Many interesting rare species can be found on the islands bordering Sabah’s almost 1, 500-kilometre coastline. One of the closest islands to Kota Kinabalu is Pulau Tiga which is accessible via road network to Kuala Penyu; about one-and-a-half hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu, followed by a 20-30-minute boat ride.
The main avian attraction here is the common megapode or Tabon Scrubfowl, a bird which somewhat resembles a domestic hen. It lays its eggs on the sand and covers them with a mound of rotting vegetable and sand, leaving them to incubate in the resulting heat.
The island of Mantanani is located at the northwest of Kota Kinabalu, accessible by road via Kota Belud to Rampayan, and then by a 1-hour boat ride. It is known for the Mantanani Scoops Owl which is found only in this island and in the southern Philippines.
Just south of the main island, Mantanani Besar; the small rocky islet, Lingisan, and Mantanani Kecil Island are protected as a bird sanctuary. These two spots are homes to the Lesser Frigate Bird and the Christmas Island Frigatebird, which flies to the Indian Ocean Island to breed each year.
A dramatic spectacle can be witnessed each dusk as thousands of huge black frigate birds come in to roost in the trees on Lingisan, which enables them to get airborne the very next day.
The Semporna islands from the large Bodgaya, Bohey Dulang and a scattering of other islands are protected as a marine park by Sabah Parks. Pandanan, Mataking, Mabul Island and the famous Sipadan dives sanctuary offer several interesting species.
Some species in Sabah such as the Nicobar Pigeon, the White vented Whistler, the Pied Imperial Pigeon are only found on these islands. Other species to look out for are the Lesser and Black Frigatebird, the Naped Fruit Dove, the megapode or Tabon Scrubfowl, and the Rufous Night Heron.
Layang Layang Island
Layang Layang Island is reachable by small plane and is an atoll some 300 kilometres northwest of Kota Kinabalu, close to the Spratly Islands. To support a dive resort and a Malaysian Navy Base, the original reef was built up into small rocky island which has been claimed as a safe breeding ground for migratory sea birds such as the Brown Booby, Black-naped Tern and Little Tern.
Thousands of birds flock here to lay their eggs on the sand or among the rocks with the original landing strip for the plan moved to ensure the protection of the nesting birds and their chicks.