Sabah-East or Borneo Malaysia
STATE OF SABAH
Sabah is one of two Islands of Borneo or East Malaysia.It is situated in northern Borneo, bordering the state of Sarawak to the southwest, Kalimantan of Indonesia to the south, while separated by sea from the Federal Territory of Labuan. Sabah, when translated in Malayan language, is spelt as ‘Sabah Negeri di Bawah Bayu’ which means ‘Land below the wind’, as it is located just below the typhoon prone region of the Philippines. Kota Kinabalu is the capital city, the economic centre of the state and the seat of the Sabah state government fondly called by the locals as KK. Other major towns in Sabah include Sandakan and Tawau. Sabah has an breathtaking array of beautiful islands off its eastern and western coastlines. Sabah is an all time favourite of the divers, as the seas are abundant in coral reefs and marine life. The islands also make a fantastic gateway for those who want an exciting vacation on the beach.
Located near the equator,Sabah has an equatorial climate with tropical rainforests and abundant animal and plant species.Hence the temperature does not become too hot or too cold.The climate conditions at the highlands and the low lying areas are quite different from each other. Sabah experiences only two seasons-One is the rainy season throughout the year,with the period between October to February being the wettest and second the dry season for the rest of the year.The state is the hottest during the months of May and September. Natural beauty and virgin flora,fauna and its vast array of beaches attracts visitors from world over to Sabah. There are almost four hundred (400) Islands in Sabah but only few of them are developed for tourism
Sipadan Island or Pulau Sipadan : Located in the Celebes Sea,this Island is famous for its diverse marine life and well known as one of the top diving sites.Rising atleast 700 metres above the seabed and only 12 HA in size,this Island is the smallest in size.A twenty-five (25) minute walk is all that is needed to circle the island on foot. The formation of this Island started thousands of years on top of an extinct volcano thus starting the growth of beautiful corals.The corals can be called the pioneers of these islands.A bird sanctuary till 1933 and later declared a ‘preserved area’ to protect the wealth of lush greenery and diverse creatures living on the island as well as underwater. Along with diverse marine life,Pulau Sipadan is also renowned for the large number of turtles that live there. It is a common sight to see such magnificent creatures swim underwater. The seas of Sipadan Island are renowned for having more than three thousand (3000) species of fish and corals that live in its ecosystem.A haven for divers,the Island is named as one of the best diving spots in the world. Sipadan Island is home to a huge variety of tropical birds that include sea eagles, kingfishers, sunbirds, starlings and wood pigeons. Exotic crustaceans including the amazing coconut crab roam the beaches and scurry among the undergrowth. Encounters with turtles, resident schools of jacks, bumphead parrotfish and barracudas are just common…ask the divers on this tiny coral island.
Tanjung Aru : The Malay name for Casuarinas is ‘Aru‘. Covered all over with casuarina trees,Tanjung Aru beach is a serene patch of white sand.This beach is located at just six (6) Kms away from Kota Kinabalu. The evening time is the best to view the crimson coloured sun setting on the horizon with a splash of a bright red all over the sky is the perfect background.Food stalls are aplenty along with a variety of seafood restaurants. Food stalls serving local food and drinks are open till late at night. A simple meal of coconut and sugarcane juice, chicken or beef satay and steamed peanuts and corn or indulge in a full-course dinner at the seafood restaurant located at the beach..the choice is yours. A relaxing stroll and a jog on the long stretch of the sandy beach is a great activity.
Pulau Kapalai or Kapalai Island is actually a long bar of sand that is placed upon a stretch of reefs called the ‘Ligitan Reefs’ and more a hidden island between Sipadan and Mabul. Being very close to Sipadan Island-the best diving spot in the world,Kapalai Island also earns the distinction of being the best diving spot as good as Sipadan. There is a water village cum resort built on stilts here, where you can observe the marine life that swims in the reef below.Rich and diverse marine life swim around.You will see rare species of fish, octopuses and turtles in the waters of Kapalai. The dive center at Kapalai provides diving, snorkeling and kayaking gear on rent. Enthusiasts can also learn PADI courses which includes the Open Water and introduction to Night Diving.A total of forty (40) chalets here are available which are built on wooden stilts in the middle of the ocean. You can even watch the marine life as you stroll along the broadwalk. Chalets here include basic necessities which are adequate for visitors’ stay.
Pulau Lankayan : Uninhabited,empty beaches, dense tropical forest and vast areas of untouched coral reefs- Lankayan Island is located in the Sulu Sea North West of Sandakan and is an explorer’s dream haven.A small piece, this island is only about four (4) hectares in size and is surrounded by palm and casuarina trees on its white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters that lap the shore and complete with beautiful sunsets. Scuba diving is a must activity here.The large corals around attract a variety of fish such as leopard sharks, marbled stingrays and giant groupers and Black Tip reef . Snorkeling and Kayaking are the other activities.The Lankayan Island is also a nesting area for both the Green and Hawksbill turtles.
Pulau Layang-Layang : Located off the Island of Borneo,approximately 300 Kms northwest of Kota Kinabalu in the South China sea is the magical little gem within the deep blue sea, fondly known as “The Jewel of the Borneo Banks”.Actually a man made island, the Layang-Layang Islands were the Malaysian Naval base and was later developed into a luxurious ninety(90) room dive resort- The Layang-Layang Island Resort.It is a small island.Just the 200-hectare reef in the north western part of the island is home to a rich variety of marine life atoll reef and is a world renowned diving,snorkelling and fishing destination after Sipadan. Situated miles away from the civilization,it is an absolutely serene and isolated place for visitors who crave for absolute isolation.An airstrip with regular flights from the city center of Kota Kinabalu which ferries visitors who wish to go to and fro from the island.Beautiful views of the surrounding sea,hard corals,a nesting colony for several sea-faring migratory birds,the pristine reefs in the area are home to schools of marine animals observed around the fourteen (14) dive sites.Sharks,Stingrays like manta rays, pygmy devil rays, marbled rays and eagle rays and then there are coral fish,black-tip sharks, hammerheads, jacks barracudas, bump-head parrotfish, lionfish, moray eels, turtles, nudibranches, gobies,ghost pipe fish.Green and Hawkbill turtles,cuttlefish to octopus and squids to crabs and sometimes seen are dolphins and whales in the area.It is the ultimate experience of living on an Isolated Island !!!!and not being marooned.And to add the water here is not very deep at twenty-five to thirty (25-30) meters, making it suitable for beginner divers.
Mabul Island : Located in the clear waters of the Celebes Sea off the south eastern coast of Sabah,this once upon a time small fishing village slowly attracted divers from the world over.This Island earned its place as the best muck diving site in the world and is home to an abundant and diverse marine life and myriads of exotic and tiny creatures.Reputed to be one of the best places for underwater macro-photography in the world,this Island enjoys its popularity due its close proximity to the Sipadan Islands (fifteen(15) Kms from Sipadan). The Island is surrounded by gentle sloping reefs two(2) to forty (40) metres deep.Diving is the main activity on this island, and it can be done all year round. Marine life that can be seen here include sea horses, exotic starfish, fire gobies, crocodile fish, pipefish,snake eels,blue-ringed octopus, the flamboyant cuttlefish, the frogfish, the moray eels, the spike-fin gobies, and so many other equally amazing creatures. There are over eight (8) popular dive spots, each with its own speciality. Three resorts cater to scuba divers – two are on the island itself while one is on a converted oil rig platform about 500 metres offshore. A day trip to Islands has packages that includes a trip to the nearby Sipadan and Kapalai Islands as well.Strolling and walking the relaxing sandy beach and some adventure sports are other activities
Pulau Mantanani : Replete with abundant and colourful marine life,Mantanani has the earned the name as a diver’s paradise.Located northwest of Kota Belud, approximately an hour’s drive from Kota Kinabalu,it is actually a group of three isolated islands which are-Mantanani Kecil, Mantanani Besar and Lungisan. The islands are situated in clear waters with picturesque views, just perfect for diving and snorkeling. The Mantanani Islands are just amazing with abundant and diverse marine life and white sandy beaches just ideal for sunbathing.Explore around the island which a large array of sea creatures call home, such as seahorses, shrimps, gobies, octopuses, eels and lion fish. At present, there are about sixteen (16) dive sites identified around the island.The underwater world of Mantanani is full of mesmerizing neon colored fish, cute clownfish, vividly colored finger corals and a vast garden of living coral reefs.Each dive site in Mantanani is uniquely different. There are rare encounters with dolphins, divers will also have a chance to encounter with some rare underwater species such as the bump head parrotfish, moray eel, sting ray, eagle ray and several types of turtles. This is the place to go for splendid underwater photography as the view is splendid the visibility level is very impressive.The main attraction here is the swimming with Dugongs activity
Pulau Mataking : Only eighty (80) minutes away from the famous Sipadan Island,Pulau Mataking is located in the Celebes Sea on the state of Sabah. Sparkling white sands,enticing blue waters and an ‘A’ class resort,Mataking Island is the ideal getaway for both-the avid diver and the not so avid one at the sport. Divers can gear up and explore the Eel Garden, Coral Garden, Nudibranch Garden, Turtle Playground, Lobsters Lair and Hump Head Point.Non-divers can engage in a host of activities batik painting, kayaking, canoeing and jungle-trekking to name a few.A must-do during your time in Mataking is to take a leisurely walk to Pulau Mataking Kecil (literally meaning Small Mataking Island) which is a twenty (20) minute walk from the main island. Mataking Island is home to the first and only ‘Underwater Post Office’ in Malaysia and is connected to Pulau Mataking Kecil via a narrow sand bank. Mataking Island is a private island belonging to the Reef Dive Resort featuring luxury chalets and a dive center serving divers visiting Sipadan. History has it that in March 2006 the resort decided to sink Mataking 1, an old forty(40)-foot wooden cargo ship to create an artificial reef. This was the birth of the unique underwater mailbox. Divers seal their mail in waterproof vacuum bag and post it underwater. There are around thirty (30) dive sites, the most famous being Magic Rick, Mantis Reef and the Alice Wall. Encounters with large fish such as barracuda, stingrays, tuna and even whale sharks regularly take place along with sightings of turtles, coral fish and giant clams. Meanwhile, the beautiful beaches of the island will appeal to sun-seekers and families.
Pulau Tiga : Located just ten (10) kms off shore on the West Coast of Sabah is Pulau Tiga. Surrounded with pristine clear tropical waters,Pulau Tiga was formed when an earthquake on Mindanao caused a volcanic eruption near Borneo.At the highest part of the island are a couple of active mud volcanoes.Located in the district of Kuala Penyu,you can reach the Island through a boat ride. Pulau Tiga received recognition all around the globe when the first season of the reality television show ‘Survivor’ was shot on this little island.Hence this Island is also known as the ‘Survivor Island’.The island is a bountiful reserve for natural wildlife, including numerous birds, reptiles and insects. Besides exploring the flora and fauna, you can also dive around the waters to watch bamboo sharks, marbled stingrays and even banded sea snakes.Snorkeling,kayaking and swimming are the optional activities on the Island. Pulau Tiga is also famous for its therapeutic natural volcanic mud.
Tiga Island Marine Park was established in 1978, although the area has been under protection as a forest reserve since 1933. It is located north of Kuala Penyu, opposite the swampy Klias Peninsula, in Sabah, Malaysia.The park covers 158 square kilometres of mostly ocean, containing the three (3) islands of Tiga, Kalampunian Besar and Kalampunian Damit. The park has been named after Tiga,the biggest of the three islands. The islands were formed in 1897 by the eruption of mud volcanos. Tiga Island is now covered in dense vegetation,flora and fauna, however volcanic activity continues in the form of bubbling mud and methane gas venting, although the last major outpouring of mud was in the early 1960s. Kalampunian Besar Island is now little more than a sandbar, eroded away by wave action. Known for its sugar-white sands and clear waters, it is popular for scuba diving and snorkelling. Kalampunian Damit Island, little more than a large rock, is also called Snake Island. It is famous as a mating location for highly poisonous sea snakes. Tiga Island Park is administered by Sabah Parks
Kinabalu National Park : With the majestic Mount Kinabalu. the highest mountain in South East Asia with its peak at 4,095 metres as the backdrop. Kinabalu National Park,declared as Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site by UNESCO is located in Northwest Sabah. The National Park covers a sprawling area of 754 square kilometres and is a protected reserve area, governed by the Sabah Parks.Nature lovers can feast on the diverse collection of rich flora and fauna.The park is home to a collection of about 1,200 species of orchids, 26 species of rhododendrons and the insectivorous nepenthes (pitcher plant).Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea.Being of great height and the third largest mountain, climbing Mount Kinabalu can be one of the easiest and strenuous journeys and takes approximately two-three (2-3) days with no special hiking equipment needed. Gunung Kinabalu as it is known by locals has two trails that lead to the summit – the Timpohon Trail, a relatively-easier route, and the Mesilau Trail, which is the more taxing route.The mountain manifests a rich vegetation and plant growth along the trail.
The Poring Hot Springs is one famous attraction that has been developed into open air Japanese styled baths.Located about forty (40) kilometers from the Kinabalu National Park and in the lowlands,Poring Hot Springs is the best place to destress and soak away all the sores and aches in your muscles after the strenuous climb of Mount Kinabalu. The water of the hot springs contains sulphuric minerals which have been deemed to have special healing properties and is very famous among the locals.Other than the natural hot spring main attraction at Poring Hot Springs, there are also other interesting areas in the park to be visited such as the butterfly farm, the Poring Orchid Conservation Centre, the tropical garden, the Poring canopy walkway, and the Rafflesia flower site.
Rumah Terbalik Di Sabah or Upside Down Home in Sabah : Rumah Terbalik Di Sabah is best described as an otherworldly upside-down home. Billed as Southeast Asia’s first, the 1,500 square feet compound looks like its neighbours traditional Sabahan homes, but the house, car and even a wheelbarrow leaning against the outdoor wall are all flipped over. Designed by Alexander Yee, a look into this topsy-turvy home is like stepping into the pages of Alice in Wonderland, with sofas, ashtray, books and the TV in the living room, the beds and dressers in the bedrooms, the microwave, stove, tables and chairs in the kitchen all stuck to the ceiling.Similar to Germany’s ‘The World Stands on its Head’ upside-down home, Rumah Terbalik Di Sabah (Upside Down Home in Sabah) is a childhood fantasy come to life. The compound is reminiscent of an amusement park,there is even a carport with a sedan stuck to its ceiling. The purpose of constructing this was to give out a concerning and a clear message. The rate of rampant development could lead to the world too going upside down.
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary: The Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary is located in Sandakan, Sabah. It is also known as the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Set up in 1964 to rehabilitate orphaned Orang Utans,the sanctuary spreads over an area of 4300 hectare replete with lush greenery.Referred to as ‘Wild Men of Borneo’,the magnificent but cute Orang Utans are well placed and cared for in surroundings close to their natural habitat.The place is a favorite with the animal lovers and researchers who wish to study the animals. In the centre of the sanctuary is a boardwalk which leads you to a viewing gallery and a feeding platform where you can get upclose and personal with these animals during their feeding time which is between 10.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. since this is the time when these primates come down from the trees for their daily feedings of bananas and milk.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park : Situated about three (3) kilometers or a twenty (20) minutes speedboat ride off Kota Kinabalu, the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park is a bunch of small islands separated by about ten (10) minutes by boat of each other. Named after the first prime minister of Malaysia,this park protects these five islands-Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug and the surrounding reefs. The waters around the islands are known for being shallow and have a rich variety of coral life and gardens. The beaches are also beautifully white and tranquil. Because of the relatively shallow depth of the waters, novice and beginner divers will find this place a good starting point.Tourists and marine researchers are drawn to the park known for its flora and fauna as well as its abundance in marine species.An eye-catching collection of mantis shrimps, cuttlefish, scorpion fish, blue-spotted rays and the rare harlequin ghost pipefish and mandarin fish make it an interesting dive location for experienced divers. Also, during certain times of the year, the waters become rich with plankton, attracting the colossal whale shark!.Popular activities here are sun bathing, barbeque, snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, windsurfing and even parasailing which grant you the chance of viewing the city and the islands from the top view.
Turtle Island Park : The island comprises of three islands-Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan. Founded in 1977 to protect the endangered species of Green and Hawksbill Turtles,it is recognised world-wide as a successful sea turtle nesting ground and conservation park from the collection of eggs to incubation and raising to final release into the sea.Located in the Sulu Seas off the East Coast of Sabah, access is by speedboat which takes about an hour.Turtles which come ashore every night to lay their eggs,are well taken care of by hatcheries set up on the islands and protected from wild predators such as monitor lizards.Turtles are best left in their natural environment after hatching.While waiting to watch the turtles till night,you can participate in water sports such as scuba diving and snorkelling. Apart from the turtles,also take time to see the splendid coral reefs here as well!
The Kinabatangan River known as Sungai Kinabatangan in the Malay language is a river in Sabah. It is the second longest river in Malaysia,with a length of 560 kilometres from its headwaters in the mountains of southwest Sabah, to its outlet at the Sulu Sea, east of Sandakan it is one of the best sustained ecosystems in the world. Kinabatangan Wetlands is known for its remarkable wildlife and fascinating habitats such as limestone caves at Gomantong hill, dryland dipterocarp forests, riverine forest, freshwater swamp forest, oxbow lakes and salty mangrove swamps near the coast,an important conservation area for many animals.Excessive logging and clearing land for plantations caused the damage of ecology of the upper stretches.Thankfully the original lowland forests and mangrove swamps near the coast have largely survived, providing a sanctuary for a population of saltwater crocodiles,and contain some of Borneo’s highest concentrations of wildlife. Of special note are Borneo’s indigenous proboscis monkeys with a stump for a nose,Bornean orangutan and Asian elephants,clouded leopards,Sumatran rhinoceros, civet cats, otters, hornbills, egrets, hawks and many more.The area is also known for its great variety of birdlife. In 1997, 270 square kilometres of the lower Kinabatangan floodplain was declared a protected area, and in 2001 this designation was upgraded to that of “bird sanctuary”
SHOPPING OPTIONS IN SABAH
Suria Sabah Shopping Mall : Suria Sabah Shopping Mall known as Suria KK opened its doors in 2009 besides Jesselton Point jetty and with 700,000 sq feet of retail space it is aiming to become the number one KK shopping mall.Strategically located on the waterfront gives its visitors a vivid shopping experience-dining in the food court, to enjoy the calmness and serenity of the environment along with quality shopping.Featuring an unique salad bowl design,the mall houses the latest fashion trends and lifestyle solutions, the mall is equipped with the best of its kind. Proceeding to fast food restaurants on the basement floor, the extensive cuisine offered at different outlets across the higher floors, attracts foodies from all over. The mall is believed to have a generous parking space, to accommodate a large number of visitors.There is City Grocer, supermarket that gives the people the convenient option of buying packaged food and drinks as well.The major tycoon dominating the mall is the Metro Jaya, departmental stores, having outlets on several floors.The entertainment quotient is offered by The GSC Suria Sabah, also known as Golden Screen Cinema Suria Sabah features eight (8) big screens and amazing 3D experience to shoppers supported by Amp Square Karaoke and CYC Mega Leisure World
Wisma Merdeka Square Shopping Mall : One of the most populous malls in Kota Kinabalu,it is centrally located in the City centre. The mall offers quite a wide array of commodities and services for shoppers of all kinds to avail. Wisma Merdeka constitutes of about more than three hundred (300) shops, being a major source of visitor attraction. The distinguishing feature of Wisma Merdeka is its local shops that dominate the landscape of this mall, setting it apart from the rest. Chain retailers are often the prominent ones in other shopping malls, but the merchandise profile of Wisma Merdeka seems to be quite unique.Looking for souvenirs and memoirs to take back home…..? Wisma Merdeka is the most popular shopping mall in Kota Kinabalu for memoirs and souvenirs. The exclusive and ethnic variety of souvenir items will leave any tourist awestruck and wanting to take maximum things back home, because the temptation is irresistible. These include the traditional batik, handicrafts and antiques to books that invoke local interest and other items worth buying to recall the memorable time spent in Kota Kinabalu. However one cannot find many technology and gadget outlets, sports and computer stores here.But you can find a good variety of non-casual, funky and durable clothing for the beach or mountain with suitable footwear. People may even come to buy simple denim jeans at reasonable rates. Also invariably famous for its range of delicacies, some of the best food in town, which are sure to tantalize your taste buds are found in Wisma Merdeka are good food outlets and the most famous coffees in town.