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.
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.
During my trip, I was only with five other visitors, plus 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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Should this post make you want to visit Dinawan Island, book your tour with AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd. The day trip package includes two snorkeling sessions, fishing, kayaking, meals, and round trip land and sea transfers. You may also contact Nelson Lai directly at +60 17 862 3833 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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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