This was a piece I wrote when I was doing some wishful thinking about visiting Sabah, Malaysia when I first heard this place existed. It is fantasy meets facts – while the article does not elaborate on my actual experience, it talks of places that exist and are worth visiting.
Sabah. That name escaped my lips with a slight sigh. I said it again, this time with only my lips moving and no sound; because this was just one those instances when I repeat something to myself often enough to reaffirm its existence.
My fantasy begins from the last day of this would-be trip atop Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia…
I imagined myself sitting on a flat rock, at a height of nearly 13,500ft (13,435 to be precise), atop Mount Kinabalu. When I did my research on what the Malaysian state Sabah had to offer, this mountain was one of its biggest attractions. And with it being Malaysia’s highest peak, I knew I had to climb it!
Mount Kinabalu resides in the Kinabalu Park which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and conserves a very fragile and diverse ecosystem The Park permits only about 135 climbers per day and I would be one of the lucky few. I saw myself at the peak, in the chilly early morning hours, waiting for the sun to rise. In my mind, the anticipation was palpable, we would have risen early for this grand moment. And this would be a moment I would save for the penultimate day on this trip.
Backtracking to a day before my climb to the summit…
The day before would have been the start of my journey up this mountain. While it is possible to climb it in a day, the park officials prefer to have tourists space out their journey over two days. The trails are not hard, and being someone relatively on the fitter side (I try) and genuinely enthusiastic about trekking, I know I would thoroughly enjoy making my way up.
The overnight break would take place at Laban Ratan, and the gorgeous cherry to this cake of a day would be seeing the amazing sunset. Sabah is known for some of the most gorgeous sunsets in the world, and from above 10,000ft it would be even more splendid. I imagined it would be the kind that causes a hush, and all you can hear is nature around you, the wind blowing, the occasional call of an animal, chirp of a bird. The kind that makes you glad you are alive and in that place.
The movie in my mind rewinds to the days before my trek up the mountain and into the jungles…
The days before that would be spent seeing the wildlife in some of the world’s oldest rain-forests. I see myself going to Tabin Wildlife Reserve. I’d see the famed orang-utans swing from tree to tree, maybe spot a Sumatran rhinoceros or two. I could just about feel the cool, calm, slightly moist feeling one gets inside the depths of a forest. Trying to spot all the unique and gorgeous flora and fauna around me. Wait with my heart in my mouth as I zoom in and adjust my camera, hoping against hope that that bird does not fly away before I get a chance to click.
And before the mountains and the forests, would be the beaches
Backtracking some more, before my visit to the forests and the mountain, I would be living it up in the beaches. Sabah borders the island of Borneo and offers some of the best beaches and seaside activities. I always lamented how the gorgeous islands like Bora Bora are so far away, and heavy on my poor INR earning wallet. And then Sabah seemed to come to the rescue.
The island huts by the seaside look absolutely inviting. And the waters? They look just – wow. Yes, when I can’t find words and don’t feel the need to elaborate, I just say “wow.” I would go for the Borneo Sea walking on Gaya islands. I would be in these pristine blue waters, smiling, waving and pointing like an idiot at the fish (because that’s just something you do).
I can’t exclude my favourite creatures in the world for anything…
And of course, I would not exclude Turtle Island from my itinerary for anything. Okay, I’ll admit it, I love turtles. I have stuffed turtles (toys, not real ones, I’m not a monster). There’s something about them that just gets me. I envisioned myself happily parked at the beach for the night to watch the turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. I’d wake up eagerly to watch the eggs hatch. And it would just about break my heart to see those cute little baby turtles waddling off into the sea.
Visiting the capital city and the places around it would be a bit of a given…
Before all this, I would spend the first few days of my trip in and around Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah. I’d find me some fantastic places to sample delicious food. I’m a lover of seafood and the variety of seafood dishes they have to offer made me drool.
Roughly 2 and a half hours away from the city would be Garama Explorer. Here I would go to see the elusive Proboscis monkeys and experience rural Malaysian life. The Poring Hot Spring would be a place I’d love to check out. With these springs located in Ranau, just 3 hours away from the city. Who says you have to go to Japan to experience an open-air Japanese style bathhouse? I’d do this after an active day of going canopy walking, and trekking in the lowland forests towards the waterfalls.
When I finally came out of my daydream, I was staring at my laptop. I had so many tabs open on Sabah and made a mental itinerary for my entire trip there. I now find myself thinking “I really, really want to go there.”
We visited Sabah in Malaysia along with travel bloggers and influencers several times. Read all about their accounts and experiences here.