Off the coast of Kota Belud lies the small island of Mantanani. Actually Mantanani has two islands, Mantanani kecil and Mantanani besar. A trip here involves an 105 minute overland journey followed by a 60 minute boat ride. The island is virtually unknown to most people, although the indigenous Ubian fishing tribe here have for years sighted dugongs. The sheltered bays around the Mantanani Islands seem to provide the ideal habitats for dugongs. Sea grass beds are found on shallow sandy areas within the encircling fringing reef of the islands.
Visibility can go up to 40 metres and offers good muck diving and opportunities to see various rays and possibly reef sharks. Coral reef cover would have once been excellent in these stunning islands, sadly though, like many reefs throughout Southeast Asia they have been adversely effected by bomb fishing. Best time of the year to visit Mantanani is between March to August.
This knife shape like island has a beach that stretches up to 2,500 metres. The fact, that this thin island has never been commercialized, secures its hidden secrets from great number of divers and thus giving you a private but full enjoyment to the tropical island. Unfairly blessed with age-old shipwrecks and critters inhabiting in and around it.
The island promises the most diverse marine life with visibility up to 40 metres. Many species of rays flutter around like blue spotted ray and marbled sting ray amongst large schools of fish. Besides that muck diving is superb with the quiet existence of imperial shrimps, jaw fish ribbon eels, seahorses, pink-eyed gobbles and the jaw-dropping blue ringed octopus, amidst nudibranch of all sorts.
Another good place to start your dive is Ribbon Reef. The reef its self houses a variety of marine lives, On the descent. You will be greeted by the sight of ribbon eels, nudibranchs, lion fish and even marbled stingrays. The Pehen Rock offers unusual topography and plenty of bottom-dwellers. Around this dive site, one can possibly spot large rays and kingfish and more of a common sight is of course, the beautiful corals, stonefish, stingrays, sea slugs and frogfish.
The Clam Garden features an excitingly large giant clams about 1 meter long (3 feet). The giant clam, is the largest living bivalve mollusc. One of a number of large clam species native to the shallow coral reefs in Clam Garden Mantanani.
For the more experience divers, some wreck diving is called for. Three Japanese World War II ships lie halfway between Mantanani and the mainland. Their coral-encrusted hulls attract a variety of schooling fish and also large stingrays.