Sabah - the 'Land Below the Wind'
The state of Sabah is the place to go if you want to enjoy eco-adventures such as scuba diving, snorkelling, river cruising, white water rafting, see the breeding and conservation of the endangered turtles, get connected to the orang utan at Sepilok, or even scaling the 4,095 m Mount Kinabalu. These are but some of the many activities that you can do at the marine and national parks throughout the state.
This state in the island of Borneo is also known as 'Land Below The Wind' for the simple reason that it is located below the typhoon belt. Hence, it is free from the typhoon that is a common occurrence in neighbouring countries. With a population of about 3 million, there are over 32 ethnic groups living here. The largest community is the Kadazan and Dusun tribes.
The flag of Sabah. Notice the silhouette of the famous Mount Kinabalu.
Having equatorial climate means that the temperature of the state vary from 24 °C to 33 °C on the plains though it is definitely more cooling in the national parks where greenery abound. Higher up the mountains, the temperature can drop to below 10 °C and even below the freezing point on Mount Kinabalu.
Kota Kinabalu, by the South China Sea is the state capital and the gateway to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Kinabalu National Park, Poring Hot Springs and ascending Mount Kinabalu.
Lahad Datu, by the Celebes Sea is the gateway to Danum Valley Conservation Area, Maliau Basin Conservation Area and Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
Semporna is the gateway to Tun Sakaran Marine Park, where Sipadan is located.
Sandakan, by the Sulu Sea which is about 45 minutes away by flight from the capital is the gateway to Turtle Islands Park, Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, Gomantong Caves and exploring the Kinabatangan River. This town is the second largest town in Sabah after Kota Kinabalu. While you are here, you may also want to visit the Sandakan War Memorial Park.
The Kinabatangan River Cruise will take you back to nature where you can spot some of the 200 species of birds. Of particular interest will be the hornbill birds. This 2 hours cruise at the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary is also home to the Pygmy elephants.
Bring along your binoculars and try spotting the egrets, eagles, Proboscis monkeys, orang utans and other wildlife here.
If you want to experience how it is like to stay in a typical rainforest, you may want to consider staying at the Sukau River Lodge, Borneo Nature Lodge, Sukau Rainforest Lodge, Kinabatangan River Lodge or Proboscis Lodge Bukit Melapi.
Gomantong Caves is popular for bird nests. This delicacy is in high demand among the Chinese all over the world in particular China and Hong Kong. The bird nests harvested here can fetch up to RM2,500 per kg. There are two caves here, with the White Cave or Simud Putih producing white swiftlet nests and the Black Cave or Simud Hiam producing black swiftlet nests.
Harvesting of the bird nests is done in the months of March-April, August-September and December using rattan ladders. Remember to bring along a bottle of water, camera, torchlight, proper hiking shoes, hat and apply insect repellent lotion before entering the caves. You will also see bats and their ammonia smell droppings(known also as guano) as you enter the cave.
Sandakan War Memorial Park was built as a memorial to the 2,400 prisoners of war during the Japanese occupation who were forced to go inland to the town of Ranau. Also known as Sandakan Death Marches, many of the British and Australian prisoners died along the way either through diseases, dysentery or killed by the guards.
Labuan Marine Park is about 8km away off the coast of Sabah in the Federal Territory of Labuan. Good place to snorkel and scuba diving.
Pulau Tiga Park is about 3 hours drive away from Kota Kinabalu followed by 30 minutes boat ride. Enjoy the marine life and colourful birds on this park.
Sipadan Island is the gem of this state for scuba diving. See the unique marine life here.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is about 20 minutes by speed boat from Kota Kinabalu. Have a great time snorkelling, scuba diving or islands hopping here.
Turtle Islands Park is where you can learn and see for yourself the endangered Hawksbill and Green turtles.
The crystal clear water at Manukan Island.
National Parks and Hot Spring
Crocker Range National Park near Keningau is another natural rain forest that you can go for white water rafting at Padas River or jungle trekking.
Danum Valley Conservation Area is about 2 hours drive away from Lahad Datu. See the orang utans, experience the canopy walk, see the flora and fauna here.
Kinabalu National Park is a must if this is your first trip to Sabah. You will be able to see Gunung Kinabalu as you travel here. Temperature here is cooler by a few degrees Celcius than in the city.
Climb Mount Kinabalu and enjoy the spectacular view and sunset at the summit 4095.2 m above sea level.
Look out for the pitcher plant when you are in Kinabalu National Park.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area is for you if you enjoy pristine rainforest yet to be fully explored. This place is also known as the Lost World of Sabah.
Poring Hot Spring can be part of your itinerary as you go to Kinabalu Park. Enjoy the hot spring and canopy walk while you are here.
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary is 25 km away from Sandakan and is the rehabilitation centre for the endangered Orang Utan, the mammals that can only be found in Borneo and Sumatra.
Tawau Hills Park has clean waterfall and hot spring for a time of relaxation.