Your Comprehensive Guide to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP) Islands


Just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park (TARP) is a cluster of islands each offering a unique slice of paradise. From the lush, jungle-covered Gaya Island to the serene, untouched beaches of Sulug Island, this marine park is a treasure trove of natural beauty, adventure, and tranquillity – one of the best places to visit in Kota Kinabalu for adventurers and families alike.

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Whether you're an avid snorkeller, a sun-seeker, or simply in need of a peaceful retreat, these islands promise an unforgettable experience. Join us as we delve into the wonders of each island, highlighting the best activities, dining options, and accommodations available to help you plan the perfect getaway!


The 5 TARP Islands

Gaya Island

Gaya Island stands as the park’s largest island, a haven of lush rainforests and diverse wildlife. Only a 15-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the island is covered in dense tropical rainforests, though it does not stray too far from modernity. 

From a height of 300 metres in the centre, the land slopes down to secluded bays and sandy beaches. Gaya's popular Police Beach fringes the large semi-circular Bulijong Bay in the north.

Manukan Island

The second largest of the TARP islands, Manukan Island is widely considered to have the best beach in Kota Kinabalu, popular with visitors seeking a day trip such as the Twin Islands Hopping tour. 

Known for its sandy, white beaches, the calm waters are also an attraction for non-swimmers and families with children. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see local sailors out and about on a Sunday afternoon on their regular island races.

Sapi Island

Covered in dense and old secondary jungle, Sapi Island is as forested as it gets. Aside from being the island being fully protected, it was also gazetted as a national park in 1979. The island has some of the best concentrations of corals, mainly in the southern side of the island. 

There also happens to be more fish in Sapi compared to the other islands; if you’re traveling with a local fisherman, you’ll be brought to the waters around Sapi Island for a good and fresh catch.

Mamutik Island

Mamutik Island is not as popular as Manukan and Gaya Island. It’s the smallest island out of the five TARP islands but despite it being not as touristy, it’s a magnet for those who just want to relax the day away. 

Afternoons and evenings are deemed the perfect time to be in Mamutik as it is when the crowds lessen and marine life is out and about.

Book your Mamutik Island snorkelling tour and stay here!

Sulug Island

Sulug Island is not the most popular island in the park as it lacks basic facilities such as toilets. But contrary to popular belief, it’s not hard to get to and not as far away as you might think. In fact, you can see the island clearly from Tanjung Aru Beach! 

If you’re an avid kayaker, you can even reach the island in 30 minutes, give or take! If you’re a sailor, it highly depends on wind conditions; the stronger the wind, the faster you’ll get there. Plus, the white, sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters should be an attraction in itself!


Where to Stay at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The TARP islands are home to some of the best beach resorts in Kota Kinabalu, promising luxury, charm, and modern comforts amidst the tropical paradise.

Gaya Island ResortGayana Marine ResortBungaraya Island ResortManukan Island ResortMamutik Island Resort
Location: Gaya Island Location: Gaya IslandLocation: Gaya IslandLocation: Manukan IslandLocation: Mamutik Island
Room Types: Bayu Villa, Canopy Villa, Kinabalu Villa, Suria SuiteRoom Types: Rainforest Villa, Ocean Villa, Palm Villa, Breeze Family VillaRoom Types: Superior Villa, Deluxe Villa, Plunge Pool Villa, Tree House Villa, Two-Bedroom Villa, Three-Bedroom VillaRoom Types: Hillside Villa, Manukan Villa, Beach SuiteRoom Types: Ocean Wing Deluxe Double, Ocean Wing Deluxe Twin, Ara Wing Deluxe Twin
Facilities: Spa Village, Marine Centre, Wildlife Centre, 7 Wonders of Gaya, Swimming pool, Fitness centre, Free WiFiFacilities: Spa and sauna, Jacuzzi, Fitness centre, Swimming pool, Free WiFi Facilities: Fitness centre, Swimming pool, Jacuzzi, Sauna, Free WiFiFacilities: Swimming poolFacilities: PADI 5-Star Dive Centre, Swimming pool, Convenience store


Gaya Island has the widest selection and represents the lion’s share of accommodations at TARP, with three lavish beach resorts that visitors can choose from. 

Its sumptuous and modern amenities, combined with its emphasis on conservation, make Gaya Island Resort the best of the three, giving visitors distinct opportunities to immerse themselves in the natural world that surrounds it.

Bungaraya Island Resort is a close second, offering the largest, most diverse selection of rooms, with options ranging from single-storey to double-storey and some equipped with private plunge pools or jacuzzies. 

Gayana Marine Resort has all the facilities you will need for your island stay, as well as family villas equipped with additional bedding, two bathrooms, and a separate living room area. 

Manukan Island Resort offers the best rooms at affordable prices, with many past guests praising the resort for its comfortable abodes and excellent service.

Mamutik Island Resort is the best choice for those looking for open water dive courses, catering to both beginner and experienced divers.

Book your TARP Islands resorts here!

Things to Do at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping tours are a favourite day trip activity among locals and tourists alike – and it’s no wonder seeing the variety of activities that await you at each island, with opportunities for snorkelling and swimming available at all five.

Gaya IslandSapi IslandManukan IslandMamutik IslandSulug Island
Snorkelling, Scuba diving, Swimming, Jungle trekking, Kayaking, FishingSnorkelling, Scuba diving, Swimming, Parasailing, Sea walking, Jungle trekkingSnorkelling, Scuba diving, Swimming, Sea walking, Body boarding, Banana boating, Flying fishing, Jet skiing, Jungle trekkingSnorkelling, Scuba diving and certification, Swimming, Kayaking, Sea walking, Banana boating, Flying fishing, Jet skiing, Beach volleyballSnorkelling, Swimming


Manukan, the most popular of the TARP islands, boasts a wide range of activities including scuba diving and body boarding, and is considered the best place for snorkelling amongst the islands. 

Gaya Island is the best island for jungle trekking, with its 20 kilometres of marked trails, including a plank walk across a mangrove swamp.

If you’re looking for a more adventurous island getaway, Sapi is the place for you with parasailing and sea walking available for visitors to try.

As you can see from the table above, Sulug has the least number of things to do but is also the quietest and least visited of the five islands, making it an ideal spot for those seeking seclusion. 

Mamutik offers the best of both worlds – quieter and less commercial than Manukan and Sapi, but with an impressive range of activities to choose from.

Book your Kota Kinabalu Island Hopping tour with water sports activities here!

What to Eat at Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Gaya IslandSapi IslandManukan IslandMamutik Island
Gaya Island Resort: Feast Village, Fisherman’s Cove, Omakase, Pool Bar & Lounge, Tavajun BaySapi CafeManukan Island Resort: Arang Restaurant, Perahu RestaurantMamutik Island Resort: Indoor / Outdoor Dining Area
Gayana Marine Resort: Macac Restaurant, Latitude BarOthers: Sands BarOthers: Koktas Cafe
Bungaraya Island Resort: Pantai Restaurant & Bar, The Longhouse Restaurant


Among the five islands, Gaya offers the largest – and most luxurious – selection of dining options spread out between the three resorts. Fresh seafood, omakase, meat skewers, and local traditional cuisine – the options are endless at Gaya Island. 

Manukan Island Resort and Mamutik Island Resort both have in-house restaurants, each offering a blend of local and international cuisine. Many of the resorts also offer private dining experiences, where guests can indulge in thoughtfully curated menus with their loved ones in intimate, breathtaking settings. 

Smaller canteens and bars are also available at Sapi, Manukan, and Mamutik for those seeking simpler meals. Visitors to Sulug will have to pack their own food as facilities are limited on the island. 


How to Get to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

One of the best things about the TARP Islands is how easily accessible they are. Just 15 minutes off the coast of the city, travellers can take a boat from various points around Kota Kinabalu – Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal, Sutera Harbour Marina Jetty, or Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Marina Jetty. 

Each of the jetties has daily boat services to Manukan, Sapi, and Mamutik, with Sutera Harbour Marina Jetty offering daily transfers to Gaya as well.  Shuttle boats to Sulug are not as common, depending on demand. However, booking a private charter boat can take you to Sulug and any other island within the park. 

All three of the jetties are within a 20-minute drive from the Kota Kinabalu Airport – your tropical island getaway just a stone’s throw away!

Book your boat transfer to Kota Kinabalu TARP Islands here!

Best Time to Visit Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The park is open all year round but to make the most of your time there, you may want to plan your trip for the dry season between March and September. 

While you can still visit in the wet seasons, heavy rain and rough currents may make your trip less enjoyable. The monsoon months, in particular, often bring reduced underwater visibility, which can diminish the experience for snorkelers and divers.


What to Bring to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The things you bring – or don’t bring – on your trip to TARP can make or break your experience. Some essentials you will need to have the best time at TARP include: 

  • Sunscreen 
  • Swimwear 
  • Quick-dry, breathable clothing (bring some extras too!) 
  • Flip-flops 
  • Cash 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Hat 
  • Insect repellent 
  • Snacks 
  • Drinking water 
  • Dry bag 
  • Beach mat 
  • Wetsuit (for diving) 
  • Trekking or athletic shoes (for nature trails) 
  • Waterproof camera 
  • First aid kit and personal medications

Book your TARP Islands scuba diving and snorkelling tours here!


Tips for Your Trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park 

  • To avoid huge crowds, plan your trip for weekdays and avoid visiting on public holidays. 
  • The last boat back to Kota Kinabalu mainland is at 5:00 p.m. – be alert and don’t get left behind! 
  • Bring extra money for food, drinks, beach equipment, and other purchases. 
  • Be wary of giant lizards that reside on the island. They are generally not a threat, but their bites are venomous so avoid approaching or irritating them. 
  • Be a responsible traveller – respect the marine life at TARP, do not litter, and avoid disruptive or destructive behaviour. 


Entrance Fees to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

As of 2024, Sabah Parks entrance fees and rates for TARP are as below: 

CategoryFees
Malaysian 18 years old and aboveRM8 / pax / day
Malaysian 13 to 17 years oldRM5 / pax / day
Malaysian 12 years old and below, 60 years old and above, or with disabilityFree of charge
International 18 years old and aboveRM25 / pax / day
International 17 years old and belowRM20 / pax / day
International 60 years old and aboveRM20 / pax / day


Conclusion

You’re all set for your trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park! Whether you're looking for adventure, relaxation, or a bit of both, the islands of TARP offer a perfect escape into nature's embrace. 

SabahTravel.com is here to make your visit seamless and memorable, with instant bookings for accommodations, experiences, and more. Welcome to Sabah, where unforgettable moments await. 

Book your trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park today at SabahTravel.com!