The beauty of Sabah’s islands is legendary. But while diving hotspots like Sipadan are having their moment, the archipelago has many other lesser-known islands such as the stunning Bohey Dulang
The glittering archipelago of Semporna is home to pristine, palm-lined islands – one of which is Bohey Dulang. Formed by the remnants of an ancient volcano, this mountainous landmass is the second-largest in Tun Sakaran Marine Park. Though an overnight stay on the island isn’t possible, it’s a popular day trip for birdwatching enthusiasts, trekkers and divers. But what truly sets it apart from other Bornean islands is the majestic view of archipelago from its highest peak – that view alone draws tourists year-round.
To get there, take a flight to Tawau and make your way to the fishing settlement of Semporna. Bohey Dulang is only a 35-minute speedboat ride away. Hire a private boat tour that gives you the flexibility to explore the island on your terms or opt for the island-hopping tours around the park that depart from the jetty each morning.
Before planning your escape here, here’s everything you need to know about Bohey Dulang.
1. It’s the second-largest island in the Tun Sakaran Marine Park
Tun Sakaran Marine Park, also known as the Semporna Island Park, comprises eight islands – Bodgaya, Sibuan and Bohey Dulang, to name a few – and two reefs. A shallow channel separates Bohey Dulang from the park’s largest island, Bodgaya. Entering the park will cost you between RM3 (for Malaysian nationals) and RM10 (for non-Malaysians) and these are sometimes included in the tour package fees. More information about the entrance and conservation fee is available on the official Sabah Parks website.
2. It’s a paradise for bird lovers
Bohey Dulang was originally gazetted as a bird sanctuary in 1933, before being recognised as a state park along with its neighbouring islands in 2004 by Sabah Parks. Remember to pack in your birdwatching gear – the island is rich in biodiversity and home to a wide variety of species such as pied hornbills, partridges, owls, fruit doves and more.
Read more: 7 places to go bird watching in Malaysia
3. Bohey Dulang viewpoint has arguably the best view of the archipelago
The views from Bohey Dulang’s highest point are what draws most people to the island. From the 353m-high viewpoint, visitors are greeted by an almost unreal panorama of the lagoon’s crystal-clear waters and the coral reefs that lie beneath. Getting to the top will take you roughly 45 minutes – follow the 600m hiking trail which winds around the island and leads you to the peak. It’s not an easy walk but the views from this vantage point are truly rewarding. Tip: Schedule your climb in the morning to avoid the daytime tourist crowd.
4. What was an extinct volcanic crater now forms the island’s beautiful lagoon
Bohey Dulang, along with neighbouring island Bodgaya and the parks’ reefs, were once part of an extinct volcanic crater. Now flooded with seawater, it’s resulted in the large, beautiful 25-metres deep lagoon today. Its southern side is open to tourists, and just below the surface you’ll find an extensive stretch of coral reef nestled on what was the southern crater rim.
5. Nomadic seafarers call it home
Approximately 2,000 people reside in the marine park – most of whom are the nomadic Bajau Laut people. Known for their seafaring ways, they live in stilted houses and houseboats around the park and you can see their day-to-day lives and livelihood up close at Bohey Dulang.
6. It’s possible to explore the entire island on foot
A ridge encircles the entire perimeter of the island. It is possible to cover it on foot if you follow the beach trail and mangroves – note that that this will be a rocky climb, though. Expect to see plenty of plant species, such as the rare orchid that’s native to the area, along the way.
7. Spend the night in a water villa on neighbouring islands
Most people visit Bohey Dulang on a quick stopover as part of their island-hopping tour, but to really appreciate its rich flora and fauna, consider budgeting a full day. While a night’s stay on Bohey Dulang (or any of the islands within the marine conservation area) is not possible, visitors can book water villas on the neighbouring islands instead. The rustic Lato Lato Resort is one such option, popular for its 360-degree views of Tun Sakaran Marine Park, while Pom Pom Resort offers mid-range wooden villas on its namesake island.
8. A giant clam center protects the parks’ endangered clams
The island is also home to the Giant Clams and Marine Invertebrate Hatchery, a research and conservation facility housed in a wooden stilt complex, overlooking the sea. As you might have guessed, rare giant clams are bred here. Launched in 2006, this hatchery is a collaboration between Malaysia’s Sabah Parks and the United Kingdom’s Marine Conservation Society. Visitors can check out the exhibition hall as well as the nurseries, where juveniles from seven of the world’s nine clam species are kept.
Watch this space for our next ‘Local Hidden Gems’ series!