There are a number of beautiful islands surrounding Borneo, many of which offer fantastic diving opportunities. One of the most accessible and islands is that of Mantanani Island to the North West of Sabah.
The beautiful little island with it’s white sandy beach is fast becoming a popular tourist destination and it’s easy to see why. A large speed boat has you over there in 45 minutes and for those staying over night the Mantanani Backpackers Lodge has some very cute chalets on stilts complete with hammock and lounge chairs beneath.
There are 6 chalets all facing the beach with 6 more quietly being built to accompany them. There’s also a social area for meals and relaxing in the shade. The island is also occupied by local people with a number of small villages within walking distance.
Of course relaxing on the beach is always a simple pleasure but there’s more to do here than just snooze. There are morning and afternoon trips from Mantanani Belas (the big island) to Mantanani’s smaller islands for Snorkelling and Scuba Diving. There’s also guiding island treks and snorkel gear available for your own coral explorations on the nearby beach. There’s an abundance of fish and coral all around the island, just remember to put sun block on your back before you start!
Whether you’re an advanced Diver or just curious to try it Mantanani Island is a great opportunity to go diving. A boat picks you up from the lodge and takes you to the Traverse Tours floating dive centre. For the more advanced you head to the appropriately named “Stingray Avenue”. The advanced groups are usually quite small giving you more opportunity to see the marine life. This dive site is around 9 metres deep and a full 50 minutes below the surface gives you ample time to see loads of Clown fish, coral, stone fish, sea slugs, starfish, turtles and if you’re really lucky small spotted Stingray. You can do up to 3 dives in one day including a sunset dive, dropping you back at the lodge in time for dinner.
Time to explore
Exploring the island a little more is an interesting experience. A stroll along the beach in either direction leads you to local villages. There is an alarming amount of rubbish on the beach amongst the fallen trees and wood. It’s not clear whether this debris has washed here over the years or has been dropped by locals and tourists. The villages themselves are a collection of hand crafted homes made from whatever materials the locals can afford. There’s a distinctive Malay style to even the smallest of family dwellings. The locals are all very friendly and just as curious of tourists as we are of them. The children are always the first to shout “hello!” and wave to you. Some even posing for photos and asking your name. There’s also a small herd of cows on the island most of which spend their time on the beach near the village.
Sunsets and sunrises here are as dramatic as their afternoon rain storms that pass over. The boat home left around the time of one such storm. The expert boat captains speed you back across the waters trying their best to beat the rain. This isn’t always possible so make sure your possessions are put on the boat with good covering. Be prepared to get a little wet!
Mantanani Island is becoming an increasingly popular destination with talk of more lodges and hotels being built on the island in the next few years. At present it has a quite, individual and distinctive vibe about it, something that may not last forever. Make the most of it’s snorkelling and diving Mantanani has to offer.
With thanks to Traverse Tours and the Mantanani Backpackers Lodge for an enjoyable stay on Mantanani Island. If you’d like to know more about Diving and snorkelling at Mantanani visit the Traverse Tours Website.