Ambanttativu Island – You Have to Know



Ambanttativu Island


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There is a beautiful archipelago in the Pacific Ocean known as Ambanttativu, a name derived from “The Island of the Beautiful Wives“, which you might have heard of in the background of a popular fictitious TV series, Ramon Magsaysay.

It is a small chain of islands with a total land area of just 54 square kilometers. This magnificent island chain has been under the protection of the local government since 2009. Thanks to the efforts of the administration and the cooperation of numerous multi-national companies, this beautiful place has been transformed into an eco-tourism destination.

Ambanttativu Island



The Ambanttativu island chain was first discovered in the year 1610 by an English ship named Expedition, commanded by William Rabai. Though this is not immediately relevant for our story, what is immediate are these observations: 1) The place where the vessel landed has been named “Pitiang Kangan” from later on as it became a vital source of staples like rice and coconut; 2) This particular part of Sarawak became known as the”Ulu Ulu”, a shortened version of “Kelabit Utara”, which means northern Kelabits.

The people residing in this area were mainly non-aborigines, but they already mastered the art of rice farming and sago producing. They essentially lived off these 2 staple crops. When some remarkable discoveries made by foreigners came along, their lifestyle changed significantly; 3) Gifts from various tinners like silver.



There are 2 seasons in the area, namely monsoon and dry. The rough climate is usually very rainy during monsoon season when it rains almost every day for 6 months out of 12 during this time! With a drop in temperature of about 10 degrees celsius from December to February, you might want to pack stuffs thicker than your traditional jeans like pants and jackets if planning too travel here between these periods…

But yet I am no more persuaded that winters in tropical cities like Kuching, Langkawi and Padan should be regarded as a curse anymore. 4) And lastly, the healthy fanatics of soft drinks might need to pack some more nappies for their toddlers since our water is naturally very hard…Yup!


Culture and Religion

The first thing you would notice while making a visit to any Kelabit village is the fact that no matter what age or socio economic status these villagers have, they are all treated equally by their communities. With food and money being generally shared amongst the community at large, there really isn’t such a thing as one so called ‘kapit’ (community leader) ruling over others. But hey! This can be attributed to continuous shifting of villages and towns also, which is making communication a little difficult.

Traditional clothing – Women are considered very valuable; money or gifts with dresses, hats and shoes as well as jewelry being one main source of demand for the Kelabit men who bring in their cash from all over Borneo to the rural communities at varying times throughout each year. Some clans even have restrictions on how much time women can spend away from home



Currently there are three (3) main places to pay a visit in the Kelabit mountain – Sebetan , Buntong and Dusun Lumba . The location seems quite similar for all of them though, which essentially makes tourism very accessible to anyone travelling from Central Sabah or those who take the road from Kota Kinabalu. Although it will be easiest if visiting Malalai Pass  (You can easily tell you ‘re in Borneo when you’re surrounded by tall pines) but I’ll sum up them here.

It has the largest number of visitors, which is mainly due to its high accessibility since it’s just a few minutes away from Kota Belud town given that travelling via lorry or buses isn’t really common amongst locals and non Sabahan folk alike.


lorry (Ambulance) tour

I personally recommend the lorry (Ambulance) tour because all 3 places off in Sabah are quite rural and if you don’t find a place to spend your day, it will be almost midnight by the time you get home.  Kota Belud is about an hour away from the Lumba Indigenous Community.

Dusun Lumba, Buntong and Sebetan are only a half-hour away from each other but given that there’s no public transportation off in these unique communities of Kelabit culture you will definitely need your own mode on getting around. One can see the scope of cultural influence and then, knowledge-wise as you will handily gain a lot from a trip to Sebetan especially.



As much as people love to brag about their food wherever they go, Kelabit have a cuisine strong in meat and vegetables with the right fiery sauce which really enhances its flavor. I would categorize it under Kelam (Kelabit) or Shuibu (a dessert steamed bread filled with sweet beans), that they are known for. And of course you can’t leave out their centuries-old traditional tattoo culture – there’s no need to cringe when you see someone with a tattoo on their forehead.

What’s nearby and too visit?   Longkap Falls, Sebetan River which is one of the country biggest waterfalls flowing by Sungai Gajah Nature Reserve and Sungai Panjang (Blue) or Wangi Wildlife Reservation – I read that they have many species of birds there but sadly my hike was cut short before we could reach it.



There’s a lot of wildlife around – Bat Cave in particular is quite famous if not just because the residents make live bats and you can view them up close. You will also find gibbons, fruit ants, horned frogs and so many others life forms which calls for a proper pop-culture that goes with it too. The views from Longkap Falls were kind of specious as well especially when coupled with its surrounding environment; I believe Kel abit people must love that place very much.

Health and Environmental Issues

Health and Environmental Issues

Privately owned land does exist but it is unregulated and uncontrolled; as far as strangers are concerned, you shouldn’t be on the property of your hosts without checking with other party members first–always communicate directly so there won’t be any misunderstandings which sometimes have adverse effects towards both parties especially in cases like thieves or poachers who may come looking to take away belongings.


I would say if you’ve been itching for a nice adventure outside the city, stay there. Kelantan has so much to offer and I will definitely want to go back home once again just as soon as my backpack is bigger! It is a great place to wander around and experience things you are unlikely to see in your city life. This country has definitely a lot to offer in terms of wildlife, culture and tradition.


1.What Is Ambanttativu Island?

Ans: Ambanttativu Island is a small island located 5 minutes drive north of Kota Bahru and 10 minutes from Pulau Pangkor. It was visited by   Dr. Jules Rothschild  when he came to the region in 1894; supposedly, he found treasures on that same place although there have not been any evidence so far confirming said supposed finds which include later coins minted there as well as several gold bars

2.Why Should I Visit Ambanttativu Island?

Ans: Ambanttativu is a community consisting of 23 families from 3 different ethnic groups (Taus, Kelayang and Bugis); the Taus are very outgoing people hence welcoming towards tourists and other visitors. Their houses are found on an island for miles beyond Kota Bahru city along Sungai Dua which marks the boundary between Malaysia & Singapore.

3.How Can I Get To Ambanttativu Island?

Ans: The easiest way is to get via Kota Tinggi and then follow the road towards Sentul. All motorists are allowed use of this stretch where one has ample chances to cross over into Singapore, just not after 8 PM! Directly there will be a sign pointing straight down toward Sungai Dua; turn right here and continue on your journey till you see another boarding point along Teluk Gadong which acts as an interchange.

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