Approximately 115km southwest of Kota Kinabalu, Pulau Labuan is an arrowhead-shaped island that was once a province of oil-rich Brunei. An archipelago of seven islands, due to its anchorage and trading post potential it was yielded to the British long before Sabah was procured by the Chartered Company. Made a free port in 1848, it was a few years into the new century before the island joined the Straits Settlement after WWII; in 1984 it was declared part of Malaysian Federal Territory.
Comprising the 75sqkm Pulau Labuan and six smaller islands – Pulau Burung, Pulau Daat, Pulau Kuraman, Pulau Papan, Pulau Rusukan Kecil, and Pulau Rusukan Besar, Labuan is governed directly by Kuala Lumpur. 50km northeast of Brunei, Labuan is best known as a duty-free stopover for those travelling between Kota Kinabalu and Brunei. Accommodation options in Pulau Labuan are limited; if you’re staying the night then the Grand Dorsett Labuan Hotel is a good choice – with 178 rooms the five-star venture has three food and beverage outlets and an outdoor swimming pool.