The Ultimate Sabah Travel Guide


Sabah is one of the world’s most culturally diverse states. Its population of about 3 million is a blend of native groups (usually divided into Muslim and non-Muslim ethnic groups), Chinese, and other ethnic groups such as Eurasians and Indians. 

It occupies a comparatively small mass of the world’s third-largest island, Borneo; it is unmissable with numerous attractions, including:

  1. The treasure of turquoise-fringed desert islands with coral reefs swarming with aquatic biodiversity; 
  2. Trekkers’ paradise Mt Kinabalu reaching 4000m into the horizon;
  3. Jungles overflowing with a menagerie of bug-eyed tarsiers, pythons, and gibbons, leopards, and giant crocodiles. Around half of Sabah is forest, and preserved areas such as the Danum Valley and the Maliau Basin are more accessible than ever.

Getting from one of Sabah’s attractions to the next is exceptionally easy, while as a former British colony, English is spoken here, making it tourist-friendly. Whether it’s coffee-shop chasing in Kota Kinabalu, watching adorable orangutans learning to climb at Sepilok, beach jumping on the northern tip of Borneo, or waiting for rare pygmy elephants near Tawau, your time here will feel like half a dozen holidays compressed into one.

Things to see in Sabah:

  • Mount Kinabalu: This has to be the most prominent reason for visiting Sabah. The 4000 m mountain is the second highest in Southeast Asia (outside Papua, which is regarded as part of the continent, Oceania) after Hkakabo Razi in Burma. Still, it is one of the easiest to climb as no rock-climbing experience is needed, just a guide and a lot of stamina. The neighboring National Park is also home to many animals and plants.
  • Sipadan and the other neighboring islands: The islands around Sabah, including Sipadan, are home to world-class diving adventures, with numerous agencies and resorts offering the same. 
  • Sepilok: The world-famous Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary near Sandakan is home to rescued or orphaned orangutans, where they are gradually readapted to the forest environment. They’re cuddly and adorable. Just do them a favor and don’t try feeding anything. They’re here to learn how to face the world independently without human dependence. 
  • Turtle Islands Park: Three islands in the Sulu Sea off the shore of Sandakan where you can see rare turtle conservation at work.
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park: It is a trendy coral island just off Kota Kinabalu’s coast.
  • Poring Hot Springs: Don’t forget to see and soak in pools of natural hot water to heal your muscle aches after your onslaught on Mount Kinabalu.
  • Monsopiad Cultural Village: It is situated near Kota Kinabalu. It tells the tale of Monsopiad, a brave warrior of the Kadazan ethnic group who persisted some 300 years ago and killed 42 of his enemies. The skulls of these 42 are on display in the Hall of Skulls.

Things to do in Sabah:

  • Climbing Mount Kinabalu: This should be one of the highlights of your visit to Sabah. Mount Kinabalu is relatively easy to climb, so you should attempt it.
  • Paragliding: This adrenaline rush extreme sport is booming everywhere globally, here you can learn or fly tandem paragliding at all the famous sites.
  • Camping: If you love camping then you will love Borneo, some site needs small fee per person normally less than USD10, you can bring your gears or just hire for less than $10 per night, the best camping site are at Bandukan Hill paragliding takeoff campsite, Poring Hot Spring (Ranau), Bandukan riverside campsite, Tunku Abdel Rahman Island Park (Kota Kinabalu) and Lohan Hill(Ranau). 
  • Snorkeling and diving: You’ll enjoy some of the soundest corals in the world. Locations include Mabul and Sipadan on the East Coast. Less hardcore and just a few miles by boat from Kota Kinabalu city are the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park islands. Many genuine dive operators based in Kota Kinabalu are at your disposal. There are a couple of operators with dive stations on these islands, with the rest offering diving from their private dive boats.
  • Technical diving – Sabah is an emerging location for technical diving. You can now quickly learn how to dive on a semi-closed rebreather or a closed-circuit rebreather during your vacation in Sabah. Many other advanced and basic diving courses are also possible for visiting qualified divers who want to improve their scuba diving skills in the South China Sea’s tropical waters. Many of these seasoned diver training courses are operated from Kota Kinabalu, nearby Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
  • White-water rafting: along two rivers, Kiulu and Padas. The Padas River, reached from Beaufort, boasts Grade Three to Four rapids.

What to eat in Sabah?

Ngiu Chap(Beef Noodle), Local Kadazan Cuisine, Fresh Seafood are some of the regional favorites that the tourists also love. For vegetarians, Sabah is home to numerous Indian restaurants serving authentic vegetarian Indian food. Fresh mango juice, lime juice, and other fruit juices are omnipresent in Sabah. Cheap liquors are very extensively available at most supermarkets in the state. Other alcoholic drinks such as whisky and beer are also available.

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