Coming to Kota Kinabalu (Malaysia), you have the opportunity to jump off the city to the paradise islands near the coast. One of the many island hopping options is a day tour to Mengalum Island. Unlike the islands close to the city, to reach Mengalum you will need over one hour boat ride. A tour will be granted with turquoise waters, white sand beach and perfect snorkeling environment.
Day tour to Mengalum Island is a typical snorkeling tour when you get nearly two hours to admire the underwater life. Those who want to enjoy the beach and get some tan surely won’t get disappointed too. There are also hammocks to relax under the palm trees and plenty of free time to walk around the place.
What is day tour to Mengalum Island itinerary?
Day tour to Mengalum Island starts at 8 am at the Sutera Harbour Jetty in Kota KInabalu. There will be a van to pick you up from the hotel or you can get there by yourself. After one hour and 15 minutes we arrived to paradise. The place is well-prepared with facilities for lots of tourists coming every day, where almost all are from China. There are toilets and showers as well as buffet restaurant where we had lunch.
Snorkeling activity takes place shortly after arrival but everyone has time to change clothes. The boat took us nearby the island on the coral reef. We put masks and life jackets on and hopped into the water to witness all the colors of fish possible. The water is shallow, and the corals are rich in colors and shapes which surely made it one of the best spots for snorkeling I have seen.
Mengalum Island is abundant in groupers, snappers, mackerels and other reef fishes, with a majority of hard corals, such as stag-horn corals, lettuce coral and table corals. You can spot clownfishes and butterfly fishes while swimming around the flourishing corals. After around 45 minutes we moved to another place and swam for another 40 min.
Lunch was a buffet with lots of vegetables, seafood and meat. After that we had free time to take pictures and enjoy the beach or just sleep in the hammock. We were ready to go back at around 2 30 and arrived back at the jetty in Kota Kinabalu at 4 o’clock. The trip costs 400 RM.
Is it worth to go to Mengalum Island?
I have no words to describe the beauty of the island and the pristine waters rich in marine life. So many shades of blue I have seen only in the waters near Jaco Island in Timor Leste, Coron in the Philippines and Semporna, Malaysia. However, I have to point that Mengalum Island drowns in mass tourism from China. On the boat there were about 25 people, and I noticed several boats heading the same direction.
According to the itinerary, there is a welcome drink after arrival to the Mengalum Island. Nevertheless, it was far from what I imagined. The crowd of tourists moved from the boats and in the end of the jetty everyone could get a cup of tea. The cups were from non-recyclable styrofoam with just two sips of tea poured in it. Next to it a huge rubbish bin full of the empty cups. This is one of the fastest and silliest waste created on my eyes. At the same time, so easy to change if anybody would be aware of the responsible tourism practices.
The restaurant was huge, ready to serve hundreds of tourists. And as 99% of them are Chinese, the place was well prepared for shooting photos – swing on the beach, frame, hammock, signs to take pics with and so on. Nobody cared to take a walk for 200 meters, where the beach was already empty or swim in the pristine waters as the photos were more important. Well, on the other hand, good for me becuase I had the beach for myself.
In sum, Mengalum Island is absolutely stunning, but mass tourism just took the cherry from the top for me. I am sorry to say that, but there are just so many Chinese tourists in Kota Kinabalu and the nearby paradise islands are loosing their charm.
Alternatives for one day tour from Kota Kinabalu
As an alternative, I can recommend Tiga Island near Kota Kinabalu, which is not crowded (yet) and in my opinion much more worth the tour. Among other islands neat Kota Kinabalu which may not have as much water source, Pulau Tiga is covered with lush green jungle. There are few paths accross the island as well as one to go around Pulau Tiga, which takes 6 hours. There are huge monitor lizards walking around and monekys looking to steal something. The island is also called Survivor Island, because the famous reality show was shoot here.
I went to Pulau Tiga for a snorkeling tour which was a great experience. The coral reef is very rich and colorful. However, the highlight of the tour for me was volcunic mud crater, which was just so much fun! It was first time for me to get into the mud and I can highly recommend the experience. Mud is so condence so that you can only move in slow motion, which looks evern more funny, as if being dirty like a pig wouldn’t be enough :D.
Another trip I took as a one day tour from Kota Kinabalu was Kawa Kawa Cruise. Calm river cruise may be an alternative for you, if you are not a big fan of snorkeling and beaches.
Kawa Kawa river cruise & Fireflies watching
Kawa Kawa river cruise & Fireflies watching is one of the numerous one day tours from Kota Kinabalu. I was really curious to see proboscis monkeys for the first time. Moreover, after the light spectacle in Bohol, I wanted to see the fireflies again, as it looks incredible. Read about my Kawa Kawa River cruise experience and decide, if it’s for you.
Kawa Kawa river cruise Itinerary
The tour starts in the afternoon in Kota Kinabalu center. I recommend eating something before the cruise as First the bus will take you to see the pink Mosque in the university campus. We were not allowed to enter inside, so we just took a picture and continue the trip. We stopped on the way to try the coconut pudding. If you purchase the special package, you have the bbq mulles in this place plus coconut pudding. If you didn’t purchuase the package, you can eather stand and wait for the others or buy the pudding.
We arrived to Kawa Kawa river around and went for a cruise around 30 min. We saw few proboscis monkey on the top of a tree. Even from the far I could see their big nose and belly. We came back to have a buffet dinner and shortly after that we went to catch up the sunset on the beach. The sky was clear and beach long to walk along. We went back to Kawa Kawa river to take a boat for the final point of the tour – the fireflies watching. They were so many cute little insects on the trees, so they even came through our boat with their blinking light. They attract their partners in this way and gather around the blooming mangrove trees. We came back to Kota Kinabalu around 9 pm.