Crystal clear turquoise water, gentle lapping waves, swaying palm trees in the warm breeze, white sandy beaches, lazy bobbing boats, hot sun-drenched bodies, thrilling sea walk and interesting dragon watching… these were the splendid images and experiences of a visit to Pulau Sapi or Sapi Island in Sabah, Borneo.
The sea walk, as opposed to a moon walk, was done by using a mini submarine; and under the water, you would look like an astronaut on a yellow scooter. This under-the-sea experience was exciting yet calming at the same instance. It was exciting because of the clarity of the surrounding waters, making it easy to view the sea beds, corals and schools of fishes; and it was calming because of the cool quietness of the underwater world. You could also feed the coral fishes by buying some fish food sold in recycled mineral water bottles at the convenience shop of Sapi Island.
The only way to get to Sapi Island in Sabah was by taking a boat or ferry, either at Jesselton Point Pier or Sutera Harbour. It was a bright sunny morning when my friends and I took the ferry from Jesselton Point Pier at Kota Kinabalu. The return fare for the ferry ride of 15 minutes to Sapi Island for an adult was RM23 and for a child, it was RM18.
It was a short and fun boat ride from the city of Kota Kinabalu to Sapi Island, which was one of the 5 islands making up the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park maintained by Sabah Parks. There was an entrance fee to Sapi Island of RM3 for Malaysians and RM10 for non-Malaysians, which to me was a nominal charge to enjoy the immeasurable and natural beauty of the island.
There were of course no real dragons on the 25-acre sized Sapi Island in Sabah. But the huge monitor lizards, locally known as Biawaks, walking about nonchalantly on this fourth largest island looked like Komodo Dragons. Ambling ponderously about while flicking their little forked tongue out regularly to smell the air, or maybe us, these monitor lizards were a strange sight to behold. However, it was advisable to stay some distance from these giant reptiles with their long necks, powerful tails and sharp claws! If you were lucky, you might even catch a couple of them fight, like two leathery skin sumo-wrestlers slinging it out on a mud-covered ring. That was what the tour guide told us. We were not so lucky.
On the other hand, we were lucky that we decided to visit Sapi Island on a weekday as it would get really crowded on the weekends. Other water activities you could engage in at the island included trying out the best snorkelling spots or taking lessons and learning to scuba diving near the main beach in a confined shallow area for beginners. You could also do the actual scuba diving at the 4 dive spots located on the North-Western section of the island.
As the sun crept up to the highest at noon, we were glad of the plentiful shades provided by Sapi Island’s abundant big tropical trees and dense vegetations. There were also tables with umbrellas set up around the main section of Sapi Island, but these were usually booked and allocated to tour operators. We had our own table with umbrella, which the tour guide directed us to when lunch time came around. The BBQ lunch, included in the island tour package, consisted of a variety of local seafood from prawns to fish and squid served with rice. For dessert, we had fresh seasonal fruits; all washed down with orange-flavoured cordial drinks. It was a simple but satisfying meal.
We rested for a short while after lunch, soaking in the peaceful and idyllic atmosphere of Sapi Island, before heading back to the mainland of Kota Kinabalu. By the way, the word “Sapi” meant “Cow” in the Malay language; and the island was so named because its shape resembled that of the head of a cow. Nonetheless, the resemblance ended there as Sapi Island was not a cow. It was more like a pristine and exquisite gem of an island resort just a stone-throw away from the bustling city of Kota Kinabalu. We had been a truly awesome day-trip to Sapi Island in Sabah, Borneo, and I would recommend you to check the island out yourself.