Off the tourist trail
Published/Last edited or updated: 13th November, 2016
Banggi Island offers an escape from Sabah’s more packaged tourism, and if you have the time is interesting for a quick trip, but for now, until infrastructure develops, it’s a bit hit and miss if you’ll get to see anything much, unless you take a tour from Kudat.
Although Tanjung Simpang Mengayu takes the title of the Tip of Borneo, Banggi Island, or Pulau Banggi, is actually further north and is Malaysia’s largest island, at 44,070 hectares. Just over an hour by ferry from Kudat, the largely undeveloped island is on the brink of change.
Swathes of rainforest have been cleared for palm oil as far as the eye can see, and a new hotel and shopping development at the ferry port is evidence of the gearing-up for a planned tourist development. For now, there’s not a lot to see and do if you just turn up. The island offers good snorkelling and diving, with the possibility of beach camping, but these trips are mostly organised from the mainland in private boats.
Taxis can be hired locally to take you to the sights (around 150 ringgit per day), which include waterfalls and beaches, but not a lot of English is spoken, and transport is difficult to find. Try heading to Karakit Hotel (you can’t miss it), and ask for Hakimi, who can help.
Worthwhile is a visit to Limbuak, about 17 kilometres north of the port, an undeveloped muddy beach, where you can watch fishermen pull in the nets and sit on the wooden jetty to watch the sun sink and reflect in the mudflats. Don’t be tempted to swim here, as you’re likely to encounter crocodiles.
Accommodation on the island is limited, and there are little to none in the way of food choices after 18:00, so bring snacks, or eat early. Food stalls are mostly along the jetty at Karakit, and near the mosque, a cluster of drink and snack stalls. The beach near the port is unfortunately a rubbish dump, and not very pretty.
Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.