Popular for its splendid beaches and perfect snorkeling and diving spots, the waters around the coastline of Kota Kinabalu are a paradise for ocean lovers.
A short boat ride from Kota Kinabalu can take you to Pulau Tiga Islands.
The island attracted global fame after they were chosen to be the filming location for the hugely successful reality TV series called “Survivor”.
Thereafter nicknamed as the “Survivor islands”, Pulau Tiga, Sabah is a favorite destination for the adventure seekers.
Read on to know more about these secret deserted islands before planning a visit.
About Pulau Tiga, the Survivor Island
The word “Pulau Tiga” means “Island three”. This tropical island is actually a cluster of three landmasses that were formed as a result of volcanic eruptions. The Pulau Tiga, Kalampunian Damit (the snake island) and Kalampunian Besar (the sands spit island) together form the Tiga Island National Park.
Amongst the three islands in the National Park, Pulau Tiga is the biggest in terms of area and is also the only inhabited one.
Pulau Tiga is also the youngest island on Sabah’s west coast. Located between Kota Kinabalu and Labuan, it is a favorite with international tourists craving an adventure holiday. From exploring the pristine forests to jumping in the volcano mud baths or relaxing on a beach, the survivor island has it all.
The oceans around the island have a diverse display of marine life along with a healthy coral reef structure. This makes the Pulau Tiga Island a favorite diving and snorkeling destination too. Additionally, the lush forest and the abundant flora on this beautiful Sabah island is nature lover’s paradise.
Getting to the Survivor Island
Pulau Tiga National Park, Sabah can be reached from Kota Kinabalu which is at a distance of 55 km from the island. Multiple options to get to the island are available depending on the time availability and budget.
For those looking at a day tour, pick up and drops on chartered speedboats from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah are available.
Another option is to move to Kuala Penyu which is around 120 km from Kota Kinabalu. Ferry rides from there can then be taken to reach Pulau Tiga.
However, for those with an advanced booking for a stay at the Pulau Tiga Resort, complete pick and drop services are available from Kota Kinabalu as well as Kuala Penyu.
If you’re planning a holiday on Survivor Island, the Pulau Tiga Resort is the only option.
The island resort can accommodate only around 70 people at any given time. Bookings in advance are hence advisable. Holiday tours can be booked online through their website. Taking a 2-3 day package trip is advisable to make the best of the activities that the island has to offer.
The beach resort package is inclusive of food as well as guided tours to make your stay comfortable and enriching.
For budget travelers, a Sabah Park Base Camp run by the Ministry of Environment also provides a rest house and hostel options. However, boat transfers and food are not provided here.
Things to do at Pulau Tiga
There is no dearth of “things to do” when you’re at Survivor Island. It is perhaps a perfect holiday spot for adventure seekers. Following are some of the key activities that you mustn’t miss out on.
Mud Volcano Baths
This is a geological feature that is exclusive to Pulau Tiga tropical island amongst various other Sabah Islands. The short trail from the resort brings you to the mud volcano. The mud volcano is an active one with methane gas being constantly released to the surface.
The volcanic activity also oozes fresh warm mud that is rich in minerals. A playful long dip in the mud volcano can be very therapeutic as well as enriching for your skin. However, that’s not really the top reason for tourists to come here. The activity is a perfect family fun time, especially for kids.
Two mud pools, a shallow small one and a bigger deep one are available for tourists.
It is also interesting to note that due to the density factors, the mud pools allow completely buoyancy. This means that you can float even if you don’t know how to swim!
After you’ve had your share of enjoyment in the sticky cool mud pools, a short walk to the beach can be taken to get yourself cleaned.
A short walk from the mud volcano area brings you to Pagong-Pagong Beach. The trail with thick shrubs and gigantic rainforest trees is an enriching experience in itself. The wide yellow sand beach is a great place for evening strolls while staying at the island. You can also spot the famous Pulau Tiga Snake Islands and the Sands Pit Island from here.
The southern end of Pulau Tiga Survivor Island has the Tagi Beach which is famous for its Tagi tribe.
The Larai- Larai Beach is on the western coast of Pulau Tiga. The beach is a remote location that’s perfect for those looking for a quiet evening by the sea. The shore is rocky and the beach here is a great spot for observing some of the most magnificent sunsets ever.
Survivor Island is popular amongst avid divers around the world. There are nine diving sites around the island. Abundant sightings of marine life like lobsters, stingrays, cuttlefish, parrot fish, bamboo sharks nudibranchs can be made.
Additionally, the ocean floor is rich with soft whip corals that display an array of vibrant colors under the blue water. The water visibility around these reefs is great for snorkeling and skuba diving too. The coral reefs in this part of Sabah waters contain around 132 species of fish.
Snorkeling gear is available on rent at the resort.
Guided hike and jungle trekking trips are available on request at the Pulau Tiga Resort. Various trail options are there to choose from. The rainforest on the island is lush and rich with a wide range of flora and fauna species.
Visit the Snake Island (locally known as Pulau Kalampunian Damit)
A trip to snake islands is optional and can be taken up at an additional cost of RM 40 (includes the Sands Spit Island too). This deserted island is a 15-minute boat ride from Pulau Tiga Resort. As the name suggests, the snake island is home to a wide variety of snakes including the sea snakes.
Your guide can lead you to some rocky crevices which are favorite hiding spots for these shy but poisonous creatures. Sea snakes here are some of the most venomous ones in the world!
While a close encounter with poisonous snakes isn’t everyone’s idea of comfort, it is perfectly safe when accompanied by an experienced guide.
Visit the Sands Spit Island ( Pulau Kalampunian Besar)
The Sands Spit Island is nothing but a small sand bar that shifts its shape and appearance along with the tides and monsoon conditions. While it is technically not an island, the growth of certain species of sea tolerant plants like Casuarina trees has given it the status.
The white sandy beach surrounded on both sides with crystal clear water is one of the most picturesque locations in Malaysian waters. This deserted island is a perfect spot for capturing some postcard-worthy pictures!
Pulau Tiga is a hidden gem in the oceans surrounding Kota Kinabalu. The untouched lush forests, pristine beaches, and amazing marine life make it an unparalleled tropical paradise. While you’re in Sabah, visiting Survivor islands is a “must have” experience.
Pulau Tiga, Sabah- a perfect balance of beauty, tranquility, adventure, and fun. Definitely one of the hidden gems of amazing Borneo!