Located in the heart of South East Asia, Sabah is Malaysia’s second largest state, home to beautiful landscapes and unique experiences unlike no other. This melting pot of culture is located on the northern tip of the island of Borneo and is known for its equatorial climate, untouched rain-forests, pristine beaches and abundant plant and animal life. Whether you’re looking to have a laid-back holiday, an educational trip of a lifetime or an adventure packed experience to remember, Sabah has something for you!
What can only be described as a city untouched by time, Sabah is a sight for sore eyes! 55% of Sabah is forested land and for someone coming from a concrete jungle filled with traffic and pollution, a trip to this beautiful city is just what the doctor ordered!
While it has plenty to offer, I am going to focus this article on my two favourite topics – Sabah Adventure and Wildlife.
Nothing spells adventure like a trek to the summit of Mt Kinabalu, a 13,435ft magnificent mountain surrounded by some of the most stunning biodiversity known to man. If you’re not up for this challenging climb, do not fret, the mountain is situated within the Kinabalu Park and has walks and treks of varying levels of complexity, so choose what suits you best and you won’t feel left out!
For those adventure lovers who are up for this extreme and time consuming(it will take you a minimum of two days to complete) trek to the summit, you will be generously rewarded with up close and personal sightings of some of the many endemic species of the land and breathtaking (both literally and figuratively!), panoramic views from the summit. Be sure to book your spot well in advance as only 100 trekkers are allowed on the mountain per day and this is an experience you don’t want to miss!!
If you wish to take this trek to the next level, you can opt to paraglide from the top of the mountain- definitely not for the faint-hearted!! While as scary and life-threatening as it sounds, safety is of utmost importance on this adventure (there are many trained professionals to help and guide you and explain all the safety measures to you) so if you do decide to go through with it, don’t worry, you’ll be in good hands.
Whitewater rafting – Get that much-needed adrenalin fix on the electrifying waters of the Kiulu River. Hold on tight and enjoy the ride because your Bornean adventure is just getting started!
Scuba diving, snorkelling, and underwater sea walking– You’ll be treated with a kaleidoscope of colours when you dive into the waters at Sipadan, Mabul or Sapi islands. The corals are resplendent and teeming with marine life! If you’re a newbie, snorkelling in the shallow waters is a great experience but if you’re a more experienced diver, scuba diving is the best way to discover the underwater world hidden beneath the surface. If you’re looking for something in between, however, a sea walk will keep your feet safe on the seabed while the oxygen helmet gives you a feeling of being a fellow inhabitant of the tepid blue waters.
Most of Sabah’s vast biodiversity is found in its forests and reserve areas. The famous Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is home to more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna and is understandably a popular tourist attraction. Here are some other amazing destinations for animal lovers.
With all of the climbing, diving and swimming you have been doing, it’s time to step back, relax and watch the experts (the wildlife) show you how it’s really done! Some of the places you can visit are:
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center
This is arguably the best place to see orangutans in their natural habitat. The Orangutans are reared, raised and then released into the wild and this process helps in the conservation of their species. You will get to watch the animals be fed by professionally trained keepers and if you’re lucky, the Macaques might join the show in their attempt to steal some food for themselves. If you would like to leave a more lasting impact during your trip there, you can opt to ‘adopt’ a baby orangutan by sponsoring for their care and you will receive photos and updates of your new baby.
With over 750 species of birds that have made the forests of Sabah their home, bird watching is a popular activity among bird enthusiasts and amateurs alike. With many species endemic to the region, you will have the rare opportunity to spot some incredible aerial acrobatics. The few species you might have the good fortune of spotting are the Malaysian Treepie, Whitehead’s Spiderhunter, the Short-tailed Magpies and the Mountain Barbet (to name a few!) so be attentive, keep your binoculars ready and your camera focused because you won’t want to miss a thing!
Turtle Island Park
It is truly a humbling experience to watch a baby turtle bravely head into the treacherous waters a few hours after hatching and at the Turtle island park you’ll get to witness this phenomenal occurrence and everything that precedes it. From the laying of the eggs to its hatching and its subsequent release back into the ocean, tourists are given an incredible opportunity to be a part of the journey of these amazing creatures.
The other members of the rich Sabah biodiversity you may get the opportunity to see are the Proboscis Monkey at the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, the innumerable barracuda and the hammerhead shark on your underwater expeditions, the mammoth stinky Rafflesia Flower on your climb up Mt Kinabalu and the endangered Hawksbill turtle on your trip to The Turtle Islands.
While the best time to head to Sabah is between January and April, the perfect time to experience Sabah adventure and wildlife is NOW. Sabah is absolutely beautiful and welcoming throughout the year and is waiting to be etched in your memory so don’t hold your breath because it’s about to get taken away!