Starry sky and firefly aren’t part of the childhood of younger generation in Sabah. We can’t relate when our grandparents tell us about the beautiful night of their home villages. Though Sabahans are really proud of their stunning sunset, nobody from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) would stare at the sky after dusk. Because they would only see cloud, faked stars (satellites) and a handful of dim stars. The stars never leave us, they are just blinded by the city light.
What if I tell that you can see the starry sky close to KK? It’s in Sugud of Penampang district and highly accessible by paved road. The stargazing spot is only 27 Kilometres from KK and takes 40 minutes drive one way. This is so convenient because most stargazing sites are more than 100 Km away from cities.
This location is just an open space near Kampung Timpangoh Laut (Kampung means Village) in Sugud and has no name and address. Local stargazers just call it Sugud Milky Way Plain (I’ll just call it Sugud in this article). There is no street light and residential house there.
Sugud is 352 Metres (1,155 feet) above sea level, so it’s a bit cooling at night. Besides the starry sky, you can see KK city at the west too. In the dark from Sugud, you can see that KK is engulfed by a large “light dome” that can even illuminates the cloud. Due to the light pollution, everyone inside that dome can’t see many stars.
Once your eyes adapted to the darkness in Sugud, you will find the “childhood companions” of your grandparents high up. Then you understand why their favourite nighttime activity in old day is sky-watching.
The site has nothing (no toilet!) except a small hut and an abandoned lorry. You would find a dozer there. Seem like someone is trying to clear this area to build something. Hope it’ll be a camping ground or lodge that is catered for stargazing. It only takes one lamp post to destroy this special spot.
You can sit around and chill, enjoy the breeze, contemplating the stars or KK city light. And you should take some photos with the stars. The photos that I show here are not taken during the best time, but still there are plenty of stars. The best months for stargazing in Sabah are between March and September, when the brightest part of Milky Way appears.
You might be interested in exploring the place but avoid stepping into the grass area (near lorry). I was bitten by a leech last time. I’m more concern about snakes. Frogs like to hide in the grass after rain and they attract snake. Anyway, you will be totally safe if you stay on the exposed soil ground.
Understanding the stars can be a life-changing skill. In the past, sailors used stars for navigation, and the king would believe every bullshit a prophet said if he claimed he could read the stars to predict the future. Even nowadays, horoscope guru can make good money, and we have Nobel prize winners who prove the existence of black hole. If you can recognise constellations and tell some romantic stories about Greek mythology, you can date any girl LOL.
For best stargazing experience at Sugud, here are some useful tips for beginners:
- Go during new moon phase (moonless night). Without moonlight, you can see far more stars. You can check moon phases of KK online.
- You need clear sky and good weather. Even if it rains and cloudy during the day, there is still chance for a cloudless sky. Before the tour, check the hourly weather forecast (of KK).
- Bring a torchlight as it’s dark at the site.
- Stop looking at your phone, your eyes need to get used to darkness to see more stars.
- For safety, don’t go alone.
- If you plan to photograph the stars, tripod is a must.
- Bring a jacket or windbreaker. It’s quite cooling there at night.
- The place is wet and muddy after rain. Don’t wear flip-flop or sandals unless you want to go home with dirty feet.
How to get there
Sugud is 27 KM away from KK. You need to drive about 40 minutes (one way) on paved road in good condition. The GPS coordinates are 5.815098, 116.132176 (See Location Map). You can use Waze or Google Map apps to guide you (set destination as “Sugud Milky Way Plain”).
The last 6 or 7 KM before Sugud is winding and steep uphill road. Fog may present so drive carefully. And watch out for roaming buffaloes and dogs in villages.
Once you reach the spot, park your car at roadside and walk a few minutes up to the dreamy high ground.
Sugud is great but it is considered as the second class stargazing site. You may check out other better stargazing sites in Sabah. Good Luck and Happy Star Hunting! Please share the links to your stargazing photos in comment section below.
Photos taken at Sugud, Penampang, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo