Look up Mañana on the map of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo and you’ll quickly realise why many call this resort “off the beaten track”.
It was a seemingly long 1-hour drive down a winding road from Kota Belud towards the village of Kampung Pituru Laut. Looking a little lost, my driver pulled down his window and waved to a local on the side of the road.
“Something something Mañana”, I heard him say in Malay Bahasa.
I wasn’t surprised when the local shook his hand and pointed in the opposite direction. We were in the middle of nowhere and had obviously missed the turn. See, the thing is, even if you know about Mañana and know you want to go there, getting to Mañana is an adventure in its own.
“Here”, said the driver about 10 mins later, as we pulled over beside a little shack on a beach in the middle of a tiny village.
The water was pristine, but the beach was covered in debris with horses, cows, and dogs roaming freely just a few meters away.
“Surely, this isn’t it!” I thought to myself.
“You go by boat”, my driver informed me in broken English.
A few minutes later, backpack on my back and shoes in hand I walked into the warm ocean and climbed aboard a little boat that would take me to the other side of the bay to a true paradise called Mañana Borneo Resort.
Mañana is far from luxury. In fact, it’s probably the most basic and simple accommodation we stayed at during our time in Sabah. But it didn’t matter. It’s not Mañana’s amenities that make it a hit with travelers.
Mañana is all about disconnecting from the outside world and relaxing in a hammock with a book in hand. There is no wi-fi or phone reception in Mañana, but there is a beautiful beach, kayaks, canoes, board games, books, and just enough fellow travelers to exchange travel stories over a bottle of Tiger beer.
Maybe that’s not everyone’s definition of paradise, but it is ours.
But that’s not it. Turned out that Mañana Borneo Resort is located right next to a brand new dive shop called Bigfin Divers, and for those that are avid divers, that in itself is a highlight of a visit in Mañana.
“What dive sites do you go out to?”, I asked Ella, one of the owners and dive instructors at Bigfin Divers who was chatting away with other travelers in Mañana’s funky common area/restaurant.
“We actually discovered a few of our own sites”, she said, “…just about 30 mins away from the shore”, she gestured towards the clear blue water. “We are going out for a few dives in about 15 mins if you want to join”.
At first I hesitated. I had scouted the Internet for best dive sites in Sabah right before Max and I arrived in Sabah and dive sites near Mañana were definitely not on the list. My expectations were low, but I hopped aboard anyway.
To my great surprise, the dive was incredible! We stopped smack in the middle of the ocean and descended down to a beautiful coral garden that has grown over a set of boulder rocks at a dive site locally known as Mayne Rock. The colours were stunning, the marine life plentiful, and the dive site definitely deserves a spot on Sabah’s top diving sites. It’s a true gem, hidden away from hoards of tourists, yet easily accessible from Mañana Borneo Resort.
Later that evening back at the resort we gathered in the common area for a delicious meal and a few beers. We watched a beautiful sunset (the staff here told me that sunsets are incredible in Mañana, but I didn’t believe them until I saw it for myself), exchanged photos from our dives and other Sabah adventures, and traded travel stories.
The next day I caught some sun rays on the beach and lounged around the common room reading a book and catching up with a few other travelers who’d arrived earlier that day.
“You have to go diving here”, I told them, “it’ll be one of the best dives you’ve ever been on. It’s that good. oh and if you can, stay a while” I added feeling sad that my second day and last day in Mañana was coming to an end. “Stay and enjoy it now, before Mañana grows and expands and becomes yet another tourist hotspot”
I hope I’m wrong. I hope Mañana Borneo Resort continues to be Sabah’s little secret paradise, after all, it has been in operation for more than 5 years and has somehow managed to keep its low-key profile and relaxed atmosphere, despite being featured in Lonely Planet and other Sabah travel guides.
I hope you get a chance to visit it before it becomes something different than a beautiful and relaxing off the beaten track resort that it is today.
Disclaimer: My stay at Mañana Borneo Resort was provided courtesy of Sabah Tourism Board and diving was generously covered by Bigfin Divers. But any opinions expressed on this blog are always ours, no matter who is footing the bill.
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Does Mañana sound like your kind of paradise? Do you know of any other places in SEA or elsewhere in the world similar to Mañana Borneo Resort? We’d love to hear about them!
Essential Travel Info
Getting in: The easiest way to get to Mañana Borneo Resort is to hire a driver who will drop you off and pick you up at Kampung Pituru Laut. Sabah Holidays know the area and can help you arrange transport to the island (they arranged mine).
Getting to Mañana by public transport is tricky, but is possible. Read about it on Mañana Borneo’s FAQs Page
Where to stay: Book before you come, otherwise Mañana’s boat won’t know that you are arriving and you’ll end up waiting for a while at Kampung Pituru Laut for your pick up. Accommodation options at Mañana range from a dorm room for 40RMto family house for RM 350. Find out more here.
Activities: Sailing, kayaking, beaching, snorkeling, and of course DIVING! To learn more about diving off the coast of Mañana visit Bigfin Divers