MalaysiaSabah

Pulau Tiga Marine Park: Experiencing Mud Volcanoes at Sabah’s Survivor Island

Pulau Tiga Marine Park is not just a destination; it’s a sanctuary where nature, culture, and history intertwine to offer a captivating experience.

Pulau Tiga gained global recognition in 2000 when it became the setting for the first season of the American reality show Survivor. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Pulau Tiga Marine Park is not just a destination; it’s a sanctuary where nature, culture, and history intertwine to offer a captivating experience.

Pulau Tiga Marine Park stands out as one of Malaysia’s most captivating and beautiful destinations, boasting a rich history, diverse ecosystem, and a unique claim to fame with its connection to the popular reality show, Survivor. It was also how it earned itself the name Survivor Island.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit this island during an Xpresi Media familiarization trip organized by Tourism Malaysia. Tourism Malaysia took us to explore Sabah’s West Coast interior, including Kuala Penyu, Beaufort, Tenom, and Keningau. It was eye-opening to witness these lesser-known parts of Sabah with my own eyes, discovering unexplored attractions, cultural heritages, and preserved natural ecosystems.

A well-maintained boardwalk cutting through the rainforest makes an easy hike to mud volcanoes. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
A well-maintained boardwalk cutting through the rainforest makes an easy hike to mud volcanoes. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

This marine park comprises small uninhabited islands in Kimanis Bay, off Kuala Penyu and opposite the largely swampy Klias Peninsula. The largest island, Pulau Tiga, features active mud volcanoes at its highest point. The other two islands, Kalampunian Besar and Kalampunian Damit, often referred to as “snake island” due to the abundance of banded sea kraits.

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Initially classified as a forest reserve in 1933 and later designated as a marine park in 1978, Pulau Tiga is now managed by Sabah Parks, providing facilities and accommodation for visitors. The island’s diverse wildlife and surrounding coral reefs make it an ideal spot for snorkelling and diving.

One of the other two islands, Kalampunian Damit, are often referred to as "snake island" due to the abundance of banded sea kraits. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
One of the other two islands, Kalampunian Damit, are often referred to as “snake island” due to the abundance of banded sea kraits. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Pulau Tiga is not just a natural wonder but also an asset for Sabah and Malaysia. Although Sabah draws thousands of tourists annually, the island remains a lesser-known tourist spot. On the bright side, this contributes to the thriving natural ecosystem, which in turn helps with biodiversity conservation and marine protection.

This is important, especially when Malaysia is a part of the Coral Triangle Initiative, a multilateral collaborative partnership among six countries to sustain living marine and coastal resources by addressing crucial issues such as food security, climate change, and marine biodiversity.

Pulau Tiga Marine Park offers a plethora of attractions and experiences for those seeking a memorable vacation in Sabah. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Pulau Tiga Marine Park offers a plethora of attractions and experiences for those seeking a memorable vacation in Sabah. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Pulau Tiga gained global recognition in 2000 when it became the setting for the first season of the American reality show Survivor. Featuring 16 contestants battling it out for 39 days, the show showcased Pulau Tiga’s stunning scenery, mud volcanoes, snake island, and the local village. This exposure not only made Survivor a massive success but also inspired countless fans to experience the island’s beauty and adventure firsthand.

The marine park offers a plethora of attractions and experiences for those seeking a memorable vacation in Sabah. From relaxing on white sandy beaches and exploring the island’s trails to enjoying natural spa treatments at mud volcanoes and snorkelling in vibrant coral reefs, there’s something for everyone.

Mud volcano is said to have minerals that help to nourish and hydrate the skin, improve circulation, and promote cell regeneration. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Mud volcano is said to have minerals that help to nourish and hydrate the skin, improve circulation, and promote cell regeneration. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
I was delighted to find that the mud was very cooling. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
I was delighted to find that the mud was very cooling. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Hiking into Pulau Tiga’s mud volcanoes is made easy by a well-maintained boardwalk cutting through the rainforest. Along the way, enjoy the cooling temperature of the forest while taking pleasure in the surrounding trees such as ranggu and keruing, the two species that dominate the forest.

Although during our excursion, we only saw a few friendly long-tailed macaques, pied hornbills, and a few other island birds; according to the Sabah Parks Ranger who accompanied our hike, there are other birds such as nightjars, magpie robins, sunbirds, megapodes, pigeons, sea eagles, and other migratory visitors spotted in the open.

Long-tailed macaques can be commonly sighted on Pulau Tiga. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Long-tailed macaques can be commonly sighted on Pulau Tiga. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

Pulau Tiga Marine Park is located about 100 km to the southwest of Kota Kinabalu, about two to three hours of driving, depending on the traffic. Travellers may drive to Pulau Tiga Park Administration Office in Kuala Penyu to obtain tour packages to the marine park. I recommend travellers check with Sabah Parks before travelling to this park for further arrangements.

As an avid traveller who constantly advocates sustainability, it’s crucial to treat Pulau Tiga with care and respect to preserve its fragile ecosystem. Follow simple rules like respecting wildlife, avoiding littering, using reef-safe sunscreen, and supporting the local community.

I had the opportunity to visit Pulau Tiga during an Xpresi Media familiarization trip organized by Tourism Malaysia. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
I had the opportunity to visit Pulau Tiga during an Xpresi Media familiarization trip organized by Tourism Malaysia. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

This is because, beyond its natural beauty, Pulau Tiga holds important cultural and historical significance. Preserving Pulau Tiga isn’t just about environmental protection; it’s a commitment to safeguarding cultural heritage and honouring the island’s rich history.

Pulau Tiga beckons as a remarkable destination where nature, culture, and history converge to create a captivating experience. As visitors, let’s explore, enjoy, and learn responsibly, ensuring that this island remains a sanctuary for adventure, beauty, and inspiration.

It isn’t just a place to visit; it’s a place to be a survivor in the best possible sense – respecting, preserving, and celebrating the wonders it holds.

Although Sabah draws thousands of tourists annually, Pulau Tiga remains a lesser-known tourist spot. Photo by Ed Junaidi.
Although Sabah draws thousands of tourists annually, Pulau Tiga remains a lesser-known tourist spot. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

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