Photo: The beautiful -- if dirty -- Mantanani Islands.

Mantanani Islands

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Three little blips on the radar form the Mantanani Islands, laying about 40 kilometres northwest of Kota Belud. Mantanani Besar, Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan are your quintessential alabaster-fringed tropical archipelago, reef ringed and sitting in crystal-clear aquamarine waters.

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The largest island, Mantanani Besar, is about three kilometres end to end and no more than 750 metres across. Here you’ll find two small villages, no roads and a growing number of resorts, mostly catering to daytrippers from Kota Kinabalu who come to snorkel and dive among the reefs and World War II shipwrecks. The muck diving is known to be excellent too and the waters have good visibility up to 30 metres. The sheltered bays and seagrass beds were once ideal habitats for dugongs, but sadly these days sightings are extremely rare. It was suggested by one source that the name Mantanani comes from manatee (not the same animal as a dugong, but easily confused).

It's a little bit blue. Photo taken in or around Mantanani Islands, Kota Belud, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

It's a little bit blue. Photo: Sally Arnold

Mantanani is a popular birdwatching destination, as the rare Mantanani scops owl (Otus mantananensis) is endemic to this tiny archipelago. If you hear a goose-like honk, it’s ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 300 words.)

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