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Diving @ Mantanani Island


The Island

The Mantanani Islands form a small group of three islands off the north-west coast of the state of Sabah, Malaysia, opposite the town of Kota Belud, in northern Borneo. The largest island is Mantanani Besar; the other two are Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan. It is a popular site for recreational diving as there are three nearby dive wrecks dating from the Second World War, as well as being known for its dugongs.


Kayaking at Mantanani Beach



Diving in the deep blue sea


What's Interesting at Mantanani

  • The Dugongs
    Dugongs are often called sea cows due to their large size and herbivorous nature. While they may consume over 15 different species of sea grasses, their preferred varieties (which are found in abundance on Mantanani) are species of the genera Halodule and Halophila. Dugongs consume vast quantities of sea grass: a fully-grown dugong will eat up to 35 kg per day, a tenth of its body weight. As they pluck up the sea grass, the dugongs leave tell-tale meandering paths of white sand in their wake -- a feeding trail.
    Dugongs do not consume the blades of the grass alone, but pluck up the nutritious rhizomes, or roots, growing under the sand. Since they require such large quantities of sea grass each day, they may have to move between feeding sites allowing grazed areas to regenerate. Despite their large dimensions of over 3m in length and 350 kg, dugongs can reach top speeds of 25 kmh. The average cruising speed of 10 kmh can be sustained for long periods and the dugong may travel for hundreds of km in just a few days. The pectoral flippers are used for steering and braking, and also for sculling to keep the head above water when it breathes in choppy seas.
  • Birdwatching
    For birdwatchers, the Mantanani group is good for seeing birds that usually nest on islands, because of their relative lack of terrestrial predators, and are rarely or unpredictably seen on the mainland. Mantanani Besar is the only place in Sabah to see the Mantanani Scops Owl. Other island specialists include the Pied Imperial, Grey Imperial and Nicobar Pigeons, and the Philippine Megapode. The Blue-naped Parrot is locally extinct. Lungisan Island has a nesting cave colony of German's Swiftlets and is an important roost for frigatebirds.

 Clownfish swimming around corals

Divers ready to dive

Enjoying buffet in Mantanani 


Dive Fact Sheet


What to expect : Marble Stingrays, Eagle Rays and Groups of Dugongs swimming around you
Average Visibility : Above 30m
Average water temperature : 25 - 28 °C


Getting There

The islands are accessible by a one-hour speedboat journey from Kuala Abai jetty, Kota Belud, 80 km north-east of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. Mantanani Besar contains a small resort, catering mainly to scuba divers, and Mantanani Kechil a small dive lodge.