Rejuvenating Romantically at Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island

White sandy beaches, pristine waters, exciting water sports, stunning sunsets and gorgeous underwater sites are some of the ultimate reasons why Manukan Island is simply one of the most popular islands in Sabah.

The million-dollar sunset that can be enjoyed at Manukan Island. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

White sandy beaches, pristine waters, exciting water sports, stunning sunsets and gorgeous underwater sites are some of the ultimate reasons why Manukan Island is simply one of the most popular islands in Sabah.

Furthermore, the island is just around 15 minutes by speedboat from Sutera Harbour Marina, which in turn is a mere 10 minutes’ drive from Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

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Manukan is the second largest island situated within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which is Sabah’s second national park that has been gazetted since 1974. It also consists of four other islands namely Gaya, Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug so that marine life and the ecosystem within it can be protected.


A serene view of one of the beaches at Manukan Island as day-trippers return to the mainland. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

Manukan is noteworthy because the island is the place where travellers can witness two mature trees called Bruguiera Hainesii (locally known as berus mata buaya) that belong to the extremely rare mangrove tree species. Interestingly, there are only 200 of such trees left in this world.

The jetty that will greet travellers as they arrive at Manukan Island.

Though there is an option for travellers to visit Manukan for a day trip, Gaya Travel Magazine team strongly recommends that travellers spend longer time here to further indulge themselves with everything the island has to offer by staying at Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island since the island feels completely different after all of the day-trippers return to the mainland.

Hillside Villa that is more preferable for couples.

There are three types of well-appointed lodges that travellers can choose from: Hillside Villa, Manukan Villa and Beach Suite. All of these lodges face the South China Sea, have direct access to the beach and come in relaxing creamy white hue. Each unit is equipped with air-conditioner, water heater and flat-screen television as well.

We experienced staying at Manukan Villa, which we found exceptionally cosy and spacious. At 1,512 feet squared, this villa can accommodate up to six persons and consists of two well-furnished bedrooms, two bathrooms, common toilet, pantry and living area. Yup, it is such indeed a place fitting for a BFF trip or family day gathering.

Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island provides not just one but two food and beverage outlets – The Arang Restaurant and Perahu Restaurant – that are conveniently next to each other. Arang Restaurant serves BBQ buffet meals and ala carte options, while Perahu Restaurant serves Western Asian fare and local delicacies. Irrespective of whichever outlet that guests are sitting in, they are allowed to order their food from either of them. We had the opportunity to savour the two best-selling dining items, which are Nasi Biryani Bamboo and Chicken Burger. With generous portions and delicious flavour, we swiftly understood why both are popular. Guests can request to dine within the comforts of their rooms too by dialling up room service.


Cabana dinner setup. Photo by Ed Junaidi.

However, to crank the dining experience up another notch, we recommend that couples choose the utterly memorable cabana dinner, which we experienced. Imagine enjoying your satiating meal during sunset by the beach accompanied by the soothing sound of waves breaking in the background as the sky turns dark and the moon begins to appear especially for you and your partner. If that is not enough, wait until a group of musicians approach your table to serenade you and your partner with two or three mellifluous ballads. It is such a perfect, dreamy moment to sentimentally propose to your partner or simply immerse in intimate conversation while being lullabied by the romantic atmosphere, which almost feels like a fragment from a music video or a movie scene…

As an island destination, Manukan is not short of complimentary outdoor activities such as volleyball, kite-flying, jungle-trekking and, of course, snorkelling, whereby travellers can request for the snorkelling gear from the front office as it is limited in number. In case the current does not permit guests to swim in the sea, the resort possesses a large outdoor pool near to the food and beverage outlets for guests to have a dip.

Other than that, travellers can even indulge in diving, jet ski, parasailing, and banana boat depending on the operators’ availability. Find out more information about diving activity in Manukan.

Sunset at Manukan Island
The million-dollar sunset that can be enjoyed at Manukan Island. Photo by Hasif Hamsyari.

When being on Manukan, guests should not miss taking in the sight of the million-dollar sunset that Sabah is internationally recognised for from the viewpoint located 40 minutes’ walk away (1.5 kilometres) from the resort. Sounds tiring? Fret not; the walk to the viewpoint is easy because the trail is paved and well-shaded by trees along the way. Once arrived, guests are bound to be rewarded by the glorious display of colours in the sky that slowly change from blue into shades of orange and vermilion with tinges of mauve as the sun sets.

Though travellers to Manukan do come and go, the resort has its certified longest in-house guests in the form of komodo lizards named Garry, Steven, and Maggie. These reptiles usually appear during lunch hour, so if you are lucky, you might be able to see them roaming around the area during the said time. They never harm anyone, but be sure to not step on their tails!

For obvious reasons, experiencing Manukan in less than a day is absolutely insufficient, thus the existence of Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island is the much-needed answer that guests seek as valid excuse to stay on this mesmerising island way longer…

For bookings and enquiries, contact Sutera Sanctuary @ Manukan Island at +6 015 4876 1800 / +6 017 833 5022. To find out more about the property, log on to their website.

This article is featured in Gaya Travel Magazine Issue 15.2.

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