Ask any casual travellers about Sabah, and chances are, they would wax lyrical about its gorgeous islands, clear blue ocean and white sandy beaches that stretches for miles. And surely about the people and the food too!
While the more iconic destinations such as Semporna and the five islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park just off Kota Kinabalu (KK), are worth visiting, there are other hidden gems too that showcase the best of Sabah’s tropical charms.
Mari Mari Sepanggar
Turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and colourful reefs. Those are three reasons to pack and leave for the Mari Mari Sepanggar Island right now. This is an alternative getaway to the other islands nearby; the private island is located about 10 minutes away from KK via boat ride from the Jesselton Point jetty.
This idyllic island is twice the size of Manukan Island, so you can expect double the fun. From scuba diving and snorkelling to kayaking and fishing to jungle trekking, there’s much to see and do for the nature lover.
The adventurous ones can hike up lush rainforest to South Peak (the highest point in the island), while those looking for tranquillity can go for a refreshing dip in the clear blue ocean.
You can spend a romantic night on the island and see the twinkling lights of KK in the distance and hear the sound of lapping waves with the jungle as a backdrop.
It takes longer to get to Mantanani. You’ll have to take a two-hour drive from KK to Kota Belud, followed by another hour by boat from the Kuala Abai jetty. But this tiny island is well worth the journey.
Once you take a dive into Mantanani’s underwater world, its marine flora and fauna will enchant you. Clown fishes swim amidst sea anemones and vivid coral reefs form a unique garden in the sea. Is it any surprise than that the island is a well-known diver’s paradise?
The waters here are renowned for being some of the clearest in the world – in fact one South Korean blogger was so smitten, he pronounced it “the clearest in the world”. For underwater photographers, this means excellent visibility for those breathtaking photographs.
Spend the day, either diving, snorkelling or kayaking. And once the sun begins the set, sit back, enjoy the cool breezes and feast on a spectacular sight of blazing orange hues.
There are many options here if you decide to spend the night as that means you have more time here and also get to rest up. But this can still be done as a day trip.
The journey to Kudat (190km away from KK) is dotted with interesting attractions such as the Gombizau Honey Bee farm, Sumangkap Gong factory and a parang-making centre at Kampung Siasai (Kota Belud). There are also the famous Rungus longhouses.
Once you arrive at this sleepy town, though, prepare to embrace a slow tropical pace. Here’s where you can find many white sandy beaches. And the fact that they are still relatively untouched means that there’s plenty of privacy for that lazy stroll on warm evenings.
And then there’s the Tip of Borneo. Also known as Tanjung Simpang Mengayau, this dramatic headland is located in the northern-most tip of Borneo. It’s also the place where two seas – the Celebes Sea and South China Sea – meet.
Famed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was rumoured to have sailed to the Tip of Borneo to repair his ship.
The Tip Of Borneo has also been drawing the young crowd. Every year in June, the Sunset Music Fest takes place here. This is an outdoor music festival that starts late afternoon. Party away as the sun sets in the background. When night falls and with the full moon above, experience music under a sky full of stars. Beautiful sunsets and stunning full moons – that seems like a picture perfect vacation.
This article is brought to you by the Sabah Tourism Board. Discover more at www.sabahtourism.com.