To visit Sabah is to discover another side of Malaysian Borneo. This frontier state is a great place to indulge in wildlife adventures in nature’s delights; it provides natural and cultural highlights of every kind – from caves, reefs, forest and mountains to tribal peoples.
Perched on the edge of the South China Sea, Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu is a modern, city less than 50 years old. To the backdrop of the jungle clad hills of the Crocker Range and the cloud-shrouded peaks of Mt. Kinabalu in the far distance, the city sprawls out along the coast, overlooking a cluster of islands. This is the perfect destination for water sports adventures – snorkeling vacations, scuba diving trips, or just swimming in the crystal clear waters.
Sabah’s majestic mountains, lush rainforests and undersea wonders provide an ideal nature playground. The Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage site, is named after Malaysia’s highest peak and the third highest in Southeast Asia. Marine sights include Turtle Islands National Park and Sipidan Island, one of Asia’s best diving destinations.
The state’s indigenous tribes, with their colorful, unique traditions, can still be found in hinterland towns such as Kudat, Tenom and Kata Belud.
Kinabalu National Park is one of Sabah’s most popular outdoor adventure travel destinations with Mt. Kinabalu as its centerpiece. Considered one of the easiest mountains to climb, Mt. Kinabalu offers a range of opportunities for novice hikers, scramblers and rock-climbers. It is a botanical paradise with over half the species growing above 900 m. and with walking trails which enable adventurers to enjoy the lush diterocarp rainforest, housing spectacular flowers including orchids, rhododendruns, the insect eating Nepenthes and the enormous Rafflesia. From the Mountain’s summit, the Philippines are visible from afar on a clear day. The park is also home to Poring Hot Springs, both a birdwatcher’s haven and a source of sulphorous pools whose steaming waters are channeled into tubs where visitors can unwind following a trek to the mountain’s peak.
In contrast to low-key Kota Kinabalu, distinctive Sandakan, a busy commercial center, is the entrance to the beautiful island-studded bay. Its real attractions lie in the surrounding areas, though the town is an excellent seafood center. The area’s marine attractions include Pulau Pengu National Park (Turtle Island National Park) and the Pulau Sipadan, one of the world’s great dive destinations. Turtle Island comprises 3 small islands where green and hawksbill turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. These are then collected and placed in hatcheries, and are released back to the sea once the eggs hatch. Pulau Sipadan attracts experienced and novice divers from all over the world. Diving here is amazing – the sea is teeming with colorful tropical fish and such rare species as the ghost pipefish, the frogfish and unusual species of shark. In addition, the island is home to over 15 species of turtles and the famous Turtle Cavern.
For wildlife, the lower Sungai Kinabatangan (Kinabatangan River) floodplain and the Datum Valley can’t be beat. Here one finds wildlife sanctuaries with an astonishing variety of plants and a diversity of wildlife – over 200 species of trees, 110 mammals and indigenous animals including great rarities such as the Sumatran Rhino and the Clouded Leopard. Canopy walks and jungle walks abound here as well. The highlight of any trip to Sabah is the Sepilak Rehabilitation Sanctuary where the lovable Orangutans are saved from extinction and taught to survive in the state’s jungles.