I Saved Myself Almost A Hundred Ringgit for Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Tour

2016. 
Yesterday while waiting for my Aunt Fely at the Belgian Waffle Kiosk, I found myself adrift. A good memory flooded to me as I was sipping a Malaysian Mild Coffee.
"Early morning walk led me here at Jesselton Terminal"
It was 2011 when I had my first travel abroad. I was so young then - very vibrant with all the optimism a young lady of her early 20's could ever imagine. I grew up confident. I was raised in a way where human relations and interaction is already innate. Given that I was bratty before and carefree, I booked a month trip to Kota Kinabalu. Not a tinge of anxiety was in me. I was ready to leave my comfort zone and dedicate myself to traveling. 
The date finally arrived. I was already in NAIA passed the immigration. I was so confident that I could make it on my own. The plane's engine exhilarated me and after a few hours, I was already in Sabah, Malaysia. Ready to see a country almost a replica of the Philippines.
Fast forward to Day 2 - November, 2011.
I stumbled on Jesselton Terminal in a busy urban street of Kota Kinabalu, a young man of his 20's approached me for a ferry trip around Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. I hesitated but then smiled at him sensing that he meant no harm. After a few minutes, when he learned that I am a Filipina, he called out his other ferry buddies and the next hours, we were seated in one of the kiosks of the terminal chitchatting about almost everything.
"Serene and bright"
"That's Dino before others swarmed around the table."
A man who was half-Filipino and half-Malaysian ordered "teh tarik" for me. I learned that "tarik" means "pull" and "teh" means "tea". I was delightful. The conversation went on while I was already feeling comfortable with these jetty operators. Finally, Dino, the Malaysian young man was convinced that he would tour me around the island parks for free.
"Can't quite remember the name of this island"
"Selamat Datang!"
I didn't have any idea about the marine park. I was only focused on visiting Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia as my travel plan but then who was I to decline from an exciting offer. To note, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a cluster of islands - Pulau Gaya, Pulao Sapi, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sulug. (Pulau - island). The tour will take you from one island to the next basically for sightseeing, island hopping, swimming and snorkeling.
"A good place to relax"

One unforgettable experience that I had was when I went swimming alone in a partly secluded area of Mamutik Island. The beach was covered with white sand and the water was totally tempting for a swim. As I busied myself in the water, I saw something approaching to the shoreline out from the shady forest. A reptile which I thought as a Komodo Dragon. I panicked. The pump of my epinephrine was a thousand times normal. I got a hang of my clothes while looking at the very calm 5-meter reptile which at that time already claimed the sea. With normalized breathing and steady pulse rate, I found out that it was not a Komodo Dragon but a huge monitor lizard. But still, I stayed away from the beach as much as possible. I was still very scared.
"This is the very spot where a monitor lizard almost joined me for swimming."
"One of the Malaysian students whom I toured around the island"
"Yes. Malaysia took part of the World War 2."
The jetty operator, Dino, left me for some hours while he was fetching other tourists. I thought of myself how lucky I was to tour the marine park for free. So to compensate, I volunteered myself to be a tour guide for his next tour. While he was away, I wandered around Mamutik Island while meeting some other operators and I even met one who worked in the Marine Museum. He walked with me and introduced me to different species of marine life abundant in Sabah, Malaysia. It was worth it. 
"The Chinese-Malaysian who toured me in the Marine Museum"
"Skeleton of a Bryde Whale Skull"
"Giant Clam"
Dino arrived after a few minutes together with 4 Malaysian students who were having their convention in Kota Kinabalu. I told Dino that I could handle the students (given that they speak and understand English and they did). 
I was successful. The Malaysian students from Kuala Lumpur even invited me for dinner after the tour. But I declined because I was up to something - the Atkinson Clock Tower.

I thanked Dino until now because he taught something more important than money. 
Trust. Camaraderie. Patience.

* If it was not for free then I could have paid the following in RM (Malaysian Ringgit):
  •  Jesselton Terminal Fee - RM7.20
  • Manukan Island - RM23
  • Mamutik Island - RM23
  • Sapi Island - RM23
  • Sulug Island - RM23
  • Two Island Hop - RM33
  • Three Island Hop - RM43
  • Four Island Hop - RM53
  • Admission Fee for each island - RM10 (non-Malaysian)
Facts: 
1. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park opens daily from 8:30A.M. to 5P.M. 
2. It is accessible via speedboat about 15-20 minutes from Jesselton Terminal
3. There are friendly jetty operators around so you won't worry about the island tour. 
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About Marie Angelique Villamor

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