Little known facts about Pulau Tiga and Layang-Layang Island in Sabah

Pulau Tiga

Survivor island

Pulau Tiga or Survivor island

Remember Survivor, the famous U.S. TV series? It is one of the most challenging series ever broadcasted. One can only imagine the miserable feeling when they are stranded on an island and need to survive by themselves.

Mud Basking

Mud Bath at Survivor Island

However, that is not the focus here. The first season of the series was recorded at Pulau Tiga, Sabah. Pulau Tiga or Tiga Island is a low-lying island about 35 nautical southwest of Kota Kinabalu, and is reached by road to Kuala Penyu, followed by a 15-minute speedboat ride. Pulau Tiga is the largest of three islands within the Pulau Tiga Park (gazette in 1978), the other islands being Kalampunian Damit and Kalampunian Besar (better known as Snake Island for the sea snakes which breed there).

There are several species of mammals including the ubiquitous macaque monkeys and reptiles such as the large monitor lizards. The interesting birdlife includes the hen-like megapode, which incubates its eggs in the hot sand, while there are countless insects and wild orchids to be seen.

There are only two resorts on Pulau Tiga, promising a tranquil holiday. The original Pulau Tiga Resort, nestling in the forest behind a sandy beach, offers PADI dive course and dive sites for both novice and experienced divers. The surrounding reefs are shallow, with healthy coral and visibility up to 20 m (less during the southwest monsoon). The rich variety of marine life includes nudibranchs, a type of marine gastropod mollusks which shed their shell after their larval stage, bamboo sharks, cuttlefish and marbled stingray, with guaranteed sightings of banded sea snakes on Snake Island.

Borneo Survivor Resort, on the eastern side of the island, offers a range of beach games, boating, fish and snorkeling.


Layang-Layang Island

Layang-Layang means two different things in Malay, which are kite and swallows. Despite its name, Layang-Layang Island is one of the world’s top ten dive spots. Layang-Layang Reef rises 2,000 m from the sea floor of the South China Sea. Located about 300 km northwest of Kota Kinabalu, Layang-Layang offers total isolation and subsequently stunning visibility and pristine reefs with a rich pelagic marine life.

An island was created around the original reef as a base for the Malaysian Navy, and a single resort, Layang-Layang Island Resort, subsequently opened for divers, who reach the island on scheduled flights by small plane.

Resident schools of barracuda and big-eye trevally, as well as schools of scalloped hammered sharks, grey reef sharks, leopard sharks and the occasional thresher and silvertip sharks can all be seen on the outer reefs. Rays are regular visitors, including huge manta rays, pygmy devil rays, marbled rays and eagle rays.

Special sightings over the last few years include whale sharks, orcas and melon-headed whales. Spinner and bottlenose dolphins frequently follow the dive boats and lucky divers have even dived among these creatures.

The walls of Layang-Layang’s reef are covered with healthy corals, with sea fans stretching more than 3m across filtering plankton from the passing currents. Green and hawksbill turtles are frequently seen on the reef, while the 20 m deep lagoon includes macro creatures such as seahorses, cuttlefish and pipe fish. With its remarkable variety of pristine marine life, Layang-Layang is indeed worthy of its worldwide recognition.

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