KUDAT: At low tide, a small island of coral fragments presents itself in the middle of the sea near Malubang village in Pitas, near here.
It takes a two-hour slow boat ride or 40-minutes on a speed boat to reach the floating coral island from Kudat. At low tide, one can walk from one end to the other, giving out a feeling of strolling along a beach in the Maldives.
Situated within the Tun Mustapha Marine Park, the 1km-long island is surrounded by shallow-water corals and crystal-clear water, making it an ideal sustainable tourism product.
Seeing the potential of developing a floating bar, Archangel Borneo Holiday owner Victor Tan Vui Kiong took the initiative to discuss with Sabah Parks and Malubang villagers on how best they could manage tourism on the floating coral island.
“We came with the idea of developing a floating coral bar, where people can come and have their meal while having their feet soaked in the sea.
“At the same time, they can enjoy doing water activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and canoeing.
“In the Maldives and Caribbean islands, visitors can enjoy a water dining experience. If they can do it there, why not Sabah.
“The floating coral is a unique attraction and just as beautiful as Maldives,” he said.
Being part of the stakeholders, Victor added, Archangel Borneo Holiday intended to work with the local community because developing tourism on the floating coral meant there would be economic opportunities for villagers.
Supirak Tourism Association chairman Moktar Amirol said the community had been wanting to introduce Malubang as a potential tourism destination.
He said Victor had been aggressive in bringing villagers to help commercialise the floating coral island.
With the development of a floating coral bar, he said Malubang villagers would be exposed to tourism activity and see it as an economic boost to them.
“Through the collaboration, we established a community package whereby 26 boats belonging to villagers are used to bring in local visitors, while Archangel Borneo Holiday focuses on bringing international tourists.
“The villagers also help to provide meals and drinks for visitors on the floating coral bar. The food is freshly prepared, and we usually serve seafood,” he said.
Since the floating coral bar was opened to the public in April, it has received quite a number of Chinese and European tourists.
It has facilities such as a floating jetty, floating deck, dining tables and chairs, huts, and a swing. When it is high tide, the island of coral fragments will be submerged.
Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais said the local community was encouraged to find supportive and sustainable attractions within the Tun Mustapha Marine Park area, including developing guesthouses.
“We will continue to support good business and ensure that activities carried out within the marine park will not be harmful to the environment,” he said, adding that Sabah Parks was charging a conservation fee.
Tun Mustapha Park is Malaysia’s biggest marine park, spanning approximately 898763ha and promises better marine protection and conservation in this part of the world.
It is located off the districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas right up to the Balabac Strait.