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Timba Timba Island is a remote tropical island located in the Celebes Sea off the eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia. This tiny island located to the northeast of Semporna off the coast of Sabah, is a good location for snorkeling. Timba Timba Island is relatively undeveloped, making it an ideal destination for travelers seeking a secluded and peaceful escape in a unique marine environment.

Coral reef at Timba Timba
The coral reef at Timba Timba Island’s western side (snorkeling area 1 on the map below).

How to get to the Timba Timba snorkeling spot

To access Timba Timba you will have to book a snorkeling tour with the nearby resorts of Mataking, Arcadia, or Pom Pom. You can also book a tour with the tour operators located in Semporna port.

The visit to this snorkeling spot is usually combined with a stop at nearby Pandanan Island. Tour operators can’t usually confirm in advance on which side of the island the snorkeling will take place.

Timba Timba Island snorkeling map
Timba Timba Island snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Timba Timba

You will enter the water from the boat following the instructions of your guide, based on currents and conditions. Snorkeling area 1 can be snorkeled from the shore.

The underwater scenery is quite different depending on which side of the island you’ll snorkel. The Western area has lavish corals but is poor in fish, while the Eastern area features a nice coral reef teeming with colorful fish and green sea turtles.

Timba Timba snorkeling exploration tips

On the two sides of Timba Timba, the coral reef extends from the island towards the open ocean very gradually with no sharp drop-offs. The corals are denser towards the shore and progressively become more scattered as you swim further.

Please note that during low tide on the western side (area 1) it may be hard to find an exit point in case of emergency. That is because the corals here almost reach the surface.

Reef life at Timba Timba.
Reef life on Timba Timba’s eastern reef (area 2 on the map). In the picture, you can see Orange-dotted tuskfish.

The best areas to explore are closer to the shore where the depth remains between 2 to 6 ft. This allows you to have a very close look at the reef.

Staghorn corals are the most common type with various colors such as green, purple and blue. Clubbed Finger, Starlet, and Finger corals are also common and incredibly healthy.

Coral reef at Timba Timba
Branching corals at Timba Timba (area 1).

In snorkeling area 1, there is very little to see on the side of a majestic reef with intact corals. Do not expect many fish here with the exception of the classic Sergeant Major patrolling the deeper section of the reef.

In snorkeling area 2, the scenery is quite different with an incredible diversity of reef fish (see species list at the bottom of the page).

Pair of green sea turtles at Timba Timba
A pair of green turtles encountered on the eastern reef (area 2).

It is also in the eastern area that green turtles are frequently seen swimming around. Turtles are not a common sight in the western area.

Restaurants and accommodation in the area

Timba Timba island itself has no hotels but a restaurant is located near the  stretch of sand that, on low tide, extends on the southern tip.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Maximum depth10 ft/3 m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • Potential DangersCurrents, rough waves
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsBoat tour fee
  • Restaurants nearbyOn the island

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

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.