A stunning tropical marine paradise! That's what the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park at Sabah is! Named after Malaysia's first Prime Minister, this marine park is a cluster of 5 islands and was gazetted as a national park in 1974. Since it's a national park, it's flora and fauna and marine eco-systems are protected by a government appointed authority. The Kinabatangan river is home to some of the most varied and easily accessible wildlife in south east Asia. The river, which is the longest in the Sabah region, is home to one of the world's most diverse ecosystems. The wildlife sanctuary here boasts of exotic species such as the Proboscis monekys, Sumatran rhinos and Bornean Pygmy elephants, and much more! Yes, I want to go down the Kinabatangan river and be a witness to all these and more! Sipandan Island is rated as one of the best diving sites in the world! Multi-coloured reef fishes, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles and bumphead parrotfish - they are all here. Sipadan island boasts of a truly magical and breath-taking underwater experience.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Sabah is from December to February
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
Mount Kinabalu Kota Belud Sabah Malaysia
Most will get to see the spectacular sunrise unless of course you are unlucky with the weather! The descent is steep, but the guides are excellent. A walking pole is well worth the investment as it does help the knees. You can usually get to the summit in 2-3hours and hour and a half descent, hot breakfast, then the final 6km descent can take around 3hours. A fabulous trip to include as part of your Borneo experience!
Timpohon Gate Kinabalu Park Ranau Sabah Malaysia
Timpohon gate at 1866 m (6,122 ft) is the starting point of the hike. You will check in at this point and must be accompanied by a guide. From this point, you actually first go down to a waterfall before go up the mountain and then walk to the Laban Rata Rest house at 3,270 m (10,728 ft). It takes 3-6 hours for most people accomplish this section of the climb. There are no roads in this section so porters carry the supplies for the Laban Rata Rest house. They carry supplies up to 30 kilograms on their backs. About ever half a kilometer there are rest areas. Most of them have a bathroom and some seating. However, there are no food or water. However, the park HQ will give you a packed lunch and bottled water before you start.
Laban Rata Kinabalu Park Ranau Sabah Malaysia
4. Laban Rata: While scaling the peak of the tallest mountain of Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu, the trekkers halt at an accommodation mid-way to the mountain. This accommodation at Laban Rata proves to be bliss. They get to view the sunset from above the clouds, at a height of about 1,000 metres above sea level. A breathtaking view of the sunset gives the zest to scale the summit, no matter how tired the trekkers are!
Sutera Harbour Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia
6. Sutera Harbor: Just 2 kms off the city of KK, lies this harbor. It is situated adjacent to the five star Sutera Harbor Resort, this is a man-made structure close to nature. It offers a beautiful sun-scene, attracts many tourists and is easily accessible by a cab or car. The port-view beach is open to all – residents of the guest resort and tourists. Being away from the city, it is relatively calm and quiet and helps you connect to nature better.
Sandakan Central Market Malaysia
A trip to Sandakan’s waterfront wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Central Market. This multi-story wet market sells everything you could need including dried fish (tons of it!), clothing, pearls, bags, produce and meats. The highlight is, of course, the fresh seafood. Early in the morning the boats dock, bringing their bounties with them to sell. It's fun just to wander through and check out the day’s catch, which the fisherman are proud and eager to show off. If you want to take some amazingly fresh seafood back home with you, the locals will pack it for you to take on the plane. Reason to Visit: Glimpse local life, grab a bite, and take home the freshest of fresh seafood.
Sandakan Memorial Park Sandakan Sabah Malaysia
By far the most poignant of the sites to visit in Sandakan is the Memorial Park, the site of the Mile 8 POW camp. Being from the United States and a generation or two removed from World War II, I was unaware of the historical importance of Sandakan in relation to the war and deeply moved by what I learned here. The Japanese took hold of Sandakan in 1942 and established a POW camp there with prisoners brought from Singapore, all British and Australian soldiers, in order to build an airstrip. In 1945, after 3 years of life in horrific conditions, the surviving 2,400 POWs were marched by the Japanese to Ranau, 260km away. Those who could not make the journey were shot, and 500 died along the way. The rest perished at the camp in Ranau. Only six prisoners survived to tell the tale, two by escaping during the death march and the other four from the camp at Ranau. Upon exiting the centre, a lovely wooden walkway lead us to the former site of the Big Tree, a huge tree which could be seen from miles around. This tree was in the center of the camp, very near to the guardhouse and the site of the “cage”, an appalling version of solitary confinement. After the war, the tree was cut down and this memorial erected. I highly recommend this as the most important place to see during your visit in Sandakan. It is quite near the city and takes 45 minutes to an hour to stroll the well-kept grounds and read the information provided on plaques along the way.
Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) Sepilok Sandakan Sabah Malaysia
Only two kilometers from the Orangutan and Sun Bear Sanctuaries lies Sepilok’s Rainforest Discovery Centre, a place where one can walk beautiful trails through the forest, bird watch, and maybe even see an orangutan! Our first stop was the Plant Discovery Garden, where our guide talked about some of the amazing flora of the rainforests. I loved the orchids and the pitcher plants and was blown away by some of the biggest ferns I’ve ever seen! It was helpful and fun to have our guide, but for those going it alone, interpretive panels provided plenty of interesting information.
Klinik Desa Pinggan-Pinggan Kota Marudu
1. Desa PingganLocated in East of Bali, there is a village named Pinggan. To get there, you need a long drive since the area is quite remote. It takes 2.5 hours driving from Kuta Beach to Pinggan Village. You do not necessarily have to hike just to enjoy sunrise. The parking area is nearby sunrise spot. A local guide will show you the perfect spot to capture sunrise. It’s windy and dark up there, so don’t forget a jacket and a flashlight.
Tanjung Aru Beach Jalan Mat. Salleh Kota Kinabalu Sabah Malaysia
1. Tanjung Aru Beach: This beach is very close to the airport and offers one of the best sunset views. Taxis and buses are ever ready to take you to this glorious beach. A favourite place of sunset strolls for the locals, this place has sure been etched in their memories. Most locals swear by this beach and have spent their childhood, first dates and family outings here. With a restaurant right there, grab some munchies, hold the hand of your loved one and head to the sunny bank for an amazing view.
Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre Sandakan Sabah Malaysia
A mere 20 minutes from the Four Points by Sheraton lies the area of Sepilok, a division of Sandakan which houses several sanctuaries in the Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve. The Orangutan Sanctuary focuses primarily on rehabilitation and releasing orphaned orangutans back into the wild. It is not a zoo, but a place where the orangutans roam freely. As such, it is important to remember these are wild animals, and our tour guide tells us in no uncertain terms to avoid bright clothing, lest the orangutans mistake us for a giant walking banana! Visitors are restricted to the wooden walkways that make a path through the jungle and lead to viewing platforms where we wait to watch the orangutans arrive for the 10 am feeding (there’s also one at 3pm). Seeing the orangutans is not guaranteed, but arriving during feeding time will increase your chances.
Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan Sandakan Sabah Malaysia
Situated on the Eastern tip of Malaysian Borneo, Sandakan is quickly gaining a reputation for being the gateway to Borneo’s abundant wildlife. While its neighbor to the west, Kota Kinabalu, may have more notoriety, Sandakan’s tourism board is hard at work raising awareness of the city’s nearby gems, among them historical landmarks, the orangutan and sun bear sanctuaries and the spectacular rainforest experience. (See my upcoming post on Things To See Around Sandakan.) Needless to say, when the opportunity came for me to venture to Borneo, I was thrilled. But as much as I fancy myself the outdoor, backpacking type, in actuality I find great comfort in knowing that after a long day of adventure-seeking, I can retire to a nice hotel room where the wi-fi is fast, the water is hot, the food is good, and I can find some fun without going far. In that order. Especially when traveling with my kids! Sheraton provided all this and then some, a great place to recoup and unwind after a long, hot day in the jungle. It is the only international hotel brand in the city, elevating the hospitality industry in Sandakan, both metaphorically and literally - the hotel stands as the tallest building in the city at 27 floors. Speaking of adventures, the hotel is happy to make arrangements for site-seeing and I’m told can often get better deals than if you go it alone. Make it easy on yourself and just drop them a line, tell them what you want to do, and let them arrange it for you. Happy eco-travels!
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary (Pusat Pemulihan Orangutan) Sepilok Sandakan Sabah Malaysia
Offers a fascinating insight into the rehabilitation process the Orangutans go through and an opportunity to see them in their habitat feeding.
Mount Kinabalu Park Entrance
Accommodation is available inside the park near the headquarters by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (also known as Sutera Harbour). Sutera now requires hikers to stay for 1 night at their lodge, in addition to a required stay at Laban Rata (This also includes mandatory purchase of meals). The cost to stay is much higher than at the lodgings just outside the park, The higher price that you pay is essentially for a good view of the mountain at night. If money is a concern, there are plenty of private lodgings just outside the park. At the park HQ, you can see the Laban Rata Guest House (the white dot on the mountain) in the distance. Laban Rata Guest House is the place that you will stay the next night before the summit push. If you stay with Sutera Sanctuary Lodges, they also sell dinner and breakfast coupon for the cafe. Again, the cost is on the high end.
Laban Rata Kota Kinabalu Malaysia
Laban Rata, the rest house is much more well equipped than one would expect. They even have a few private rooms with their own bathroom! It gets pretty cold up there so make sure you have plenty of warm layers. Dinner is served between 5-7pm to enable climbers to get some sleep as you’re up at 2am on Day 2 to climb to the summit. They provide some hot food before you start and again at 7.30am when you come back down.
Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
Our group arrives at the viewing platform and immediately we see two sun bears in their large forest enclosures. Before they retreat, we are quick to snap pictures of these adorable bears, the smallest sub-species. This is purely an educational visit for members of the media, and Wong is already talking passionately about the centre and his work. His excitement is contagious, and I can’t imagine these creatures could have a better spokesperson. Watch Wong Te Siew's TedxKL talk on the sun bears here. The sun bears at the centre are kept in varying enclosures based on their rehabilitation level. On his website, Wong writes, “Conservationists are nursing [the centre’s 27 bears] back to health and where necessary, educating in how to be a wild bear. The intention is then to release them into the forest.”
Laban Rata Mt.Climb
This is the rest area for the first climbing day where you will get a dinner and two breakfasts. Leave behind all the things that you do not need for the summit push. The guesthouse in Laban Rata provides limited space (booking through Sutera Harbour is a must) to ensure space. The rooms offer two double deck beds (4 people in one small room). Climbers usually get to bed around 8pm and prepare the next day summit push. Tips: There are three guesthouses in Laban Rata. Most climbers prefer the lower Laban Rata where the canteen is situated. Late arrivals ususally have to stay at the upper house. When you’re at 3600 meters above sea level the 200-meter climb will seem like a long way. If you have to stay in upper guesthouse, finish your dinner and then go up. You still need to come down for breakfast though. The canteen is the best place to see the sunset and even the Kota Kinabalu city lights at night which makes all the sweat and tears worthwhile.
Kota Kinabalu Harbour Malaysia
The freshest of local produce is unloaded as the afternoon shadows lengthen and empty stalls fill up rapidly with shiny chilies, ripe mangoes, burnished aubergines and more. A cry of ‘tuna’ catches my ear and I gasp to see a hunk of dark fish being freshly butchered. As hungry people emerge from the day’s work, or tourism tasty local street fare is prepared and hawked all around. Smoky barbecue offers fresh and spicy chicken. Fresh corn, nuts and chickpea make great side dishes. Delicious looking local snacks are everywhere. Deep fried plantain melts my resistance and I give in to this tasty bite. The Waterfront offers a range of low key eating and drinking options overlooking the harbour. It’s a great spot to soak up some atmosphere and enjoy a delightful ocean outlook.