Sabah – No 7 Attraction

Sabah is one of the states of Malaysia and located at the northern area of the Borneo Island. Formerly, before the formation of Malaysia it was called British North Borneo. Sabah is often referred as “The Land Below the Wind”, a phrase to describe as land south of the typhoon belt and also described by Agnes Keith’s book by the same title. The main reason to visiting Sabah is ecotourism and wildlife adventure holiday; and there is plenty of this. The visitor can explore the mountains, scuba dive in exotic Sabah islands and jungle hiking to look for the elusive Rafflesia, apparently the biggest flower in the world, and the wildlife unique to Borneo which includes animals like the orangutans, long nosed proboscis monkeys, hornbills, rhinos, and pygmy elephants.

The main areas of attractions are Kinabalu National Park, Sipadan Island, Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu, and Danum Valley Conservation Area.

Kinabalu National Park (KNP) is Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO in December 2000 for its “outstanding universal values” and the role as one of the most important biological sites in the world. Centre piece to KNP is Mount Kinabalu, which is 4,101 meters high and is not only the highest mountain in Malaysia but the whole of South East Asia. KNP is situated in the Crocker Range on the western coast of Sabah. The park is administrated by Sabah Parks. Reservations for accommodation and mountain climbing guides are processed through Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, a private operator within the Park.

The botanical site contains a variety of flora and fauna that ranges between 4 climatic zones; from the tropical rich lowland dipterocarp rain forest through the temperate montane oak ,rhododendron, to the coniferous forest and lastly to alpine meadow plants and stunted bushes at the peak. Places of interest within the KNP are the vegetable farms at Kundasang, the tea plantations at Ranau, and hot springs and canopy walk at Poring. A war memorial for the Australian’s POWs who died in the Death March at the end of the 2nd World War is located at Kundasang.

For scuba divers, Sipadan Island offers one of the best diving spots not only for Malaysia but of the world due to its amazing diversity of the marine life. The nearest town is Semporna. The underwater environment at Sipadan Island is stupendous and breathtaking.  It is a tropical paradise for divers. Its main attractions are the several varieties of big fishes found in its waters which include barracudas; many varieties of sharks including leopard sharks, whale sharks; bumphead parrot fishes; manta rays; eagle rays; jacks; bannerfish; snappers etc. Green and hawkbill turtles are in abundance and are protected. The experience of swimming in the vortex of a barracuda tornado is awe inspiring. Sipadan is controlled by Sabah Parks and there is a restriction of 120 divers per day in imposition. There is no accommodation on Sipadan Island. The nearest accommodation is at Mabul and Kapalai Islands which about 30 mins by boat to the island.

Nearer to the capital city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu is Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which is an alternative diving destination in Sabah. It consists of 5 islands and the largest island is Pulau Gaya which is covered with dense virgin tropical forest. It has two 5 star resorts, Gayana Eco Resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort. The other two islands, Pulau Manukan and Pulau Sapi are popular with the locals for picnickers, swimming, snorkeling and diving. The coral reefs around these islands provide excellent diving spots for the diving enthusiast.

For visitors interested in Borneo forest, one could to visit the Danum Valley Conservation Area. It is a 438 sq. km piece of land of primary undisturbed predominantly lowland rainforest with outstanding Borneo flora and fauna. Its nearest town is Lahad Datu which accessible by air. Alternatively, one can fly to Sandakan or Tawau which are reachable by international flights. This lowland tropical rainforest is home to many birds and mammals including the spectacled flowpeckers, orang utans, gibbons, rare Borneo pygmy elephants, sun bears, Sumatran rhinos, tarsiers, deers, wild cats, etc. Accommodation is available at the Borneo Rainforest lodge but bookings must be made early. Activities involve jungle trekking which includes bird watching, taking pictures and observing wildlife.

Sandakan is a city on the East coast of Sabah and a destination not to be missed while visiting Sabah. A tour of Sandakan will involve Sandakan City tour; travel to the Turtle Island of Pulau Selingan to watch Green Turtles lay eggs; visit Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre to see the feeding of the Orangutans while trekking through the forest; board the river cruise along Kinabatangan River to view wildlife and birds. If one has spare time, one can visit The Australian War Memorial and Agnes Keith House at Sandakan.

Lastly, a visitor should take a stroll through the City of Kota Kinabalu (KK), formerly called Jesselton, to complete their tour of Sabah. It has many shopping complexes selling multiple facets of goods from electronic, clothing and food products. All the complexes have food courts selling popular local food at cheap prices. Within the vicinity of KK are numerous 5 star resorts with their own 18 holes golf courses. This includes Sutera Harbor Resort, Karambunai Resort, Tanjung Aru Resort, and so on. Visit the Sabah Museum to see displays of local cultures of its indigenous population consisting of Kadazans, Muruts, Rungus, etc. Take a stroll up Signal Hill to capture the spectacular panoramic view of the City of Kota Kinabalu

KK International Airport has links to many destinations in the region. From KK, a visitor can fly into the island resort of Pulau Layang Layang in the South China Sea famous for Marlin fishing and scuba diving. One can make visits to Pulau Labuan by boat from KK for its tax free goods. Take the opportunity to enjoy the sea food in one of the many sea food restaurants in the city while watching local traditional dancing performance.

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