KOTA BELUD: Blessed with several numerous scenic islands, Kota Belud is a well-known and exciting dive destination.
This is especially true for Mantanani Island — an island that was once renowned as one of the few places in Sabah to spot the dugong, otherwise known as the manatee or sea cow.
Today, Mantanani Island boasts some of the better coral reef health, with nearly 40 per cent of the island being dominated by live coral cover — which mainly consists of hard coral (according to the 2021 Reef Check Malaysia annual survey report).
Mantanani, which is home to a small Bajau Ubian fishermen community population, used to face major fish bombing threats in the previous years.
Nonetheless, with the reopening of the international borders and steadily growing opportunities in the ecotourism industry, Sutera@Mantanani Island Resort & Spa is hoping to create job opportunities for the local community from the neighboring villages, especially the youths who would otherwise emigrate to the city.
“The reopening of the international borders will not only revive the state economy and tourism industry that the pandemic has since weakened, but also provide a new career path and upskilling opportunity for local youths from the neighboring villages,” says Ho Wei Chan, Executive Assistant Manager at The Magellan Sutera resort/Sutera@Mantanani.
Realising Mantanani’s great potential as a travel destination, Sutera@Mantanani has also teamed up with Travel Box Sabah, the owner of DiverCity@Travel Box, which is the dive centre that operates on Sutera at Mantanani Resort, to promote Mantanani Island as a dive destination further.
“Although Mantanani is well-known amongst the active diving community, surprisingly, very few locals are familiar with Mantanani as a diving destination,” Bonny Wong Operational Manager at Travel Box said.
“People are generally more familiar with Sipadan and Semporna but not Mantanani,” Wong adds.
By promoting Mantanani Island as a dive destination, Travel Box hopes to attract young Bajau Ubian youths who may be interested in becoming divemasters.
“Fish bombing is usually done out of ignorance and lack of awareness of the importance of preserving our coral reef.
“Our dive masters are well-educated on the importance of sustainable fishing and preserving the coral reef,” said Dean Lee, divemaster and Operational Manager at Travel Box.
“Once you’ve gotten to know the ocean better and it becomes your source of livelihood, you will take great pride in preserving it. Hopefully, this awareness will catch on within the fishing community, slowly but surely,” Lee adds.
Mantanani Island boasts 19 dive sites, including three nearby dive wrecks dating from World War II.
Sutera@Mantanani Island Resort & Spa is located on Mantanani Besar Island — 90 minutes drive away from Kota Kinabalu City via Rampayan Jetty, Kota Belud (80 kilometres).
From Rampayan Jetty, it will take another 30-40 minutes boat ride to reach the resort.
Suitable for divers of all experience levels, Mantanani Island dive sites have recorded sightings of blacktip sharks, juvenile sea turtles, and even macro sea critters, such as seahorses, imperial shrimps, blue-ringed octopus and nudibranchs.
Sutera@Mantanani also offers relaxing Balinese massage and exclusive spa packages at Bali Bali Massage & Therapy to cater to tired and sun-soaked divers. For more info on current promotions, visit Sutera@Mantanani’s website at www.suteraatmantanani.com.
Press release and pictures by Kookie Jar.