The demure island of Mantanani lies off the beaten tracks of other mainstream tourism destinations. The journey to the island begins with a two-hour drive to Kampung Kuala Abai jetty in Kota Belud, followed by another hour of riding on a speedboat.
The fun literally starts with the hour-long boat ride. Depending on the sea condition, the experience may even resemble that of white water rafting in Padas River—minus all the paddling. Don’t hesitate to ask your tour guide for seasick pills if you cannot handle the rough ride.
The term ‘diver’s paradise’ may sound trite, but Mantanani Island is exactly that and more. As you plunge into the Mantanani underwater world, you’ll be simply mesmerized by neon coloured fish in intoxicating swirls, adorable clownfish playing hide and seek amidst the sea anemones, vivid coloured finger corals waving about, and vast garden of living coral reefs.
Each dive site in Mantanani offers something unique. Other than sporadic encounters with dolphins, divers have also encountered some of the rarer underwater species such as the bumphead parrotfish, moray eel, sting ray, eagle ray, and several turtles. For underwater photography enthusiasts, the view is simply to-die-for—topped off with excellent visibility.
The sun also seems a lot prettier in Mantanani. After a whole day of diving, snorkelling or kayaking, sit back and feast your eyes on the gorgeous layers of orange hues penetrating the clouds as the sun sets. In the morning, nothing beats sitting on the jetty with your legs dangling over the water, watching the sun rising as gentle breeze caresses your skin and ruffles your hair. Be spellbound also by the magnificent view of Mount Kinabalu veiled in chiffon-like clouds and morning mist.
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