Given its legendary allure, Sabah doesn’t need much introduction. Surrounded by a beautiful turquoise ocean and dotted with a treasure trove of picturesque islands, the state has always attracted visitors from far and near.
Packed with culture and history, Sabah offers a host of places to see and things to do. Below is a list of five unmissable experiences in the Land Below The Wind.
Majestic Mount Kinabalu
This iconic mountain has become synonymous with Sabah. Towering at a height of 4,095m, not only is Mount Kinabalu the highest summit in Malaysia, it also offers a truly breathtaking view of the sky and surroundings.
There has been renewed excitement about scaling the summit recently, with newly designed trails. For scenic encounters, the Ranau trail will satiate your appreciation for natural aesthetics. The more adventurous might want to go on the Kota Belud trail which is steeper and will provide a more challenging climb.
Thrill-seekers can also check out the other climbing route available on the mountain. The Via Ferrata, or Iron Road, has been improved with the latest safety climbing technologies. The Via Ferrata has bragging rights as the world’s highest route.
The mountain is open daily but to a limited 135 climbers only. And every year, for two days in October, it’s only open to participants of the annual Climbathon. For almost 30 years now, it has been known as the toughest mountain race in the world.
Gorgeous islands and beaches
Sabah is blessed with a beautiful coastline that stretches over 2,600km long. So visiting the many enticing beaches and islands is certainly not to be missed.
The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park – the first national park in Malaysia and a mere 15-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu – is home to five islands: Pulau Gaya, Pulau Sapi, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik and Pulau Sulug. The crystal clear waters contain a rich and colourful marine life. A visit to this watery park is a priceless experience.
The islands off Sabah’s East Coast are aplenty too, and have garnered a cult following among scuba divers around the world. They include the islands of Sipadan, Mabul and Kapalai.
The beaches located around Kudat (three hours’ drive north from Kota Kinabalu), such as Kalampunian and Kelambu, and around The Tip Of Borneo are also gaining popularity.
The shopping scene in Sabah is just as unique as its natural splendour. Immerse yourself in a local market known as tamu. (Tamu is the native word for market.) The most popular one is the Gaya Street Sunday market that sells all kinds of items, including local crafts, food, plants, produce and artwork.
There are weekly tamu in Kiulu (Tuesday); Tamparuli (Wednesday); Penampang (Thursday and Friday); Keningau, Telipok and Tambunan (Thursday); Kundasang (Friday); Putatan, Beaufort, Kinarut, Sindumin and Tuaran (Saturday); Kota Belud, Tawau, Sandakan and Tenom (Sunday).
Does your inner shopaholic call out once the sun sets? Well, Kota Kinabalu’s night market scene is vibrant. The most popular one is the Sinsuran night market, which is popular among foodies. Meanwhile, other night markets such as those in Segama and Kampung Air sell items like trinkets, pearls and accessories.
Head to the handicraft market to get the best pearls and jewellery, as well as dried food such as salted fish, anchovies and prawns.
Oh, so fresh seafood … and specialty dishes
In Sabah, the tantalising seafood is freshly caught from the vast ocean. Paying a fraction of the usual price is an added bonus.
Seafood restaurants are really popular here. One can have lobster noodle for breakfast in Sandakan. Otherwise fish noodle is the normal food item that can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Apart from seafood, there are many specialty dishes such as bambangan (a type of wild mango), pinasakan (a traditional dish of braised basung fish and fruit) and ambuyat (made from sago starch) found in both the west and the east coasts.
In addition to Mount Kinabalu and the beautiful islands/beaches, another talking point is the sunset.
The clear horizon here will take your breath away. Coupled with beautiful views of the setting sun, what you have is an absolutely romantic scenery.
At popular hangout spots, like the beaches, you’ll find people whipping out their cameras as the day draws to an end. There are many areas in Kota Kinabalu where one can witness golden sunsets, such as Tanjung Aru beach and the Waterfront.
Most people climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) to see the sunrise. However, viewing the sunset is also popular at Panalaban/Laban Rata Resthouse (3,272m) below the summit.