This coastline and scattered islands is best cruised during the northeast monsoon which blows November through May. If cruising during the southwest monsoon more caution is required when leaving vessels unattended.
The reef between Pulau Gaya and Sutera Harbour’s northern point protects the thriving city of Kota Kinabalu, usually known as ‘KK’.
The older charted channel in the extreme south of the reef still gives access to the city, but a newer uncharted (albeit well marked) channel has been cut directly through the centre of the reef giving good access to the waterfront. Local knowledge should be sought before venturing unaided into this busy area. The first of the beaches and islands of the Tunka Abdul Rahman Marine Park lie conveniently two and half nautical miles west-north-west of Sutera Harbour.
This marine park offers great anchorages and clean beaches with good snorkelling on the islands’ fringing reefs. The area gets busy during the middle part of the day from August to November when the tourists visit. Quieter anchorages can be found away from the tourist areas.
3.5 miles from Sutera Harbour
This picturesque deep-water anchorage in 20 metres is suitable for snorkelling and lazing on the sandy spit on the eastern side of the island. The spit rises sharply from 20 metres, so approach with care when anchoring.
Shallower water can be found a short distance northwest. Southeast of the anchorage is a fringing reef suitable for snorkelling and diving. Pulau Sulug is quiet since it is not on the itinerary for day boats working out of KK.
A mile east is the 15-acre island, Pulau Mamutik, with a small resort and jetty on its eastern point. Anchor off the arching sandbank just northeast of the Sutera Sanctuary Lodge’s jetty as it shallows up in 5 metres at 5°57.994N, 116°0.903E. Plenty of great snorkelling all around this island.
3 miles from Sutera Harbour
Anchor in 10-15 metres on the southeastern side of this wooded island, near the series of buoys running out from the long jetty. The bay is protected by fringing reef but other parts of the island are easily accessible by tender. The snorkelling here is excellent, but day trip speedboats from downtown Kota Kinabalu inundate the island between 9am to 4pm. The resort has a good restaurant.
4 miles from Sutera Harbour
Approach the small bay from the southeast on a heading of 334°, taking care to avoid the fringing reef on both sides, from the easterly point of Pulau Sinjataan and Southern Pulau Gaya. The channel shallows up to 9 metres from 22 and then drops down again into a basin of 16 metres.
Alternative anchorage is in the small bay about 800 metres to the east in 12 metres. This is a great spot for snorkelling.
8 miles from Sutera Harbour
Anchor in 7-12 metres in front of the Bunga Raya Island Resort jetty with the roofs deep inside the bay. Take care to avoid the fringing reef lining both sides of the bay and running up to the beach.
The steep jungle-clad hills are a spectacular backdrop to this 48 room luxury resort. The snorkelling is excellent and, although exposed to occasional strong northerlies, the holding is good. The resort welcomes yachts and has a great restaurant and spa.
28 miles from Sutera Harbour
30 miles south towards Labuan is Pulau Tiga, where Richard Hatch won the now-famous first ‘Survivor’ reality TV series. Two small resorts with jetties and snorkelling beaches can be found on the southeastern side. Anchor off the southern National Park Headquarters jetty in 5-8 metres on sand at 5°42.896N, 115°38.926E.
Tracks ashore take you to the famed Cold Mud Volcanoes that splatter gloop every few hours over the surrounding vegetation. Many tourists make the 1 km trek uphill to sit in the pools, cover themselves in mud and wait for the next gas explosion.
Take care when cruising back southeast from here past Tanjung Nosong on the mainland. There is an unusually long underwater peninsula of hazardous reef and rocks awash. Keep an eye for the north point of the reef that is well marked with a green buoy topped with a green flashing light.
Two miles to the north is Pulau Kalampunian, a large sandy cay surrounded by reef. On the northeastern side of the cay, at our anchorage GPS position, is a small bay with good holding on sand in 10 metres. Take care to avoid the fringing reef and rocks lurking just below the surface at low tides.
The bay offers good snorkelling accessible from the sand spit beach. Further north from here is Pulau Borong, known locally as ‘Snake Island’. This is where scores of sea serpents (banded krait) migrate ashore to copulate. Signs warn of entry onto the island, but a guided tour is available from the National Park Headquarters or resort on Tiga.
30 miles from Sutera Harbour
Thirty miles west-northwest of Sutera Harbour is Pulau Mangalum. There is a popular local fishing boat anchorage on the north, but we recommend the quieter southeastern side. Anchor in 7 metres on sand between two sections of reef.
Snorkelling is excellent and there is easy access to the beach by tender. Southwest is the Saracen Bank, where deep waters on the western side are a favourite for baitfish bringing in the many larger pelagic species. Dinghy trolling Rapalla or Popper lures along this edge two hours before sunset will get results. Warm up the BBQ.
32 miles from Sutera Harbour
On the coast 30 miles north of Sutera Harbour, this is a great stopover heading in either direction. Beautiful beaches and verdant jungle bound the deep bay. When entering, be aware of the isolated rocks and fringing reef on the extremities and the floating fish farms closer in.
Anchor on the southern shore in front of the small stilted village in 8 metres. On clear days, it is possible to see the cloud-shrouded Mount Kinabalu towering in the east.
53 miles from Sutera Harbour
Don’t miss these two jewel islands. There are many anchorages to choose from depending on conditions. We recommend between the two islands on sand in 6-7 metres opposite a very small islet undercut with caves.
Another nice anchorage is the eastern tip of the main island’s southern side, 6°42.22N, 116° 22.07E in 7-10 metres. Take care at both spots to avoid the scattered coral outcrops closer in.
The main island has a village and small school; the locals are friendly and welcoming and can assist with knowledge of the best diving and snorkelling areas. On the eastern shore of the smaller island in the channel are beautiful coral gardens where dugongs are said to dwell.
79 miles from Sutera Harbour
Located 27 miles northeast of Pulau Mantanani and four miles south off the Borneo peninsula, Pulau Kulambok is connected to the mainland by a sand spit. The island offers two small bays ideal for the day.
Although anchorage is available both sides of the isthmus, we recommend the northern bay in 5-7 metres avoiding the shallow scattered rock to the east-southeast.
While every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained in this book is accurate, the charts of anchorages are based on personal experience and satellite imagery and are intended as a guide only. They should not be used for navigation. Please refer to Official Hydrographic Charts of the respective countries.
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