Making the Most Out of Your Day Trip to Dinawan Island, Sabah, Malaysia

Making the Most Out of Your Day Trip to Dinawan Island, Sabah, Malaysia

BZFLAG Travel - Contributor Asia, Organized Tours, Travel Guides 35 Comments

Dinawan Island may not be the first thing that will come to mind when visiting Kota Kinabalu. It wasn’t in my case, and I had to Google it when my friend Ray told me that he managed to get me a complimentary tour to this particular island.

As I mentioned in my other Kota Kinabalu-related articles, I spent my birthday week in the capital city of the state of Sabah, Malaysia. So on the day of my birthday, May 4, I found myself being picked up in the hotel by Nelson Lai of AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd, the tour operator that I booked with. Marudu Express Travel Service Sdn Bhd is the authorized tour operator for Dinawan Island but guests may book through AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd.

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Dinawan is a privately owned island located southwest of Kota Kinabalu, in the town of Kinarut. To get there from the city center, you have to drive for around 20 minutes to the jetty on the Kinarut River, where you will then take a 15-minute motorboat ride to the island.

Once you reach Dinawan, you can pretty much do anything. It’s the perfect place for beach bummers, photography enthusiasts, and anybody who wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and be one with nature. As the owners want to preserve the beauty of the island, they limit day trippers to a maximum of 15 pax only.

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During my trip, I was only with five other visitors, Nelson and the tour guides, which I found ideal for such a lovely destination.

So what activities can you do to maximize your day trip in Dinawan? Here are some suggestions:

Snorkeling

After settling your stuff in the seaside restaurant, you will then be invited back to the motorboat for two snorkeling sessions. The gear is included in the package so you don’t have to bring your own. Each guest is assigned a guide who will bring him/her to the snorkeling area using a floater.

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Once you’re in the water, your guide will brief you on hand signals that you will use to communicate. It is important to note that if something wrong happens like water getting into your mask, just pull the floater for your guide to stop dragging you.

When everything is set, just enjoy the underwater scenery. You might see some interesting characters down there!

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We also spotted some illegal fishing nets while snorkeling. Our guides did not only drag us around the coral reef but were also removing the nets and setting fishes and other sea creatures free.

5 Things I Learned From Traveling Solo Abroad For The First Time 5

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Fishing

In contrast to the quite tiring snorkeling, the fishing activity in Dinawan is very relaxing, except maybe for the few instances where you’d be excited in catching a fish.

After regaining your energy through a filling lunch, you will once again board the motorboat which will take you to a nearby fishing area. You will be provided with fishing lines complete with bait.

If you happen to catch a tiny fish, expect it to be returned to the sea. That happened to me, twice.

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Kayaking

Just before it gets dark, guests may use the kayaks free of charge. Nothing to worry about for first timers (like me), as the water is shallow and you can easily stand up should your kayak turn over.

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You can paddle as far as you can, for as long as you want. I didn’t go too far because I was waiting for the sunset by the lagoon, which the guides said to be really beautiful.

Sunset watching

Get your cameras ready and take as many photos as you can while the sun goes down and transform the blue sky into an orange canvas.

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The other side of the island, the one facing the jetty, also has its own unique charm during sunset. We were fortunate to see a rainbow form as it rained in the mainland earlier.

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Celebrating a birthday

Probably the best decision I made was to celebrate my birthday here in the island. I informed Nelson about it earlier, but I never expected a surprise from the guides just before we sailed back to the city. Props to everyone who connived and kept me distracted so I won’t suspect anything, especially when they turned the lights off and out came one of the guides holding an improvised cake.

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Should this post make you want to visit Dinawan Island, book your tour with . The day trip package includes two snorkeling sessions, fishing, kayaking, meals, and round trip land and sea transfers. You may also Nelson Lai directly at +60 17 862 3833 and [email protected].

Staying overnight on the island is also possible. At 900RM ($220) for two people, guests will have a good night’s sleep in one of the 20 chalets in Dinawan and experience all the inclusions of the day trip package.

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Those staying overnight will wake up to this view of the South China Sea

Note: The tour was sponsored by AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd, but the opinions in this article are my own.

Special thanks to Ray Pang for connecting me to AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd, and to Nelson Lai and everyone in Dinawan Island for making my trip memorable.

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Comments 35

  1. that place looks amazing, I would love to go there and witness this for myself some day! I love the photos you took, it looks like true paradise out in Dinawan Island… thanks for sharing this (as I have never heard of this!)

  2. Oh my god, this definitely looks like Paradise. I wanna visit the place so bad. It was always my dream to visit those kind of paradisiac places and get to know the local. I love fishing as well and to fish in those exotic places of the world but also learn technics from the locals is so interesting. I also never scuba diving but I really want to try. It looks amazingly beautiful!

  3. One of my friends used to do a lot of work in Sabah as part of WWF. But this is the first time I saw photos of Sabah. Your photos are lovely! made me want to check out this place. Did you notice any security issues while travelling to Sabah?

    1. Hi Teresa, I didn’t encounter any alarming security issue when I went to Sabah. Just be prepared with your return ticket as they are a bit cautious when it comes to Kota Kinabalu-bound passengers from Manila. There have been instances where some would go to KK with the intention of staying there illegally. Other than that, nothing to worry about. Everyone is so friendly and helpful there!

  4. A beach bummers paradise for sure!
    I really appreciate the beauty of snorkelling, so many wonders of the oceans with huge varieties of coral species.

  5. Snorkeling, fishing and sunset, that is a perfect Vacation for me. I love the corals shown in the picture and you have a nice catch there. The sunset looks perfect as well.

  6. What a beautiful place to spend some time at! I have visited Malaysia before and snorkeled in the Perhentian Islands. I remember how beautiful the underwater world was. I would have panicked though if I would have seen a snake.

  7. Three of the favorite things I would want to do – snorkeling, sunset watching and celebrating a birthday. Such beautiful underwater. And surely even If I spend an hour or two underwater, i would love everything under. The water is so clear.

  8. This destination seems to be perfect for a total stress-free recreation! Specially for people who are water sports enthusiasts. Loved the photos and recommendation! . It reminds me actually of my island hopping escapade in Palawan, Philippines. I’d have to say Palawan is better though. 😉 I wonder how big the Dinawan island is, and if there are other sites to see on the island itself? Like a jungle with trails or an ecopark, maybe?

    1. Dinawan Island is pretty small, and I think you can go around it with a quick jog along the sand. There are plans to add more activities, too. Hope you visit soon!

  9. The place looks like something where you can do a time away from everything. I got sad about the illegal fishing nets. It’s a good thing that you were there to take them. But we are still not sure how many are out there. 🙁

    1. There are still some nets that could not be removed as they might destroy the corals. Hope you visit Dinawan Island soon!

  10. Holy S. Crown of thorns. If they do not have triton shells in the sea in that area, those evil starfish should be taken off the water because they eat more than a sqm of corals a day. I wanted to appreciate the beautiful island pero I am also wary of marine life. Illegal fishing nets tell me that in the area, there is a great need to educate the locals. Those marine life could bring in more from tourism than the few fishes they catch, that method of fishing is not good for I am pretty sure they do not throw back the small ones to allow them to grow and multiply.

    1. Hi Robert,

      The guides that removed the nets threw back the small fishes into the sea. We also did the same when we went fishing. Dinawan Island is a beautiful place, and it’s sad that there are illegal nets near that area.

  11. Oh wow what a remote little island! I love that you take different modes of transport to get there too!! Pictures are amazing and how great that you went snorkling! Not so great to hear about the illegal fishing nets but amazing that you helped clear them and set sea animals free!! There is so much you can do there and what a beautiful view of a rainbow you were luck enough to see!!

    1. Hi Francesca! Yes, there are a lot of things to do in Dinawan Island. Not a lot of people, locals included, that know about it. If you want some peace and relaxation, this is the place to be!

    1. Thanks Stephanie! Add Dinawan Island to your list when visiting Sabah and you won’t regret it. 🙂

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