The first mentions of the Sulaman Cove area in international literature was in 1846 by Captain Keppel of the H.M.S. Dido who was part of a British anti-piracy expedition to Borneo. Keppel’s record described the area as part of the notorious “Pirates Point” of Northern Borneo; under the rule of the Rajah of Brunei and contains a detailed account of meetings, activities, and trade with the indigenous “Orang Idaan” people encountered by the expedition.
Other mentions of the area include the Borneo Annals of 1410, the Portuguese records circa 1512, and the records of the HMS Resolution in 1779; after Captain James Cook’s death on his third expedition.
The area was given the status of Forest Reserve in 1933, a result of an area visitation by the British Survey Vessel HMS Herald in early 1930 recognizing the natural importance of the area, the first such costal area in Sabah. In 1984, the area was re-gazetted as a Class V Mangrove Forest Reserve, and later modified in 2006 by the State Government.
In 2006, permission was sought by the Borneo Sulaman Cove Sdn. Bhd. to manage the Sulaman Lake Forest Reserve / Sulaman Wetland Sanctuary (SWS) and granted later in 2007. A restoration program of intervention and non-intervention management was installed into the area, with the collection of scientific data from this area on-going since that time. The general policy is to maintain this reserve as a wilderness area and still on-going today.
In 2017, the decision to allow some eco-friendly based tourism to occur was taken. These tours would be limited in nature, and confined to only one northern section of the forest reserve while still allowing local and international visitors to experience the splendour of this area. Currently only specially arranged visits are allowed in to the forest reserve.