Since we got to Kota Kinabalu (KK), we haven’t done much. After a bit of a rough few days getting here, we were content to just hang out in our comforable apartment above 1Borneo Mall.

However, Rae and I finally decided to emerge and go see something outside the mall. As I read a bit more about the area we’re in, I found there is actually a lot more to this area than I thought. Some of the best diving in the world, tonnes of wild life, and all sorts of TV shows frequent the area from Discovery programs to the Survivor.

I found this blog post, which had a nice list of the top 10 islands. From what I could tell, Sapi was the only one on the list that was easily accessable by the boats at Jesselton Point, so that’s where we decided to go.

Taxi vs. Bus

The owner of the apartment we’re staying at said if we go anywhere we should take a taxi and stay away from the city buses. But it’s 30RM to get into to town by taxi, which is a bit more than I’d like to pay on a regular basis, so I decided to go against her advice and test the city bus myself, which is only 2RM. The bus was not bad at all, I don’t know why we were cautioned so strongly about it. Definately worth the 28RM savings vs a taxi.

Jessleton Point Speed Boats

When you walk into Jesselton Point there are about a dozen booths from various companies that take you to the islands near KK. We were immediately waved over by one happy looking fellow. We told him we wanted to go to Sapi Island. He proceeded to pull out a price sheet and rattled off a list of extra fees, taxes, discounts, and calculations. You’d have to be Rain Man to have followed it all, but somehow the total for Rae and I magically turned out to be exactly 50RM. I had read that this was a situation where bargining was appropriate, but I couldn’t be bothered and just gave him a 50.

Nicole had done research and warned us strongly not to use the boats at Jesselton Point, and said we should go to one of the other two 2 other higher quality ports which were more expensive but wouldn’t make us sick. However, being the stubborn type and since she had stayed home, I wanted to see for myself before opting for the premium priced option.

Usually I’m wrong with this type of case, but I’m happy to say today I was right! The speedboats were a bit bumpy as they skipped accross the waves, but it wasn’t bad at all. Certainly not a crazy ride, and probably just fine for even the most nervous and motion averse person. On the way back there was a thunderstorm rolling in, and the waves suddenly got gigantic… but even so it still wasn’t that bad. If Nicole were abord I think she may have been able to use that last 2 minutes with the waves to say “I told you so,” but it would have been a streatch.

Arrival at the Islands

I was a bit confused about what to do on arrival, as were the others who were disembarking the speedboat at the same time. I felt like I was part of a flock of dazed and confused sheep emerging from a barn. So incase you’re reading this before heading out to the islands for the first time, here’s the low down on what happens next:

There is a guide who is from the company that brought you over, in our case “Beach Bums.” Follow him down the dock. It may take some time because he’s tends to stop and chat with every other local on the dock.

Sapi Island Dock

When you get to the end of the dock, he tells you to caugh up the 10RM environmental fee, which goes to the guy at the desk. Then he walks you over to his tent and tells you a bit about the island… where to snorkle, where not to, etc. You can put your stuff in his tent, or he’ll sell you a locker for 10RM.

He’ll be your point of contact while on the Island if you need anything. I was surprised actually… I thought they’d just drop us and go, but I guy actually pays attention to you and says hello when you walk by, asks if you’re having a good time, etc.

Sapi Island

The beach was beautiful, water was warm, and there were plenty of fish to look at as we swam around. It was great to finally, after over a month of our “tropical adventure,” be on a real beach with palm trees, white sand, coral, tropical fish, and laid back locals.


DSCN0855There are two beaches for snokeling. They were both pretty busy, especially from about noon to 3pm. We didn’t see any extrodinary sea life, like sea turtles, but there were lots of them and all very colorful. Rae was pretty amazed for a good hour before the novelty ran out.


There is some other wildlife on the Island too. We saw a water monitor lumbering accross the trail like he was just one of the gang. The guide told us there was one monkey on the Island, but I may have misunderstood because that sounds like a pretty lonely monkey. There are also wild boars on the island, which we didn’t see. The guide told me they tend to come out more in the evening.

Sapi Island Water Monitor

We also did a little hike around the island. It is a pretty nice hike through the forest, although a bit longer than I had estimated. On the map at the start of the trail it looked very short, but I guess the map wasn’t to scale. I also didn’t take changes in elevation into consideration before decided to venture off into the bush with a 4-year-old only an hour before the last boat would leave the island. The trail isn’t always super clear, and there is some pretty steep climbing.

Sapi Island Hiking

We did manage to make it back in time to get the last boat home, but I must admit I was starting think alot about the Survivor show at the end as I watched my clock.

What to do next?

So far I’m feeling a bit less ambitious in KK and starting to think I’m going to regret not getting more aggressive with exploring the place. If anyone has any tips for the best things to see (which also wont cost a fortune for one of these tours) please let us know!

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