Stargazing in Sabah

stargazing couple under the starry sky
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“Hey, do you know where to see meteor? I want to make wishes.” At first I was dumbfounded at her question, then I realized that there is no more starry sky in our city. “Lasau Podi,” I replied, “the sky over there is full of stars and it got so many meteors that you can make wishes all night long. Probably next day you would become the prettiest, richest and healthiest person in the world, if these are what you will wish.”

stargazing couple under the starry sky

This photo generates a lot of interest in stargazing.

Sky filled with twinkling stars was used to be a everyday thing at my home decades ago. Sadly, due to increasing light and air pollution, one-third of world population can’t see the Milky Way. The night of modern cities such as Singapore and South Korea is vibrant with colorful neon lights, but they have no more scattered diamond dust in the sky. Now children would sing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star… I wonder where you are..”

camping tent under the Milky Way

The Milky Way contains between 100 and 400 billion stars

Stargazing at Lasau Podi

Lasau Podi is discovered by Sabah Stargazers as an excellent location for stargazing. It’s a countryside about 20 KM away from Kota Belud town, and the approximate location where I shot the stars is 6.359675, 116.559431 (see Location Map). 95% of the road from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) to Lasau Podi is paved so it’s very accessible.

Mt. Kinabalu under the stars

Mt. Kinabalu under the stars

Last month I was drooling when my friend showed me the stunning photos of Milky Way that he took in Lasau Podi, so a BIG Yes to him when he asked if I wanted to join him in second trip. We departed at 8pm from KK. After we passed by Kota Belud town and headed to Lasau Podi, we entered the countryside without street light along the road. Our car bumped into herds of cows sleeping on the road. Drive carefully if you go there.

Herd of cows blocking the road

Herd of cows blocking our road

We reached the destination around 11pm, I was mesmerized by the breathtaking view of starry sky, with silhouette of Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop. The number of stars that you can see on a clear night in a total darkness is about 2,000, and I think I saw them all there.

starry sky behind 4 wheel drive

When we got out of our car and saw the starry sky, we went gaga.

After we setup the camping tent, we shot until 4am in the morning. I slept under a blanket of thousands of stars, lovely, but I was also attacked by thousand of mosquitoes.

Thousand-Star Camping

5-Star Hotel and Thousand-Star Camp, which one you prefer?

Did you know when we look up to the winking stars, we are looking at a scene of the past? Light from a distant star can travel millions of years to reach us, it may be long gone by the time we see it.

Mount Kinabalu in the morning

Mount Kinabalu in the morning

capturing the sunrise view of Mt. Kinabalu

Second photography session to capture the sunrise view of Mt. Kinabalu

When we waked up in the morning, we could see our surrounding better. We were on a high ground overlooking a plain with Mt. Kinabalu far away. It’s a scenic dawn.

Sunrise lit up part of the hill

Sunrise lit up part of the hill

Despite sleeping for only 2 hours, we took out our tripod and camera again for second round of crazy clicking. We bagged more beautiful photos, tired but happy.

The misty plain of Lasau Podi in the morning

The misty plain of Lasau Podi in the morning

Anyway, Lasau Podi isn’t a romantic location for dating. There is no toilet and comfortable accommodation. Instead, you can try Tegudon Tourism Village (TTV), which is only 30 minutes away from Lasau Podi and have toilet, camping ground and amenities for visitors.

Behind the Scene

Behind the Scene (in Lasau Podi): it’s quite a mess lol

Guys slept in open space

Guys slept in open space. It’s me at lower left. I covered my head because of mosquitoes lol

camping at Lasau Podi

Without any accommodation nearby, camping is the only option at Lasau Podi

Best Locations for Stargazing

If you search online for best stargazing sites, you will find some ranking of top star-hunting locations in Sabah. Some says Kudat is the best, and other would say No, Kundasang is better… Well you can forget these reviews. In Sabah, as long as you are in a countryside far from city light and air pollution, you will see starry sky. Your best bet is at the beaches and fields which has nothing to obstruct the star views at the horizon.

Photographer at work

Photographer at work

Below is some photos I took in other places of Sabah:

Kudat longhouse under the starry sky

Kudat longhouse under the starry sky

Beautiful night sky in Kiulu

Beautiful night sky in Kiulu

Milky way in Pitas

Milky way in Pitas

I also saw a lot of stars in Kuala Penyu, Beaufort, Keningau, etc.

What’s Milky Way?

Guess you enjoy the movie “Guardian of the Galaxy”? But what does a galaxy look like? You would notice the “star river” in my star photos. It is Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our Solar System (where we live). Below is the disk-shaped structure of Milky Way.

Side view of our galaxy (Milky Way)

Side view of our galaxy (Milky Way)

The following is the top view of Milky Way, it contains between 100 and 400 billion stars and probably at least 100 billion planets!

Illustration of our galaxy

Illustration of our galaxy. Note the location of our sun and planets.

If you are really interested in stargazing, you can join the activities of Sabah Stargazers group:
Website: sabahstargazers.wordpress.com
Facebook: SabahStargazers

camping at Lasau Podi

The number of stars that we can see with naked eyes is about 2,000

Tips for Stargazing

  1. Go in moonless night for best view, more stars are visible in total dark sky.
  2. Avoid cloudy and rainy days. Common sense.
  3. Stay far away from any light. Countryside is good place to start.
  4. Watch out for your safety in remote area. Go in group if possible.
  5. Bring torchlight and insect repellent

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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By Murphy Ng