Welcome to our new occasional series, Lost & Found, that highlights the hidden ‘gems’ of Malaysia – destinations that are lesser known or may have been around for some time and are now being rediscovered – to help boost domestic tourism as well.
“Are you kidding me?”
That was my inner voice responding to the sight before me.
A diamond-shaped lagoon twinkling in the sun!
What had me gaping, though, was the size of it. It truly felt that right before me was the biggest lagoon I’ve ever seen in Malaysia. And besides the size and the sparkling waters, it was a natural saltwater infinity pool, for there was a break at one end as it connected to the South China Sea.
As it was low tide, there was a sandbank strip that cut the “diamond” in two; the south side was shallow enough for kids to splash about safely.
What makes this lagoon even more special is that there is a narrow strip of beach of fine sand at the south end fronting the sea which faces the river mouth of Sungei Kinarut (the main river in Kinarut). Between the mainland coast and the beach is a small sandbank where you can “beach” yourself and take in amazing views of the sunset and the lagoon.
What is this magical place? It is the private island of Dinawan which has two portions – Dinawan Kecil (or Little Dinawan) where the lagoon is and the resort now called Sunset Bay Chalet, and Dinawan Besar (Big Dinawan) where another resort is located (now abandoned).
Joining the two portions is the beach that runs from Little Dinawan all the way to the end of Big Dinawan even at high tide.
This precious little island has been around as a destination for some time but time and circumstances have seen it languishing. There is now a fresh attempt to let visitors partake of its charms.
To get to the island, one has to travel 20 minutes south-west from Kota Kinabalu (KK) and, before the town of Kinarut, there is a jetty on Kinarut River from where you can take a 15-minute motorboat ride to the island.
The waters are normally quite calm so assuage your worries about feeling nauseous.
As you reach the clear waters of Little Dinawan, you will see the lagoon before you. This portion is like a hilly mound. There are 20 chalets here that can accommodate two guests each. You have the choice of a lagoon view, sea view or hill view.
As it is a private island, access to it can only be arranged through the sole agent Marudu Express Travel Service. They will arrange transport from KK, the boat to the island and your accommodation.
For day trips, there is either the morning or the afternoon session. The morning package includes lunch, two snorkelling dips (including gear) from a boat and complimentary use of the kayaks at the island. For the afternoon one, it’s similar but tea and dinner are provided, plus the opportunity to catch the spectacular sunset and even a firefly sighting tour upriver when you are transferred back to the jetty.
I was just satisfied laying back and watching the sea and the kayakers, and walking on the beach.
Right now, you basically have the island to yourself and not have to share it with droves of tourists. During my day trip, there were only four visitors on the island – a group from Tamparuli (about an hour from KK), also on a day trip. They said they were very happy with the island and expressed surprise at hearing about it through some friends only recently.
They did wish for more activities and were all smiles when told there were plans to do so but only eco-friendly ones.
I was informed that among the island’s “inhabitants” were hornbills but I was not lucky enough to see any. There were chickens running around, though, that would not be out of place on a catwalk. Apparently a group of tourists from China who visited the island recently seemed quite taken with them. Ah, one never knows what fascinates people!
My short holiday in KK was supposed to be one of pure relaxation and stuffing my face. But fate decreed that I should venture out and discover this hidden gem.
For enquiries, contact Marudu Express (tel: 088-210 900 / 017-8313 495 / 016-8123 616 or marudutravel @gmail.com).
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