bottom in front of the jetty has excited many marine
naturalists and yielded many rewarding close-up images for photographers.