Bird Watching at Mantanani Island

Mantanani Island Bird Watching

Bird Watching at Mantanani Island, Sabah, is one of the highlights when you visit this beautiful tropical paradise.

According to many bird watchers, this island is one of the top spots to see some of the migrating birds in this region and some rare species.

Apart from the island having only three resorts, they cater primarily to divers and snorkels who mostly go there for day trips; therefore, it is relatively peaceful if you spend a couple of nights on the island.

Bird Watching at Mantanani Island

Mantanani comprises three islands off the northwest coast of Sabah, Malaysia, where the nearest land town is Kota Belud in northern Borneo.

The largest island here is Mantanani Besar, while the other two smaller islands are Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan.

For birdwatchers, Mantanani island is good for seeing birds that usually nest on islands because of their relative lack of terrestrial predators and are rarely or unpredictably seen on the mainland.

Mantanani Besar (Big Island) is the only place in Sabah where you can spot the endemic and unique Mantanani Scops Owl and several water birds.

Other island birds spotted include the Pied Imperial, Grey Imperial and Nicobar Pigeons, and the Philippine Megapode. They are quite easy to spot as the island is not very big too.

One of the star birds is the Blue-naped Parrot, but it is locally extinct. Lungisan Island has a nesting cave colony of German Swiftlets and is an important roost for Frigate birds, where you can find one of the main roosting places for three species of Frigate birds in Sabah.

Mantanani Birding
A Philippine Glossy Starling was spotted at Mantanani Island.

What else does Mantanani Island Offer?

The island on the west coast of Sabah is also well known for recreational diving, as three dive wrecks dating from the Second World War.

On a busy weekend, the island attracts many day-trippers and divers from the city of Kota Kinabalu, which is about two hours away.

For scuba divers, macro life is abundant and promises crystal clear visibility. However, there are not many large fish spotted.

A few years ago, Mantanani island was quite well known for its dugong or sea cows, but on my last scuba diving at Mantanani Island, the locals informed me that the Dugong is no longer spotted here. 

Bird Watching Binoculars Malaysia
Omicron Optics in Malaysia, binoculars I use for my bird watching

Bird Watching Tours to Mantanani Island

A few Sabah tour companies arrange birdwatching trips to Mantanani and other islands around Saba's west coast.

But for the serious birder, you should inquire with the respective tour company and let them know your reason for going there. At least they can prepare a proper and necessary itinerary for you and your team.

The best part about visiting this island paradise is that you can bring your family along as there is a beautiful beach which is pretty quiet for sun tanning, snorkelling, and even general photography.

Alternatively, you can visit Birdwatching Asia for more birding news around Malaysia, the only birdwatching info blog in Malaysia.

Pulau Mantanani
View of Mantanani island beach

As for other locations around the country, I have also done an article about the best birdwatching spots in Malaysia if you want to explore these beautiful places.

There are also many well-known areas for birdwatching in Sabah, which is spread out in rainforests, forest reserves, and even mountains.

Those are mainly for the land birds; hence this island is one of the sought-after and preferred locations for bird watching in Sabah Borneo.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.


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