Mantabuan Island is inhabited by a small, friendly community of Sea Gypsies (Bajau Laut), who live in houseboats called lepa-lepa or stilt houses built over coral reefs. It is not uncommon for visitors to be invited into their homes for a fresh coconut or two.
The Malaysian army operates a military base on the island and if you’re lucky enough, you may get the chance to snap a photo inside the army outpost, complete with artillery and sandbags.
There are no bicycles, cars, or fancy commercial developments and visitors to the island are far and few in between.
Things To Do
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
Pulau Mantabuan is a hot spot for snorkeling and diving activities. Marine life commonly found in the area include sea turtles, blue-spotted stingrays, crocodile fish, puffer fish and the rare black coral.
Several dive resorts/operators organize snorkeling and diving day tours to Pulau Mantabuan.
Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) Village
There is a small, friendly community of Bajau Laut living in Pulau Mantabuan.
There are no hotels or resorts on Mantabuan Island or any of the other islands within Tun Sakaran Marine Park.
Most visitors to the island prefer to stay in the coastal town of Semporna, where accommodation and dive packages are cheap.
Mantabuan is located about ±35 minutes by boat from Semporna, ±20 minutes from Pom Pom, ±30 minutes from Mataking and ±1.5 hours from Mabul.
Mantabuan Island is in fact a sand cay formed from the eroded remains of surrounding coral reefs, with an elevation of about 1-2m above sea level. The islet is flat with a sandy beach running all the way round.