Sabah is situated in northern Borneo and is also known as “The Land Below The Wind”. There are over 30 different ethnic groups in Sabah and it is a state rich in traditions and culture. The state is characterized by vast areas of untouched rainforests with an abundance of wildlife, flora and fauna. There are also many islands, spectacular natural landscapes and UNESCO sites. This is a great destination for diving, jungle trekking and other eco-adventures.
Mount Kinabalu stands at a height of 4,095.2m and is one of the highest peak in Southeast Asia. It is Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in Kinabalu Park. There is a fantastic diversity of plant life in the Kinabalu Park with over 5,000 types of flowering plants. This 754sq km park has 1,200 species of orchids, 60 types of oak and chestnut trees, 80 species of fig trees and 26 types of rhododendrons. Also found here are 326 species of birds and around 100 types of mammals. Kinabalu Park is also home to many endemic species like the Paphiopedilum Slipper Orchids and the Kinabalu Giant Red Leech. This park has the world’s largest species of Nepenthes which is the carnivorous pitcher plant.
As you climb the park, the vegetation changes over 4 climatic zones. There are rainforests in the lowlands and as you ascend, coniferous forests appear and there are alpine type plants near the top of Mount Kinabalu. For visitors who wish to climb the mountain, they are required to apply for the Climb permits and accommodation in advance. Only 135 climbers are allowed to climb per day due to conservation purposes and also the accommodation available. Experienced mountain guides are essential for the climbers’ safety and they provide a wealth of information on the trip.It is advisable to stay the night prior to the climb in Kinabalu Park or a highland resort for high altitude acclimatization.
The world’s highest via ferrata at 3,776m above sea level, known as Low’s Peak Circuit can now be done on Mount Kinabalu. This route is more challenging compared with Walk The Torq Via Ferrata at 3,520m above sea level. One of the world’s highest suspension bridges is found on the Low’s Peak Circuit. Stunning views of the surrounding areas can be enjoyed with these routes. The highlight of climbing Mt Kinabalu is to watch the sunrise on the summit of Low’s Peak .
TURTLE ISLANDS PARK
This group of 3 islands are found in the Sulu Sea and comprises of the islands of Selingan, Bakungan and Gulisan Kecil. Visitors have the opportunity to catch sight of turtles when they swim ashore to lay their eggs. These are rare and endangered turtles from the Green and Hawksbill species. Of the 3 islands, Selingan,which is the largest island is open to visitors. It offers accommodation, some basic facilities and also houses the Park Headquarters. Day trips to Selingan are not available, a visit to Turtle Islands Park requires an overnight stay.
DANUM VALLEY CONSERVATION AREA
Danum Valley, 70km west of Lahad Datu, is a paradise of untouched tropical forest, diverse vegetation and unique wildlife. It is one of the richest conservation sites in the world and there are over 15,000 plant species here. The Danum Valley Field Centre is a well-known establishment for scientific and educational purposes. The forest is home to the endangered Borneo pygmy elephant , clouded leopard, orang utan, proboscis monkey, Sumatran rhino, banteng to name a few of the endangered wildlife found here. Visitors can take nature walks in the untouched rainforest and watch birds from the 170-long canopy walk or visit majestic waterfalls. Other activities include watching nocturnal animals on a night drive or even visit an ancient Kadazandusun burial site with belian coffins and ceramic spirit jars.
PORING HOT SPRINGS
Poring Hot Springs is located 40 km from the Kinabalu Park Headquarters and is the perfect place to go after climbing the mountain. This place is very popular among the locals as they believe in the healing properties of the springs’ hot sulphuric minerals. Take a trip here to distress and soak away the aches of your tired muscles. There is a 157.8 metre-long canopy walkway for the adventurous visitor to see the surrounding rainforests. Recommended to bring your rubber slippers, towels, swimwear and a change of clothes when visiting the hot springs.
Other nearby attractions include the Orchid Conservation Centre, Tropical Garden, Rafflesia flower site and the Butterfly Farm.
Sipadan is one of the top diving destinations in the world and sits at the centre of the richest marine life in the world. It is surrounded by the Sulawesi Sea and is a paradise for divers. This site was made famous in a documentary by Jacque Yves Costeau, a famous oceanographer entitled “ The Ghosts Of The Sea Turtle “ The Drop Off is the most exciting feature at Sipadan where the sea bed suddenly gives way to a 600m drop! There is a fantastic varieties of marine life in the crystal clear waters. Huge Gorgonian sea fans, gigantic corals, barrel sponges, turtles, sharks and schools of Barracuda can be seen here.
Accomodation can be found on the nearby islands of Mabul and Kapalai to protect the fragile ecosystem of Sipadan. Tours must be booked in advanced.
MABUL AND KAPALAI
Mabul is located 25 minutes from Sipadan and is a site to see stunning marine life. There is a great diversity of tiny marine-life in Mabul and it is a well-known place for macro and muck-diving. Some of the unique marine life seen here are mandarin fish, lionfish, blue-ringed octopus, spike-fin gobies and moray eels.
Kapalai is a large sandbank where a resort has been built on stilts. This place has been rated as one of the best destinations in the world for macro-diving. Some areas with a great diversity of marine life include Stingray City, Mandarin Valley and Gurnard Ground.
credit : sabah tourism board
TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PARK
Tunku Abdul Rahman consists of 5 islands, Sapi, Sulug, Gaya, Manukan . Mamutik and is 20 minutes by boat from the mainland. This marine park has many visitors who make day trips to enjoy the many activities here. Thrilling activities include parasailing, sea-walking, island-hopping, camping and diving, Some visitors come here to swim, snorkel or just to enjoy the sun. Accomodation is found on the islands of Manukan and also on Gaya which is the largest island.
SEPILOK ORANG UTAN REHABILITATION CENTRE
The Sepilok Orang Utan Centre consists of over 4,300ha of protected land and is located in the Kabil-Sepilok Forest Reserve. The centre cares for young orang utans who are orphaned due to illegal animal trade, illegal logging and deforestation. These animals are cared for by the dedicated staff at the centre, trained , rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Once the orang utans have mastered their climbing and foraging skills, they are released into the surrounding forest to fend for themselves. Sepilok also serves to provide information and to educate the public on the importance of wildlife conservation.
At Sepilok, there is a viewing gallery where the visitors can see the orang utans being fed by the rangers. Feeding times are at 10am and 3pm, the centre is open from 9am to 4pm daily. There is also a viewing platform where visitors may see the successfully rehabilitated orang utans , now living in the forest, returning for a free feed.
There is a cafeteria, souvenir shop and lockers at the Sepilok Centre. Ten minutes from the Sepilok Centre is the Rainforest Discovery Centre where one can get an overview of the rainforests of Sabah. There are walking trails, gardens and a 147m-long steel canopy walkway where the visitors can do bird-watching. There are over 250 types of birds in this area and 250 species of orchids, pitcher plants and aquatic plants can be viewed at the Plant Discovery Garden. The park is open daily from 8am to 5pm
KINABATANGAN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
The Kinabatangan River contains the largest concentration of wildlife in Southeast Asia and is home to one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. It is the second longest river in Malaysia and is characterized by swamps, mangroves forests and ox bow lakes. This sanctuary has the distinction of being only one of two areas in the world where one can find ten species of primates together. Four of these primates are endemic to Borneo. This area is also home to four colobines, the grey langur, maroon langur, silvered langur and the proboscis monkey. Other animals found here are Malay sun bear, leopard cat, slow loris, monitor lizard and many types of snakes. Sumatran rhinos , Asian elephants roam freely in this wildlife sanctuary while tortoise and crocodiles can be found in the river. There are over 200 types of birds and all eight species of hornbills residing in Borneo can be found here. Hawks, flowerpeckers, egrets, bulbuls, drongos, herons, Storm’s stork are some of the variety of birds in this region.
Visitors can go on night tours to view night birds , crocodiles or even on a river cruise to see other types of wildlife. The months of April to October is drier and also the fruiting season. There is better opportunity to spot animals and birds. Accommodation, transfers, tours and other services are available in Sukau.
MARI MARI CULTURAL VILLAGE
Mari Mari Cultural Village is located in Inanam and acts as a museum to preserve Borneo ethnic culture. A tour of this village offers an opportunity to see and experience the traditional culture and lifestyle of Sabah’s ethnic communities. There are 5 different ethnic tribes in this village namely, the Rungus ( longhouse resident ), the Bajau ( cowboy and sea gypsy ), the Kadazan- Dusun ( rice farmer ), Lundayeh ( hunter and fisherman ) and the Murut tribe who used to go headhunting. Come and join in the various activities and watch demonstrations on how the ethnic tribes used to hunt, make a fire and cook in the olden times. Have fun listening to their stories and blowing the blowpipe which are used for hunting.
THE UPSIDE DOWN HOUSE
This unique building is the first upside down house in Malaysia and in Southeast Asia. This structure is a traditional Sabah kampong house equipped with a living room, kitchen, toilet, bedrooms, garden and a verandah all flipped upside down. The ceiling of the house is placed below your feet with the floor facing the sky. Inside this house are found furniture, cabinets, washing machine, TV and other things just like a normal house. There is a souvenir shop and a restaurant next to the house
SABAH TEA GARDEN
This plantation is located at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu and is one of the few plantations in the world producing certified organic tea. Situated at 2.272 feet above sea level, the tea is 100% pesticide free, producing an exclusive tea with a distinctive aroma and taste.
Do take a tour of the plantation and the tea factory, enjoy freshly brewed tea at the Tea House. Other activities are river trekking, jungle-trekking, taking night walks and obstacle training. New skills which can be acquired include surviving in the jungle and crossing a river safely.
Wake up to a beautiful morning with Mount Kinabalu in the background. There are 3 types of accommodation available.
Camp sites are available for those who prefer the outdoor. Tents are available for renting and for large groups, food can be catered from the restaurant. There is a public toilet in the camp grounds.
Visitors who want to experience the traditions and culture of Sabah can choose to stay in a longhouse. It is clean and comfortable and equipped with ceiling fans, mosquito nets and other basic facilities. The walls of the longhouses are adorned with exhibits from the seven ethnic tribes.