Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia and it is located in the East Malaysia. The state lies on the northeastern tip of Borneo which is just south of the typhoon belt. For this reason, Sabah is also known as the Land Below the Wind.
If you like outdoor activities, Sabah is definitely the place for you. With its magnificent caves, coral reefs, forests, wildlife and mountains waiting to be explored, you won’t be bored for sure. Moreover, the state is also the ideal place for a range of adventures such as mountain climbing, white-water rafting and diving.
The history of Sabah started as far back as 40,000 years ago with evidence of prehistoric human habitation. Today, Sabah has over 30 indigenous groups and immigrants from China, Indonesia and the Philippines. Sabah was once ruled by the sultans of Brunei for centuries until the came of the British in the 19th century. Since then the British had taken over the administration of Sabah to exploit the natural resources of Sabah such as timber, rubber and tobacco. When Sabah was under the British rule, it was popularly known as North Borneo. The British had ruled the state until 1963 when it joined the Federation of Malaysia.
Today Sabah is fast catching up in terms of development and ecotourism. A large portion of the state economy is derived through tourism. Sandakan was used to be Sabah administrative capital between 1883 and 1942. But Kota Kinabalu took over the role after that and it remains as the state capital until now.
Sabah is now transformed into a well-known tourism hub. In Kota Kinabalu alone, there are a lot of things to do and one of them is hike up the Mountain Kinabalu. Besides, Kota Kinabalu is also a good place to explore and experience the rich cultural and diversified ethnic backgrounds of Sabah. You can visit the weekly held tamus and fascinating long houses here.
Moreover, if you took a journey north from Kota Kinabalu, you will reach Tip of Borneo, a famous tourist destination in Sabah. For a more adventurous trip, you can head south to the Padas River for white-water rafting.
In addition, some of the world’s best diving places are located off the coast of Sabah. If you were looking to do some diving, Sandakan would be the place to start off as it is the base from which to visit the dive sites that lie off the east coast and the nature reserves at Sukau and Danum Valley.
Kota Kinabalu Travel Map
Getting to Sabah
Kota Kinabalu International Airport is the main-entry point into the state. Sabah is easily accessible by frequent short-haul flights from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Peninsula Malaysia. Visitors can also fly in from the Kuching International Airport in Sarawak as well as from major cities in Malaysia.The Kota Kinabalu Port welcomes tourists arriving by cruise ships. Private yachts can dock at Sutera Harbour Marina.
Sabah Travel Articles:
Can you afford to climb Mountain Kota Kinabalu?
Is the escalating cost of climbing the famous Mt. Kota Kinabalu worth your hard earned money? Read more to find out the justification of the cost increment by the authority.
Care for a cup of tea at the lush tropical wilderness of Mt. Kinabalu?
The Sabah Tea Garden offers a relaxing holiday where you can enjoy sipping cup of tea within the lush greenery of the Mt’ Kinabalu.
Scaling The Highest Peak In South East Asia
The Low’s Peak of Mountain Kinabalu is the highest peak in South East Asia. Discover what it takes to conquer this magnificent place on earth.
The Heart of Borneo
The Heart of Borneo is an ambition project aimed at protecting the forest in Borneo Island undertaken by three nations, namely Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei.
Sabah Tourist Attractions:
Banggi island is one of Sabah famous islands for tourism. Its lush greenery, crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, and diversified wildlife are some of the attractions. Find out tips on how to get there, location and what to expect. High res pictures are available.
The majestic Mount Kinabalu, standing at 4,095.2m, is one of the highest peaks in Southeast Asia. It is the main attraction of Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site. This dense jungle contains one of the world’s richest assemblages of plants. Don’t miss a visit to the Poring Hot Springs, a natural health spa offering open-air Japanese-style baths. The annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon draws participants from around the world.
This museum in Kota Kinabalu is built in the longhouse style of the Rungus and Murut communities. It showcases a wealth of ethnic treasures and handicrafts. History lovers will be charmed by the Sabah Tourism Building, one of the only three buildings in Kota Kinabalu to have survived World War II. Other attractions in the city include the State Mosque, Museum of Islamic Civilization, Atkinson Clock Tower and Signal Hill.
Shopping and Crafts
Sabah is famed for its splendid souvenirs including beads, accessories and bamboo products. The KK Handicraft Market, Kadaiku and Wawasan Plaza Handicraft are popular shopping spots in Kota Kinabalu.
Sabah has a number of excellent dive spots, with the jewel being the world-famous Sipadan. Its location at the heart of the Indo Pacific Basin makes it one of the richest marine habitats in the world. Here, fascinating sights of turtles, reef sharks and a thrilling 600m drop-off await experience divers. The island was made famous by renowned oceanographer Jacques Cousteau in his documentary, ‘Ghosts of the Sea Turtle’.
Mabul and Kapalai Islands
Situated near to Sipadan, these two islands are great destination for macro-diving.
Other Dive Sites
A ring of 13 coral atolls, Layang-Layang is another world-class dive site of unique character. It offers the best chance to spot hammerhead sharks along with many kinds of pelagic. A cornucopia of fish life and wreck diving are major attractions in Mantanani. Other dive sites include Pulau Tiga, famed as the ‘Survivor Island’ as well as Lankayan and Mataking.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Park
Enjoy splashing fun at this mrine park, situated just 20 minutes by speedboat from Kota Kinabalu. Made up of five islands, it is the ideal playground for swimming, snorkeling, diving and even parasailing. Don’t miss the unique experience of ‘sea-walking’ amidst colorful fishes.
Monsopiad Cultural Village
Go back in time, to the era of the legendary Kadazan warrior Monsopiad. Founded by the direct descendant of Monsopiad, this living museum showcases traditional village houses, a sacred House of Skulls and several other attractions. Don’t miss the exciting cultural performance.
Sunday Gaya Street Market
This open-air market is the place to get handicraft, local delicacies and fresh jungle produce. The Tamu Kota Belud is another popular Sunday market for all traditional things. Watch the vibrantly dressed Bajau horsemen riding gaily decorated ponies during ceremonial occasions. They are known as ‘Cowboys of the East’ for their horsemanship.
Enjoy the heart-stopping experience of contending the rapids! The Padas and Kiulu Rivers are popular for river rafting activities.
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center
Watch orang utans, known as the ‘wild man of Borneo’ during the daily feeding sessions. Said to be the world’s largest orang utan sanctuary, the center serves to rescue and retrain primates for jungle living. Off the mainland, Turtle Islands Park is reputed to be one of the most important turtle breeding spots in Southeast Asia.
Situated on the Lower Kinabatangan River, Sukau has Malaysia’s greatest wildlife concentration. Prolific bird species and animals such as orang utans, crocodiles and proboscis monkeys live along the riverine wetlands. Enjoy a boat ride to take a close look. En route, visit Gomantong Caves, home to millions of swiftlets. They are prized for the bird’s nest soup.
Danum Valley Conservation Area
Sabah’s largest expanse of lowland dipterocarp forest is haven to various bird species, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and over 110 mammals. Viewing platforms, a canopy walkway and nocturnal tours are not-to-be-missed adventures.
Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Hailed as one of the finest wildlife viewing areas in Borneo, Tabin is home to some of the largest mammals in Sabah such as the Borneo Pygmy Elephant and Sumatran rhino. A highlight here is the mud volcano, reputed to possess healing properties.
Antique Train Rides
Ride on the North Borneo steam train from Tanjung Aru to Papar to experience the charms of a bygone era. Take in the scenic sights of the countryside and enjoy a tiffin lunch on board. Alternatively, the local train to Tenom takes passengers on a scenic route traversing the picturesque Padas Gorge.
Kudat Long House
Make a visit to the traditional long house of the Rungus tribe. Their traditional attire and intriguing culture will make your trip unforgettable. Homestay are a fascinating way to observe their lifestyle.
The Tip of Borneo
Experience the thrill of standing at land’s end! Simpang Mengayau Bay is the northwestern tip of Borneo. It offers glorious views of the sea and surrounding islands.
Location, Driving Direction and Map for Getting Around Sabah: