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Pulau Sapi, located just ten minutes by boat from Kota Kinabalu, is one of the most accessible snorkeling spots in Sabah. On its shallow reefs, protected by a National Park, snorkelers can expect to see butterflyfish, groupers, parrotfish, and several species of anemonefish.

Coral reef in Pulau Sapi
Pulau Sapi’s reefs are made of a good diversity of coral species.

How to get to the Pulau Sapi snorkeling spot

Pulau Sapi (Sapi Island) is the second smallest island of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, near Kota Kinabalu city.

The cheapest way to reach this spot is to get to the island by boat from Kota Kinabalu. The round trip costs RM30pp. (2020), to which must be added RM10pp. (for foreigners) for the National Park conservation fee. The boat trip takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Many tour operators in the region also offer all-inclusive tours to Pulau Sapi and other islands in the National Park. These trips usually include boat transfer, conservation fees, lunch, snorkeling equipment, and a guide. Price ranges from RM150 to RM180 per person for the day.

Pulau Sapi snorkeling map, Sabah

Water entrance for snorkeling Pulau Sapi

You can enter the water directly from the sandy beach. Area 1, to the left of the pontoon, is the most recommended snorkeling location.

Pulau Sapi snorkeling exploration tips

There are two recommended snorkeling areas in Pulau Sapi, located on either side of the pontoon from which you reach the island. These areas match the swimming areas bound by buoy lines. Beyond that point, the boat traffic makes snorkeling dangerous.

Clark's anemonefish in Pulau Sapi
The Clark’s anemonefish is one of the clownfish species that live at Pulau Sapi’s reefs.

It is to the left of the pontoon, in front of the main beach, that the most lively seabed is found (area 1 on the map). Here, a coral reef stretches from the beach to the rocky point that closes the small bay. On the other side (zone 2 on the map), the reef is less extensive and more sandy.

Parts of the reef are well preserved with a nice diversity of corals, such as branching coral, finger coral, brain coral, and mushroom coral. Numerous crinoids and sea anemones are also found on the reef.

Crinoid in Pulau Sapi
A crinoid, or sea lily, found on the reef.

Among the anemones, you will spot several species of anemonefish. The most common are the ocellaris clownfish, the spinecheek anemonefish, and the Clark’s clownfish.

Several species of butterflyfish, parrotfish, rabbitfish, sergeants, damselfish, and groupers are also easy to see on this spot. With a little luck, you might note a cuttlefish camouflaged on the seabed.

Restaurants and accommodation nearby

There is a snack/café, a mini-market, and a snorkeling equipment rental stand on the island. If you opt for a day trip, lunch on the beach is usually included. To be confirmed when booking.


  • Level required Beginner
  • Protected areaTunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
  • Maximum depth12ft/4m on the reef
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsBoat transfer + conservation fee (RM40pp.) or snorkeling tour
  • Restaurants nearbySmall café/snack and shop on the island

MAP Spot

These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.