“There is sea walking? I haven’t tried that yet!” I excitedly told my companions when I saw it in our itinerary. We were off to the Borneo Reef World, a pontoon just off the Pulau Sapi and Pulau Gaya, within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park area. What’s a pontoon? It’s a floating barge, used as docking support for boats and even sea planes. The Borneo Reef World Pontoon however is a new reef activity pontoon (months only since opening 3rd quarter of 2012) that aims to offer visitors a slew of water activities that showcases the richness of Kota Kinabalu’s marine life.
Measuring 888 square meters, it is considered the largest activity pontoon in Asia. I asked what’s with the 888 number? It’s simply for good luck and it seems to be working well as it has passed 4 major storms already without a glitch. On board, the area is divided among the dining area, changing rooms, toilets and the upper deck is for those ready to chill out on the sun beds and take in the site. I’m impressed with the cleanliness of the restrooms and how they kept the equipment organized.
The Pontoon actually has 2 levels, there’s a sub-level submerged, Underwater Observatory. It isn’t that large but it is very interesting to see the plenty marine life crowding under the pontoon. And boy there were lots of them. Some of us even saw a lone barracuda in search of food and got it on cam. It’s a great starting point to see what the reef in this area has to offer. Access to this underwater observatory is free.
Snorkeling by the Pontoon
This is another activity I was looking forward to. Visit to the Pontoon includes free use of snorkeling gears including fins. The staff encourages visitors to snorkel only on one side of the pontoon facing Pulau Gaya as the other side is busy with boat traffic. The snorkeling area is also restricted to the rope-enclosed area to prevent people from reaching the shallow waters near the island and avoid the damage to the corals. Pretty strict but at least they allow people to free dive and snorkel without a life vest.
I found the snorkeling quite good, it would have been spectacular with better visibility. Having been to Palawan for months though, I found the corals here less colorful and limited in variety. But that may only be the case for the small enclosed area as I found the corals much more interesting beyond the restricted line. Water depth is somewhere between 10-15 feet and there are floatation devices in the area for snorkelers to hold on to and rest.
While snorkeling, I could see some of my companions already enjoying the sea walking activity. A few steps down , guests can walk on a short underwater platform. There’s a small collection of corals at the end of the platform guest can admire. When it was my turn, the staff gave a briefing of the necessary hand signals when underwater. The sea walking helmet used weigh about 30 kg, enough for guest to keep themselves underwater.
I could feel the pressure in my ears building as I slowly descended the stairs but everything stabilized once I got to the platform. It’s a very surreal world down there. I just wish the area for exploration was as lot bigger though but it was an interesting experience. Guest are only allowed up to 20 minutes stay underwater. It’s a perfect activity for non-swimmers and non-divers to experience and enjoy an underwater activity at the pontoon. There’s an RM 150 for the Sea walking activity which includes a certificate.
Borneo Reef World
Aside from Sea walking (or ocean walking) and snorkeling, Borneo Reef World also offers diving for certified and non-certified divers, motorized kayaks, parasailing, banana boats, helicopter rides or even transfers to the nearby islands all with corresponding fees. The fee for visiting the pontoon does include return transfers from Kota Kinabalu to the pontoon, tea/coffee break snacks and lunch. Visitors are advised to bring their own towels though.
I really enjoyed my time there at the pontoon. I thought its a very good concept to have one amidst this marine sanctuary. It’s a one stop-shop for marine activities and I’m pretty sure the Tunku Abdul Rahman park does deliver the natural goods. What I also like about the pontoon is that the staffs are so personal. Everyone there were accommodating and would make sure that we’re having a great time. And yes we did tiring as it may be with all the water activities, but its the good kind of exhaustion.
Borneo Reef World
Corporate and Sales Office
Suite 2-4, 2nd floor,
Kompleks Asia City, Jalan Asia City
88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
- Adults (Above 12yo) – RM 360
- Child (4-12yo) – RM 230
*Fee includes Jetty Fee (RM 7), PA Insurance (RM 3) and Fuel Surcharge (RM 30)
Zest Air flies to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 9:35am from NAIA Terminal 4 (formerly Old Domestic Airport) Metro Manila. 2 hours travel time. Zest Air and AirAsia recently got into a strategic partnership. All Zest Air flights can now be booked through www.airasia.com
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.