Sabah: a nature lover’s paradise
This spectacular corner of Malaysia occupies the northern fringe of the island of Borneo and is blessed with superb white sandy beaches and coral islands and large tracts of virgin tropical rainforests. Sabah is also the home of Mount Kinabalu, at 4,095 meters, the highest peak in Southeast Asia; the orang utans; and some of the most stunning diving sites in the world.
Sabah is a paradise for nature lovers. The core of this state features a vast expanse of almost impenetrable tropical jungle that harbours an astonishingly rich variety of flora and fauna. Mighty rivers carve their way through the dense jungle while towering mountain ranges overlook the central and coastal plains. The remote reaches of this state are still unexplored and scientists are still finding new species of flora and fauna.
Places to visit and things to do in Sabah
The capital of Sabah is Kota Kinabalu (KK), a bustling port city, and with its convenient international airport, functions as the gateway to the treasure chest of natural wonders that Sabah is world-renowned for. In addition, superb white sandy beaches and the breathtaking Mount Kinabalu are just a short boat-ride or drive away. The city has a modest number of sights to boast such as the State Mosque and the Sabah Museum. The promenade, with its wide selection of Western and local restaurants and bars is a favourite hang-out for the locals and tourists. The city also has several markets, including a souvenir market and the fish market, which are well worth a visit. For a different market experience, plan a visit to a Tamu, a colourful Sunday market where the indigenous people sell cattle, agricultural produce and handicrafts. The Tamu can be found in Kota Belud or Tuaran, just north of Kota Kinabalu.
Sabah State Mosque, Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu (KK) vies with other Malaysian cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang for having the country’s best cuisine. Many visitors, in addition to using the city as a base for exploring the rest of the state, also come here to savour the fresh (and cheap) seafood (dozens of types of fish, clams, mussels, oysters, lobsters, crabs, prawns, etc…) that is prepared in many mouthwateringly tantalising ways. For some of the city’s best seafood, head for Ocean Seafood restaurant. You choose your seafood from the large tanks and decide how it should be cooked. Having a meal here is definitely one of the highlights of a visit to KK.
Just a ten minute drive from the city centre is the Tanjung Aru beach. The beachfront, lined with a modest variety of shops, restaurants and bars, is a favourite hangout among the locals who come here for a relaxing drink or meal, or to watch the sunset.
Kinabalu National Park
At the centre of this famous national park is Mount Kinabalu, at 4,095 meters, Southeast Asia’s highest peak, and a World Heritage site. The mountain rises majestically, towering over the surrounding plains and hills. The shape of the mountain changes continuously as you travel around it. The top of the mountain is crowned by a series of gigantic pinnacles and large granite humps. It is a fascinating mountain which the natives hold in veneration. The park itself is a treasure trove of plants and animals. With an estimated 5,000 – 6,000 plant species within its boundaries, the park has one of the richest biodiversities in the world. Look out for the insect-eating pitcher plants, and if you’re really lucky, you might stumble upon the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. A leisurely trek up to the summit and down takes approximately two days and offers visitors a bewildering display of thousands of plant and animal species, some of which are endemic to the park. See my pictures of Mt. Kinabalu taken from the air.
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
Sepilok orangutan sanctuary