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About Region - Sabah (Borneo), Malaysia

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Sabah (Borneo) Region Image Gallery
Sabah occupies the northeastern part of North Borneo and is East Malaysia's second largest state. It is often called the "Land Below the Wind" because it lies below the typhoon belt. Mountainous with lush tropical rainforest, the Crocker Mountain Range is the home of Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia's tallest mountain at 13,455ft. There are six national parks, and an offshore marine park of coral islands. The fine sandy beaches and beautiful waters surrounding the coast of Sabah enable visitors to chose from fishing, snorkelling, deep-sea diving, leisurely coral cruises, or just exploring. The unique diversity of the wildlife, flora and fauna make Sabah especially appealing for adventure and ecotourism.
Kota Kinabalu

The capital of Sabah since the end of WWII, when the old town of Jesselton was rebuilt, KK has become a relaxed, sprawling township with an interesting blend of European, Malay and Chinese culture. With old Chinese shophouses, traditional market places, several high-rise buildings, and new shopping areas, Kota Kinabalu has beautiful views of perpetual blue skies, lovely sunsets and a coral studded sea with misty mountains in the distance.
Mount Kinabalu Mountain
At nearly 5000m high, Mount Kinabalu is one of the highest in South-East Asia and dominates the landscape in the Kinabalu National Park. The park was declared Malaysia's first World Heritage Site, and is a forest reserve extending over 754 square kms. The daily temperature here ranges from 13-20 degrees Celsius. The park is popular not only with climbers but also with nature lovers who come to observe the birds, butterflies and the flora and fauna. Unusual plants seen here are the nepenthes pitcher plant, wild orchids and the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world, the blossoms of which grow up to 18 inches across. The biodiversity of flora and fauna ranges from lowland rainforests to temperate montane oaks and alpine conifers.
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
The sanctuary is a fascinating place where visitors can observe man teaching apes to climb in the natural habitat. At this rehabilitation centre captive animals are retrained for life in the jungle. It allows a close-up view, not always possible of these arboreal creatures. The primates emerge from the jungle for their daily ration of bananas and milk between 10.00am and 2.30 pm. The orang utan can be observed being fed from a platform in the middle of the forest, which is about 20 minutes from the centre. Nicknamed the 'Wild Man of Borneo' the orang utan is an arboreal anthropoidpe. The animals are returned to the forest when they are able to fend for themselves. Sepilok also shelters several species of mammals and over 200 species of birds and a variety of wild plants within 5,666 hectares of forest reserve.
Turtle Islands
The Turtle Islands Park, a group of eight islands, lay 40 kms north of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea. The largest islands are Pulau Selingaan, Pulau Bakungan Kechil and Pulau Gulisan. From July to October green and hawksbill turtles come to the wide sandy beaches to lay their eggs.
Gomantong Caves
The Caves consist of two caverns that are home to over one million swiftlets. Simud Hitam Cave, a 10-minute walk from the Registration Centre, is where the black bird's nests are produced. These are less valuable than the white birds' nests found in the interior Simud Putih Cave complex. Licensed collectors using rattan ladders and bamboo poles harvest the nests twice a year. The stalactite and stalagmite formations within the caves also make an interesting study. A visit to the caves takes a whole day
Tanjung Aru Beach
This white sandy beach lies to the west of Kota Kinabalu and is lined with palm trees and casuarinas, overlooking blue waters. Prince Philip Park is located here, along with the Kinabalu Yacht Club.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
This 50-hectare marine park is situated some 20-minute speedboat ride from Kota Kinabalu. The five islands that make up the park are great getaways for simply lazing on the clean, white beaches, or for more strenuous activities like snorkelling, diving or indulging in underwater observation of the plentiful marine life.
Boardwalk trails lead into the islands' jungle interior for exploration and discovery.
Mengkabong Water Village
Near Tuaran, the Water Village is a Bajau Laut (Sea Bajau) settlement. These people were once sea gypsies who lived on boats or in flimsy huts over the shallows. The water village is a settlement built on stilts bored into the seabed. It has rows of fairly long houses, linked by plank walkways with boats anchored on the sides. Transport round the village is by sampan or canoe.
Poring Hot Springs
The Springs have open-air hot sulphur baths, set amidst a landscaped garden. Individual concrete pools with taps, one for the hot springs mineral water and the other for cold water, enable temperature control and the added bonus of natural mineral water. Various trails around the area lead through rich forest to streams, waterfalls, walkways and caves.
Kinabatangan River
Sabah's longest river drains a catchment area of 16,574 sq kms. From the mountains of central Borneo, it flows 330 miles eastwards into the Sulu Sea. The lower Kinabatangan River is poor for farming but a great place for wildlife. The most famous creature here is the proboscis monkey with the males sporting a pendulous nose, fat belly and thick white tail. Other fascinating wildlife include the orang utan, macaques, elephants, clouded leopards, hornbills, crocodiles, civet cats and otters. Kingfishers and egrets and other species of birds can be observed.
Tenom
The town of Tenom lies south of Kota Kinabalu, and is in the Murut area. A journey by road passes through villages such as Papar, Bongawan and Kimanis, and a train ride from Beaufort leads on to Tenom. The railroad snakes along the Padas River, giving passengers a spectacular view of the Padas Gorge. The river offers a challenging experience to rafting enthusiasts. The Muruts in Tenom live in longhouses and are a generous, hospitable people given to much merrymaking with song and dance. They have traditionally depended on agriculture and hunting for their livelihoods. A major attraction in Tenom is the Tenom Orchid Centre, which has more that 600 species of orchids. From Tenom, excursions to other Murut settlements in the neighbouring areas can be arranged.
State Mosque
This gold-domed state mosque is centrally positioned and overlooks most of the town. It reflects contemporary Islamic architecture and can accommodate up to 5000 worshippers.
Sabah State Museum
The museum was built in the longhouse style of the Rungus and Murut tribes, and is located behind the state museum on a hill called Bukit Istana Lama. There is a wealth of historical and tribal treasures and handicraft of the indigenous people, including a notable collection of ceramics. The major highlight is the collection of life-size traditional houses belonging to six ethnic groups. There is an excellent section on Sabah's fascinating flora and fauna, an art gallery and a science centre. The latter has a large exhibition on the oil and petroleum industry. Within the complex can be found a restaurant, coffeehouse and an ethno-botanical garden with an artificial lake and a souvenir shop.
Layang Island
One hundred and sixty nautical miles northwest of Kota Kinabalu is Layang Layang Island, an oceanic atoll. All round its rim the sea-bed drops 2000m and visibility averages 55m. The marine life in the waters around the island include hammerhead sharks, manta rays, hawksbill turtles, tunas and corals. The calm months from February to October are the best time to visit the area.
Labuan
At the north of Brunei Bay and facing the South China Sea is the island of Labuan, an international offshore financial centre and Malaysia's only deep-water anchorage. Bandar Labuan is the main town and the place where the airport and the ferries are. The main attractions are Labuan's tax-free status and duty-free shopping. Labuan is a Federal Territory governed directly from Kuala Lumpur. It has major gas installations which form an important part of the economy. For recreation, Labuan has picturesque islands, beaches and facilities for golfing and yachting.
Sabah Foundation Building
Situated on the north side of town, this 31-storey building at Likas Bay can be seen for miles around. It is a magnificent futuristic glass-encased tower of 72 sides and resembles a flat-topped rocket. Timber royalties to the state financed construction of the tower, after the foundation, devoted to state educational projects, was established in 1966.
Central Market
There is a water village along the seafront known as Kampung Ayer where the jetties are lined with pleasure, fishing and commercial craft. The bustling Central Market sits mid-way along the waterfront, where the fish market teems with incredible marine varieties. The fishermen unload their catch at dawn, directly onto the market tables. All around is displayed fresh fruit and vegetables, which have been brought down from the farms in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu.
Kota Belud
This small town is 77kms from Kota Kinabalu and has a Tamu, or open market every Sunday. The market is an essential part of the social life of the tribes' people who come to trade as well as exchange news and gossip.
Penampang
This is a Kadazan village 13kms from Kota Kinabalu. The Kadazans are the rice growers of the region. Each year they celebrate harvest festivals lasting for several days, accompanied by a great deal of rejoicing and merrymaking, in hopes of a good harvest. They make their own potent rice-wine 'Tapai' for the occasion.
Tambunan
This town is situated about an hour and a half away from Kota Kinabalu and is surrounded by scenic countryside of padi fields and rolling hills. The hills are profuse with bamboo, the result of a colonial edict that stated that for every bamboo pole cut, twenty bamboo shoots must be planted. Tambunan has a Handicraft Centre that sells local handicraft and the Tamu (open market) is an interesting place to browse around for village craftwork. The Lihing or rice wine is famous here.
The Village Resort Centre and Majora Holiday Farm are isolated retreats, and are the take-off points for trekking up the Crocker Range or rafting on the Pegalan River. Interesting places near Tambunan include the 150-hectare Rafflesia Forest Reserve and the Mawah Waterfalls, set in rainforest at the edge of the Crocker Rank National Park.
Kudat
The town, which was briefly declared the state capital in 1881, is home to the Rungus, members of the Kadazan race. It lays 238kms north of Kota Kinabalu and can be reached by sea or road. Every Sunday the Rungus attend the market place in Sikuati, when the women are attired in heavy brass bracelets, bead necklaces and knee-length sarongs. Nearby is a beach with crashing surf, unsuitable for swimming, but good for photography.
Sandakan
The road leading to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu passes through oil palm, cocoa and fruit plantations, padi fields, farmlands and tropical forests. Set on a bay on the northeastern coast of Sabah, facing the Sulu sea, Sandakan is billed as the Gateway to Borneo's Wildlife. It is a busy port, with shops loading timber, rattan, copra and birds' nests. Behind the port lies the town and beyond that are tall, jungle-clad mountains. Most buildings here are new and prominent landmarks include St Michael's Church, the All Angels Church, Goddess of Mercy Temple, Puu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple, Sandakan Mosque, Australian Memorial and Japanese Cemetery. The Forestry Exhibition in the centre of town has an impressive collection of flowers and plants found in Sabah, as well as handicraft and hunting weapons. The Orchid House has a fine collection of rare orchids.
Berhala Island
One of the islands off Sandakan is Berhala, easily reached by motor launch. The island is ideal for picnicking and swimming. A lighthouse on the highest point offers photographers captivating views.
Tawau
Tawau is one huge plantation that supports rubber, copra, cocoa and oil palm on its rich volcanic soil. Timber is logged from the more accessible parts of the jungle. The town lies at the southeast corner of the state on a stretch of coast. It has a fine Mosque and avenues of shaded shops. Open-air stalls along the sea front serve delicious seafood. This last port of call before Indonesia has a small bustling traffic of shopping made up mainly of Filipinos and Indonesians. The town's fish market is a hive of activity where fresh produce is sold and Bajau women display their handicraft of multi-coloured mats, hats and baskets. The Tawau Hills Park is another nature sanctuary located nearby which offers some stunning views, a swimming and picnicking area and a hot spring.
Semporna
Once a mere fishing village with an old town on the peninsula, Semporna is now a marine tourism centre with all kinds of activities, ranging from diving and boating to water skiing or camping on the outlying islands. Fresh seafood is available direct from the fishing boats and can be taken back to the hotels for cooking. The quiet volcanic island of Pulau Bohey Dulang, a short motor launch ride from Semporna, is the site of a Japanese pearl culture station. Stone tools recovered from Tingkayu, the dry bed of a prehistoric lake, have astonished archaeologists for their quality and workmanship and the fact that they predate similar artefacts found in Southeast Asia by about 10,000 years.
Danum Valley Conservation Area
Another area rich in wildlife is this conservation area, where the rare Sumatran rhinoceros, orang utan, gibbons, mousedeer and bearded pig roam. Some 270 species of birds have been recorded in the area. The Danum Field Research Centre is located within the confines of this 440 sq km forest reserve. It also boasts one of the first eco resorts known as the Borneo Rainforest Lodge with a restaurant, bar and comfortable chalets, overlooking the Danum River. Jungle treks, river swimming, bird watching, night jungle tours and excursions to nearby logging sites and timber mills are some of the exciting activities offered here.
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