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Pulau Banggi

"The ferry took one hour to reach Banggi Island. I was standing on the jetty and looked around. Hmmm… this island does not look anything like a tourist site. It is just an island, with some villages and building. The locals also looked at me, with the phrase “what is he doing here?” written on their faces. My 016 mobile line got no signal here. The fried banana is quite cheap though. Only RM1 (USD0.25) for 12 pieces, eat until I puke. The locals said I could rent a car to explore the island, and tourists usually went to this island for fishing. You can hire a boat to explore other islands nearby too."


Pulau Banggi is an island in the north of Sabah. It is located about 15 km off the coast of the city of Kudat. It is the largest island of Sabah. You leave Kudat by ferry and when you arrive at Banggi there is a guesthouse "Bonggi Resort" at the end of the main road. Turn right from the jetty and you will find it.
The indigenous population is called Bonggi and there are around 6,000. Most people on Banggi are fishermen. Some of them are wild boar hunters in the jungle. They also collect fruits and the like, which they find in the jungle. Due to the rise of tourism on the island, some residents now have access to jobs such as driver. They present themselves at the Karakit ferry to take tourists to remote places with their rusty, old pick-up trucks. The main food is tapioca, which looks like pudding.
It is a flat island largely covered with jungle. There are few hills, but it has beautiful beaches, including one near the jetty near the main town of Karakit. Since the island is largely covered with jungle, accessibility is a major issue. In particular land transport. There are hardly any good asphalt roads on this island. Most of the roads are muddy during the rainy season. That is why the remote villages on the island are not easily accessible to tourists. A lot of transport takes place with small boats by sea. Other basic necessities, such as electricity and water, are hard to find in these remote villages, making tourists shun this island.

Although Pulau Banggi is one of the poorest places on Sabah, this will be reversed by the arrival of tourism. The government acknowledges that there is a huge potential of tourism here, which will bring millions of dollars in revenue and, as a result, will increase the standard of living of the people on the island.
In the meantime, solar panels have been installed at Karakit and other remote areas of the island.


A number of tourist attractions on Pulau Banggi include the jungle, crystal clear sea water, white sandy beaches, as well as a non-hectic life away from civilization. Some outdoor activities that you could do here are exploring the island through land and sea, watching animals, watching birds, jungle trekking and spending a night in a treehouse.

But ........ if you want something exciting. Something you can talk about for months at home. Here it is: sea snakes!

Sea Snake

You can find it on Pulau Banggi (Banggi Island) just outside the city of Kudat SEA SNAKES. And not only in the sea. If you walk to the Bonggi Resort, you will come across a sign, on which you can read the following:

Attention!..SEA SNAKES
Scientific classification: Laticauda Colubrina
Family: Elapidae
Subfamily: Hydrophiinae

“This region is a residential area of sea snakes. A sea snake is a poisonous snake. It can reach 2 meters in length. There are more than 50 species of sea snakes. They usually live on the beach and in the sea and reproduce on land. A sea snake is not a threat to humans unless you provoke or hit it. So, when you see him, don't disturb or hit him, because it's a poisonous snake.”


Of course this sign was written in Malay and I only understood it on my second visit. It is incomprehensible to foreigners and they are not aware that there is danger.
The locals told me that the sea snakes landed the sea after 7 p.m. and that they go back to the sea around 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the morning. They like to hide in or under a tree. The poison of the sea snake is so powerful that a drop of it can kill 7 people. It is 3 times more toxic than cobra can kill. After a bite you can die within 2 hours! If you are very scared, go to bed early. Incidentally, there is little entertainment in the evening. You sit on your porch and lurk, whether you can discover a sea snake. The head is very small, unlike most other poisonous snakes. The difference is that the sea snakes are not so afraid of humans here. You can approach them within a few meters, without anything happening.

Just when I wanted to go inside, the locals came. They touched the snake and told me that this was a friendly snake. It was light in color. The dark one seems to be harder to approach. I know that a sea snake is not an aggressive animal, but to touch it like a pet goes too far for me. So I leave them alone.

Head of a sea snake




   Ben van Wijnen


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