Mount Kinabalu

Natural beauty, cultural diversity plus thrills in Malaysia’s Sabah

Sitting on top of Borneo is the enchanting state of Sabah. As a part of Malaysia, Sabah, North Borneo, is a shining example of authenticity and diversity. It promises a memorable experience for tourists who want to get in touch with nature and experience Sabah’s vibrant culture.

Nature and Adventure

Rising majestically to a height of 4,095 metres, Mount Kinabalu, located at the heart of the Kinabalu UNESCO Global Geopark, stands as the highest mountain in Malaysia. Embark on a challenging yet rewarding climb to its summit, where panoramic vistas of the surrounding valleys and clouds await.

The journey to the top takes climbers through diverse ecosystems, from mossy forests to alpine meadows, offering a glimpse into Sabah’s rich biodiversity. Kota Kinabalu, the capital city, serves as the gateway to this iconic climb, with trails starting from the Kinabalu Park headquarters.

But for those who seek a different kind of thrill, Sabah offers more than just the climb. The Via Ferrata on Mount Kinabalu offers adventurers the opportunity to experience the mountain from a different view.

Need for water adventure? The Padas River, in the interior of Sabah, provides the perfect setting for an adrenaline-pumping adventure. Navigate through challenging rapids as the river winds its way through dense rainforest and towering gorges. Tackle level 3 to 5 rapids, test your teamwork, and immerse yourself in the raw beauty of Sabah’s wilderness. For light adventure, Kiulu river and Kadamaian river (level 1 to 3) are great options.

Step off the beaten path and into the untamed wilderness of Sabah’s jungles, where a myriad of flora and fauna awaits discovery. Explore ancient rainforests teeming with life as you trek through remote trails, accompanied by the symphony of nature. Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tawau Hills Park are just a few of the pristine locations offering unparalleled opportunities for jungle trekking. Encounter rare species of plants and animals, including orangutans, pygmy elephants, and carnivorous pitcher plants, as you immerse yourself in the wonders of Sabah’s biodiversity.

Wildlife Experience

Sabah is known for its efforts in the preservation and conservation of its wildlife. Head on to Sandakan, the wildlife capital of the state.

Visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre near Sandakan, where orphaned and injured orangutans are rehabilitated before being released back into the wild. You can observe these fascinating primates during feeding times and learn about conservation efforts.

Embark on a river cruise along the Kinabatangan River, one of the best places in Borneo to spot wildlife. You can encounter proboscis monkeys, orangutans, pygmy elephants, crocodiles, and a variety of bird species such as hornbills and kingfishers.

While in Sandakan, take a trip to Selingan Island also known as Turtle Island Park, where you can witness the nesting and hatching of endangered sea turtles, including green and hawksbill turtles. The park is dedicated to the conservation of these majestic creatures. Accommodation on this island is limited and advance booking is required to avoid disappointment.

Another great location to see animals in the wild is Lahad Datu. The Danum Valley Conservation Area is a pristine rainforest reserve known for its diverse wildlife including orangutans, gibbons, clouded leopards, and various species of birds and insects. Stay at one of the eco-lodges within the reserve for a truly immersive experience.

Tabin Wildlife Reserve also located in Lahad Datu is a vast forested area renowned for its diverse wildlife. Nine species of primate can be found here, namely orangutan, gibbon, red leaf monkey, silver leaf monkey, grey leaf monkey, western tarsier, slow loris, long-tailed macaque and pig-tailed macaque, including a plethora of bird species. The reserve offers opportunities for jungle trekking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting.

Island Paradise and Underwater Wonders

The many islands in Sabah are one of the best things about this destination. Picture yourself relaxing on the sandy beaches of Pulau Lankayan or putting your toes in the waters of Pulau Mantanani. The islands here are a great escape from the busy city life and offer a place to relax in the sun, enjoy water sports, or just enjoy the stunning natural beauty. In addition to the fun of visiting many islands, Sabah is a good place to watch the sunset because it has some of the most stunning ones in Malaysia.

For a quick getaway, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is an ideal destination, just 15 to 20 minutes boat ride from Kota Kinabalu. The marine park is a cluster of five islands – Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik and Sulug. Except for Sulug, the other four islands are accessible for visitors to enjoy picnics, snorkelling, diving, water sports and beach activities

Avid divers will find thrills on the east coast of Sabah. The seas around Semporna are acknowledged to have some of the best diving spots in the world. Magnificent coral reefs fringe the shoreline in a seemingly unending line and within it lies an underwater world with some of the most delicate corals in various shades of pastel. Further out in the deep blue depths are some of the larger species such as groupers, hammerhead sharks, manta rays and barracudas to name a few.

Sipadan Island, being one of the top-rated dive spots in the world, is home to more than 3000 species of fish and a few hundreds of coral species. Rare diving scenes such as a school of greenback turtles and hawksbill turtles nesting and mating, a school of barracuda travelling in tornado-like formation, and pelagic species such as manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks and whale sharks could be seen here. Not only are there fascinating coral structures but marine caves as well and Sipadan is reported to have the largest variety of soft corals in the world.

There is also the Tun Sakaran Marine Park with its mysterious and legendary Bohey Dulang, a trademark of the Semporna seas. A hike up Bohey Dulang is a must. Upon reaching the top, stunning views await, perfect for those Instagrammable moments.

Cultural Experiences: A Tapestry of Traditions

Sabah is more than just sun and sand; it’s also a place where different cultures come together. As you watch Sabah’s rich cultural tapestry unfold, you’ll be taken into a world where diversity lives. Kaamatan, also known as the Harvest Festival, is the most important event in Sabah’s cultural calendar. It is a sacred celebration for the Kadazan Dusun community which is held throughout the month of May. This event is a joyful way to show appreciation for good harvests.

People who like to explore will find new things in the interior of Sabah. The Kalimaran festival, which usually happens every March, offers a glimpse of the craftsmanship of the Murut people.

Furthermore, in the scenic Kota Belud district, the Tamu Besar unfolds with the grace of timeless tradition. Taking place in October or November, travellers can enjoy numerous types of stalls, ranging from street foods, traditional crafts, and more while also witnessing the Bajau horse performance, where the horses are dressed in spectacular traditional garb.

From the rhythmic beats of traditional Kadazan Dusun music to the colourful displays of Bajau horseman’s vibrant attire, each festival and event celebrates the region’s cultural heritage with fervour and joy. Immerse yourself in the tradition of indigenous peoples, and let their warmth and hospitality envelop you.

Learn more about the culture of Sabah’s ethnic groups at the Mari Mari Cultural Village. It offers a chance to experience and learn about the culture and traditions of the indigenous ethnic groups of Sabah, particularly the Dusun, Rungus, Lundayeh, Bajau and Murut community.

Visitors can participate in various activities such as traditional dances, cooking demonstrations, and blowpipe-making. The Mari Mari Cultural Village offers a unique opportunity for cultural exchange and appreciation, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of Sabah.

As you begin your trip through Sabah, let the natural beauty and cultural diversity of this enchantment inspire you. Discover the magic of Sabah and open up a world of wonder and adventure like no other. A place where every moment is a chance to learn more about, explore, and connect with the heart of this amazing state.

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