At the north of Brunei Bay and facing the South China Sea is the island of Labuan, an international offshore financial center and Malaysia’s only deep-water anchorage. Declared a Federal Territory on 16 April 1984, it lies 8km off the coast of Borneo adjacent to the state of Sabah. Labuan comprises of Labuan Island and the six islets of Rusukan Kecil, Rusukan Besar, Kuraman, Daat, Papan and Burung.
Bandar Labuan, formerly known as Victoria, is the major town and port. In 1990, Labuan was declared an International Offshore Financial Centre and Free Trade Zone. The main attractions of Labuan are wreck diving, sport fishing and duty-free shopping. There are four fascinating wrecks in the seas surrounding Labuan, making it a highly rated diving destination in the region.
There is accommodation to suit all types of budgets here. Enjoy fresh seafood as well as local, Chinese and Western cuisine in dining outlets around the island.
Getting To Labuan
Flights are available from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Miri (Sarawak) and Kuching (Sarawak) to Labuan. Labuan is a 20-minute boat ride from Menumbok, a small fishing town on the mainland of Sabah. High-speed air-conditioned ferries travel daily from Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei.
Places of Interest in Labuan
Situated on a rise at Tanjung Kubong is the famous ‘Chimney’, a 106-foot high red brick stack believed to be linked to the coal mining days of Labuan. In its heyday, a thriving settlement was built at the seafront area below the Chimney. It was then used as a bell tower to announce the arrival of ships to the residents below. The structure has become an intriguing mystery that fascinates locals and visitors alike.
Labuan Bird Park
Located near the Chimney structure, the park has three large dome-like cages amidst a sprawling landscape. Enhance your knowledge on the feathered species as you encounter hornbills, kingfishers, sharmas, mynas, herons, peacocks and many more.
Labuan International Sea Sports Complex
This complex houses the main sea sports centre, marine museum, souvenir shops, eateries, seafood restaurant and a tourist information center. It is also the venue for the annual Labuan International Sea Challenge made up of numerous water-based competitions.
This park was built as a memorial and renunciation of the horrors of the Second World War. Prominently seen in the park is a large raised-mound with two walls, surrounded by landscaped gardens and pavilions. Arched bridges over tranquil ponds and shaded gazebos create a feeling of serenity.
World War II Memorial
This is one of the most visited places in Labuan. The beautifully landscaped memorial garden is the final resting place of 3,908 war heroes who died in battle or captivity in Borneo during the Second World War. Every year in November a commemoration is held
(Remembrance Day) to honor the lives of the valiant men who fought during the war.
This is where the 37th Japanese Southern Army surrendered to the 9th Division Australian Imperial Forces on 9th September 1945 which led to the end of World War II in Borneo. Southeast Asia’s first war crime trials were also conducted in this area.
About five minutes from Labuan town, is the Botanical Gardens which was previously the grounds of the Government House, locally known as ‘Bumbung 12’. Built in 1852, the house was a long and low structure with an interesting roof design. The Botanical Gardens is a recreational park with old trees and beautiful landscaping.
There are many water villages in Labuan. The main ones are Kampung Bebuloh Laut and Kampung Patau-Patau. Each house is connected to the other by cement walkways. These water villages, brightly decorated with colorful blooms on their verandahs are an interesting feature in Labuan.
Labuan Square or Dataran Labuan
It is situated at the centre of Labuan town. It is a popular venue for the island’s main events and performances. Labuan’s flag and that of thirteen other states in the country fly high on the raised stage in the square.
The exhibits displayed here include musical instruments, monetary items, firearms, marriage accessories, costumes, artifacts and World War II memorabilia. The museum is conveniently located in the center of Labuan town. It is a must-visit for those who wish to catch a glimpse of the island’s rich history.
Labuan Marine Museum
This museum was set up to preserve the precious marine heritage of Labuan. Conceptualized after a ship, visitors enter the museum through a metal bridge and are exposed to myriad aquariums displaying all kinds of marine life. One can also touch and feel starfishes, sea cucumbers and king crabs.
Labuan Weekend Tamu
Every Saturday and Sunday, the street of Jalan OKK Awang Besar is filled with stalls offering great bargains. From handicrafts to fashion wear, accessories to agriculture produce, you can find all kinds of everything here.
Labuan Marine Park is located 2km off the southern part of the mainland. The park encompasses 10sq km of pristine waters and three secluded islets namely Kuraman Island, Rusukan Kecil Island and Rusukan Besar Island. Stretches of white sandy beaches, beautiful reef atolls and tropical jungles await you.
Duty Free Shopping
There are many stores around the island and they carry a wide range of goods, both local and imported. Exemptions of custom duty on imported goods include textile, leather goods, liquor, cosmetics, confectionery and more. There are many shops where one can find embroidered linen, teak wood furniture, Chinese ceramics and jade carvings.
Sea Sports Activities
Labuan is the place for recreational fishing as the clear blue waters here teem with rich marine life. Kayaking takes you to some very secluded beach spots on the island and it’s a great way to enjoy the sun and sea in a leisurely manner. The clear waters and colorful coral reefs around Labuan make for fantastic diving and snorkeling.
Location and Map for Getting Around Labuan: