Sabah: The Jewel of Borneo
It’s a tropical haven thriving with eco-treasures from high in the mountains to far beneath the surface of the ocean. The diverse cultural heritage and breathtaking landscape of Sabah
, located at the northern tip of Borneo, creates the perfect cocktail for a fun-filled getaway.
The mystical Mount Kinabalu
, at more than 4,000 metres tall, is the highest peak between the Himalayas and New Guinea. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000, Mount Kinabalu is a hot spot for biodiversity. It has a wide array of habitats, from rich tropical lowlands to subalpine forest, and is home to the world’s largest flower – Rafflesia arnoldii, also known as the stinking corpse lily, has a bloom up to a metre in diameter. Half of Borneo’s bird, mammal and amphibian species, as well as two-thirds of its reptiles, live in this region, making it a spectacular destination for nature lovers.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu
is a popular activity for visitors. Advance booking is required, as there’s a limit of 132 climbers each day to help preserve the delicate nature of the park. Extreme adventure seekers can opt for the via ferrata – the highest in the world at 3,776 metres – at Mount Kinabalu. It is one of the region’s latest attractions and also its most rewarding. The spectacular view of the sunrise from the mountain and nearby villages is an unforgettable one.
For those looking for serious competition, the annual Climbathon is usually held in October. The Adventure Series sees participants race halfway up the mountain and down to nearby villages that overlook the highlands.
Of course, there are milder activities, too. Sabah is an emerging bird-watching destination. Of the 623 resident and migratory species that flock into Sabah, 32 are endemic to Borneo. The Bornean Bristlehead is just one of the rare species found only in Borneo’s lowland forest. The fiery red and bright yellow feathers of its head make it highly recognisable, but it is still difficult to spot in the wild. Every year in October, at the Borneo Bird Festival, many international researchers and local birders fly to Sandakan, on Sabah’s east coast, just to give themselves a chance to sight this elusive bird.
Sandakan is the wildlife capital of Sabah. Besides rare birds, the familiar orangutan is at the top of most visitors’ must-see lists. As the leading centre of excellence for orangutans in Borneo, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Sanctuary
offers visitors a chance to view rescued orangutans who have been nursed to health and released back into the wild. Nearby, the Rainforest Discovery Centre, managed by the Sabah Forestry Department, features a 300-metre-long canopy where visitors can watch for some of the 250 species of birds that live here, as well as the giant red flying squirrel.
There’s also the chance to stay in the world-famous Danum Valley Conservation Area. Borneo Rainforest Lodge is a high-end resort located by the Danum River and surrounded by pristine tropical, lowland rainforest. On guided walks or from the treetop canopy walk, you can see different species of monkeys and birds, sambar deer, elephants and, if you’re lucky, orangutan.
Sabah is blessed with a long coastline of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. There are also islands offering the opportunity for relaxed adventure – diving, water sports, snorkelling – as well as luxury getaways. One of the newest properties is Gaya Island Resort, which features modern elegance surrounded by nature. As well as fine facilities, a spa and excellent cuisine, the resort offers guided nature walks, diving within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, the chance to visit a turtle rescue facility or join a class to create local handicrafts.
Need more inspiration to discover Sabah? Find our suggested itineraries here
or check out our Malaysia Borneo itineraries
to discover more in this spectacular region. Alternatively, enquire now
, call (AU) 1300 295 049 or (NZ) 0800 238 368 or see your travel agent to custom make your own tailor-made itinerary.