'Land below the wind', the land of Sabah is a beautiful amalgamation of forests, beaches, nature growing in its entirety. Located in the north of Borneo Island, it borders with Malaysia and Indonesia and also shares maritime borders with Vietnam and the Philippines. Thus, Sabah is a great central point for cultural experiences, tasty food adventures, nature lovers and enthusiasts.
Believed that the earliest human settlement was up to 30,000 years ago, Sabah has been continuously a territory fought over. It is believed that the Han Dynasty associated with the land as well as following dynasties. Later on the Sultanate of Brunei, then Sultanate of Sulu, and eventually Malaysia, all affiliated and created strong ties with Sabah.
The indigenous people of Borneo are known as the dayak but this term includes up to 200 ethnic subgroups as well as an estimated 170 languages and dialects spoken on the island. Today, only a few hundreds actively practice these dialects. This highlights on the high risk of extinction of heritage and languages hence the active efforts to preserve the culture.
Credit: Owl Ting Local Experiences
Located in the depths of the beautiful forests, deep in the Borneo countryside lies the Mari Mari Cultural Village which allows you to explore the traditions of the Borneo culture. The website list 5 reasons to come to the cultural village and they are incredibly enticing;
1. You get to immerse yourself in quiet tranquil nature.
2. You get to have fun and be enriched in newfound Knowledge
3. You get 5 different tribes in 1 village.
4. You get to relax and leisure sightseeing.
5. You will be supporting the preserving culture and tradition to ensure it's not forgotten.
The Mari Mari Cultural Village is easily the best attraction in Sabah if you're looking for something educational and fun. Located in the forest, you're greeted with an exotic experience, exploring the village in its most authentic form. You might even be able to walk through the village on the suspension bridge, across the river. Each tribe house is unique in its own way so be sure to look out for the tour guide that'll explain the practices of each tribe. Be sure to plan your trip wisely and go when it is not raining.
Address: Inanam, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Opening Hours: 10AM to 6PM
Contact: +60 13-881 4921
The wildlife in Sabah is surrounded by a huge amount of beautiful islands and scuba diving sites, making it difficult to choose the best island to visit. Whether you want to relax on clear beaches and soak in the turquoise water or go scuba diving, these islands offer endless choices.
Credit: Island Travel
Sipadan Island is one of the top scuba diving destinations with the view of the barracuda tornado.
Credit: Tan Yilmaz on Flickr
If you are looking for photographic sites, then Bohey Dulang, nicknamed as the Pearl Island, is an option for a picturesque holiday.
This Island is known for its wandering wildlife, such as fishes, turtles and even baby sharks. Less of a swimming destination but a thrilling contact with nature in its natural habitat.
Mataking is famous for its Maldives like beaches with white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, it is the less popular alternative with the same effect. There are also options to have underwater weddings! Pulau Tiga- The filming site of the tv show “Survivor” it is special for its mud volcano and Snake Island. This island is there for the risk takers and adrenaline junkies.
A world heritage site, Mount Kinabalu is also known to have similar biological species to plants of the Himalaya. Its extreme height towers to 4095 meters meaning the view from the dramatic peak are majestic. The highest point of the mountain also known as Low’s peak (irony) is considered one of the safest and rewarding treks upwards.
The trail upwards is accommodated to anyone with reasonable fitness, some parts of the mountain also have stairs with rails. In addition to that, there are also rest houses where you can check into assigned rooms and recharge and huts along the way where you can chat with locals and enjoy food and hot beverages. You should give yourself at least a day to 2 to conquer the mountain.
For those with Hiking and rock climbing expertise, there are other trails which require rock climbing equipment.
For those looking to do something different or experience an adrenaline activity in Sabah, you can try Mountain Bike Expeditions in and around Sabah as a tour. Cycling is a great way to explore.
Paragliding over Lohan Village is available for all levels of expertise and the experience is safe and scenic.
Credit: Borneo Ultra
If you find running exciting and want to satisfy that high there is also challenging terrains available at Sabah Adventure Challenge. It’s an international opportunity that unites people with a passion for running.
White water rafting at Liwagu River is a fun water sport that allows friends, family groups to experience water in a new exciting way.
Eat fresh and cheap seafood Sabah is renowned for its springy egg concentrated noodles, nicknamed the Gold Noodle of Sabah, it should not be missed! Make sure to taste Tuaran Noodles even if you do not visit the district. There are endless flavor combinations.
Credit: Authentic World Food
Due to the coastal nature of the state, seafood lovers will drown in the unlimited array of fresh seafood and most of them are fairly affordable! Some of the local options include Latok which is a type of seaweed and is eaten fresh with condiments as a salad. Your generic crab and lobsters are also available, grilled over the fire.
If you are the type to try something different, sago worms known as Butod can be eaten in a variety of ways, offering nutritious protein.
Credit: Open Rice
As for local produce, you can take back as gifts and souvenirs, Sabah does not disappoint. The Sabah chocolate comes in endless choices of exotic flavors including durian, pineapple, jackfruit, green tea, coconut oil and much more suited to your taste buds. Those not afraid of diabetes can dare to try Kuih Lidah also known as Tiriam, a beautiful cake covered in icing sugar and fried.
On the salty side, if you want something unique to the island, Amplang is available which is a seafood crisp/cracker, it is a perfect representation of the state’s love for fish. But, it should come as no surprise that there are also dried-salted seafood snacks, for those who love oyster, prawns, fish, and crab.
Credit: DESA Dairy Farm, Sabah
If you want to experience New Zealand without breaking the bank then Kundasang is the place to be. Surrounded by immense green rolling fields and nature in the pasture, Kundasang is a cheaper version of New Zealand with not-so-obvious differences. Look out for the free-roaming cows and visit the Desa Dairy Farm and try all sorts of milk products, such as ice cream, yogurt, bottled milk, and even cheese!
Address: Dr. Marcel Gisain, P.O.Box 71, 89308 Kundasang, Ranau, Sabah
Admission Fee: RM5 (Adult) | RM4 (Children)
Opening Hours: 8AM to 5PM
Contact: +60 88 889 562
Credit: Aroma Asian
Enjoy Fish Massages and learn to withstand the tickle. Moroli River near Sabah Tea Garden is a river filled with the fishes that will make your skin silky smooth. You can enjoy a full body treatment or just your feet. If sitting around isn’t your thing then you can trek through the water and enjoy the nature surrounding you.
Address: Kampung Luanti Baru, Ranau, Malaysia
For a unique experience of stargazing, Lasau Podi is one of the best locations for stargazing, since most locations are covered with pollution preventing a clear view of the sky. If you can’t make it to Lasau Podi, try to find open spaces by beaches or fields.
Sunset spots are always spectacular whether you are in a city or the countryside but pair it with beautiful surroundings the experience becomes more special. Some of the most popular destinations for viewers include KK Waterfront (right in the middle of the city) as the sun touches the edge of the water. For those who want to be away from the hustle and bustle, Mantanani Island in Kota Belud offers some of the prettiest views along the sandy white beaches.
If you're hoping to be one of the first to do something, Pom Pom Island in Semporna is fairly new and is more of a private experience. As for those early risers that like to catch the worm, sunrise from Sabah Tea Garden is a treat alongside a piping cup of tea or coffee, overlooking the tea plantations.
Poring Hot Springs is a great place to visit if you are looking for some hydrotherapy. The hot sulfur springs are formed by the volcanic rocks around the area. The springs are just a small fraction of Poring so make sure to explore the beautiful nature surrounding. There are outdoor bathtubs, as well as feet tubs and even private tubs. In addition to the hot springs, there are also cold water rock pools that are available for children and adults to swim and cool down. Finally, for more of a fun waterpark experience, there is a slide pool.
Admission: RM15 (Foreigners) | RM3 (Locals)
Contact: +60 88 878 801
Credit: River Junkie
If Sabah hasn’t given you enough to do yet, there is always a cruise available. The Kinabatangan River is the longest river in Sabah, reaching 560km. The cruise allows you to enjoy the rainforest and jungle experience whilst cruising peacefully.
You’ll come face to face with elephants, orangutans, all sorts of tropical birds. Some biologists consider this the most easily accessible wildlife in Southeast Asia. There are many tour outlets available depending on the duration of the ride and what you want to include in it. Either way, any package you choose will be a wholesome extraordinary experience.
Sabah is a beautiful state, offering almost everything a holiday goer could dream off, so what are you waiting for! Plan your next family trip, add it to your destination list or just book a spontaneous trip to Sabah.