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Travel experiences

Top 10 experiences in Sabah

8th January, 2019

Sabah is like a badly kept secret in the travel industry. Like the idyllic paradise in Alex Garland’s ‘The Beach’, it’s a gem that should be kept sacred, but you just can’t help raving about it.

Located in the north of Borneo, Sabah has all round appeal for the discerning traveller. Turquoise waters act as giant kaleidoscopes over coral reefs, teaming with topical fish. Idyllic beaches lead up to alluring rainforests that conceal a plethora of exotic wildlife. And of course, there’s the endearing culture that welcomes you with a myriad of culinary delights, to assault the taste buds.

Seafood is the main food of Sabah and you’ll find many restaurants serving fresh local fish and seafood, straight from its waters. The most stand out restaurant for us is Alu Alu Café, which serves only sustainable seafood, sourced from Borneo Eco-Fish. This fits our ethos on sustainable travel. Pleasingly, Sabah also has laws in place to protect 40% of its rainforest to preserve its wildlife, including its endangered population of orang-utans.

Intrigued by Sabah’s outstanding beauty, warm culture and dedication to conservation? Here is a rundown of top experiences in Sabah, to help you to get the best out of your trip.

1. Mount Kinabalu

The impressive Croker Mountain Range, where Mount Kinabalu is its highest peak

Located in Kinabalu National Park, these sacred mountains a highly rich in plant life, from the variety of different soils, produced by the varied climates.

Stay at the foot of the mountains in lodge accommodation and marvel at the magnificent view above, perhaps exploring the national park and spotting its wildlife. For the more adventurous, perhaps take a mountain trek.

2. Poring Hot Springs

Located at the foot of Mount Kinabalu, these botanical gardens are home to many exotic plants, including the rafflesia – the world’s biggest flower. Weather permitting, take a walk across a canopy walkway, for a beautiful bird’s eye view of the rainforest.

3. Sabah Agricultural Park

This picturesque park is made up of landscaped grounds, ornamental gardens and wildlife habitats, all linked by beautiful, alluring trails. Explore these trails at your leisure and take in its varied flora and fauna. Here you will find 400 different species of orchid, a museum dedicated to bees and a living crop museum, housing many plant species that are grown for medicinal use.

4. Gomantong Caves

Light streams inside the Gomantong Caves

Set in a large limestone outcrop, in a protected part of the rainforest there lies a network of caves. The Gomantong Caves were discovered in 1930 and are visited by tourists who comes to see their beautiful formations. The caves are also home to a large colony of wrinkle-lipped, free-tailed bats and the endangered land snail, as well as edible swiftlet nests, which are collected under tight licensing laws, to make bird’s nest soup.

5. Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

The proboscis monkey is endemic to Borneo, alongside the orang-utan. Both species are endangered.

Set in the mangrove forest of Labuk Bay, the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary has a diet supplement programme, to help preserve the species. There are numerous feeding times throughout the day, where visitors can watch these primates enjoying their meal close up.

6. Sun Bear Conservation Centre

An elusive sun bear

Another wildlife attraction is the Sun Bear Conservation Centre – a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the welfare and rehabilitation of native sun bears. Here you can learn about the extensive research and conservation being carried out, to help release the bears back into the wild.

7. Sepilok Orang-Utan Centre

A mother Orangutan with her baby on her baby

Similarly, this wildlife conservation centre seeks to rehabilitate orphaned orang-utans, rescued as a result of deforestation and illegal hunting or capturing.

A visit here is a must – the orang-utan is indigenous to Borneo and because of its endangered status, visitors often feel they have made a contribution to conservation with their entry fee.

Watch some of the 70 or so orang-utans on the reserve enjoying their natural habitat.

8. Rainforest Discovery Centre

The rainforest is a truly magical place, but nothing is more exhilarating than a view of the jungle from its canopy. If you aren’t averse to heights, venture along a 347-metre network of elevated walkways and perhaps catch sight of slow lorises, tarsiers, mouse deer and civet cats, as well as an array of exotic birds.

9. Kota Kinabalu

An aerial view of Kota Kinabalu

Sabah’s capital city gives a real insight into the culture of northern Borneo. Here you will find a melting pot of cuisines, from Malay, Chinese and Indonesian, to all types of European.

There is an abundance of seafood restaurants and a food market, rich in fresh fish and other local produce. There is also a bustling night market and a handicrafts market, selling pearls, fabrics, textiles and handmade souvenirs.

Other places of interest include temples, mosques and numerous museums.

10. Sandakan

Another city worth a visit is Sandakan. Sandakan was the capital of northern Borneo until it was destroyed during WWII. Now rebuilt, the city has an array of beautiful yet contrasting buildings and places of worship, including the Pnu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple and the Anglican Church of St Michael.

There are of course many more incredible experiences in Sabah, that will earn you your travel wings for this not so secret holiday destination. Why not see for yourself on our Borneo Rainforest Adventure Tour.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.