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Top 10 Travel Destinations of Sabah

Welcome to our list of the top 10 travel destinations in Sabah. Handpicked for their popularity and quality, these attractions offer unforgettable experiences. Our recommendations are based on firsthand experiences, let’s dive into the captivating wonders of Sabah!

1. Mount Kinabalu (Kinabalu Park)

Climbing Malaysia’s tallest peak, Mount Kinabalu, is a must-do for any Sabah trip. Located within Kinabalu Park, a UNESCO Global Geopark, this mountain offers not just thrilling climbs but also lush nature trails teeming with unique plants and wildlife. Birdwatching in the park and highland stay at adjacent Kundasang are also popular activities among tourists.

  • Mount Kinabalu and Mount Nungkok
  • Climber on Mount Kinabalu
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman Peak of Mount Kinabalu
  • Descending from Mount Kinabalu
  • Approaching the peak of Mount Kinabalu

Do check out Mount Kinabalu Botanical Garden and join an interesting interpretation walk that introduces you to some flora of Borneo, e.g. Kinabalu Slipper Orchid and the mighty Nepenthes Rajah, a carnivorous pitcher plant capable of trapping small prey like mice! Read more…

2. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

Kota Kinabalu City is renowned as a nature resort city and a fantastic retirement destination. One of the main attractions is Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, conveniently located just 15 minutes away from the city by boat. During peak seasons, tens of thousands of tourists flock to this marine park, comprised of five tropical islands.

  • Picnic on Manukan Island
  • The clear sea water of Sapi Island
  • Manukan Resort near the beach
  • Girl standing on the beach of Manukan Island
  • Mamutik Island

These islands boast stunning coral reefs bustling with a variety of colorful reef fish, making them ideal spots for a range of water activities including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing, and sea-walking. You can also embark on an island-hopping tour to visit two to three islands (Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik) in a single day, allowing you to fully appreciate the beauty of each island. Read more…

3. Sepilok

A visit to Sepilok offers the chance to explore three remarkable Borneo attractions located side by side. Start with the Orangutan rehabilitation centre, where orphaned orangutans are trained to survive in the wild. During feeding sessions, you can observe these intelligent apes sharing food with mischievous macaques. Just a short distance away lies the Bornean Sunbear Conservation Centre, where you can watch adorable sun bears in their element.

Tour package to Mataking
  • The feeding time of Sepilok orangutan rehabilitation centre
  • The tower and skywalk of Rainforest Discovery Centre in Sandakan
  • A Bornean sunbear napping high on a tree
  • Tourists looking at the training of baby orangutan at the nursery
  • The tall tropical trees at Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC)

Nearby, the Rainforest Discovery Centre (RDC) immerses you in the Borneo rainforest and is a hotspot for birdwatching. Take a stroll along the sturdy 620-metre-long skywalk, allowing you to wander amidst towering tropical trees and observe fruits and birds up-close. With luck, you might even spot endemic birds like the Bornean Bristlehead, a prized sighting for birdwatchers. Read more…

4. Sipadan Island

Sipadan Island stands as Malaysia’s premier diving site, unequivocally. This world-renowned spot is a haven for scuba enthusiasts, offering a breathtaking array of marine life, including turtles, schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda, and jackfish across more than 10 dive sites.

  • Snorkelling at Sipadan Island
  • Sipadan Island
  • Corals and fishes of Sipadan Island
  • The sea of Sipadan Island
  • The skeleton of turtle trapped in Turtle Tomb Cave

The Hanging Garden is revered among divers for its vibrant display of hard and soft corals along vertical walls. For those with cave diving skills, the Turtle Tomb is an unmissable underwater cavern notorious for trapping and drowning turtles. Even snorkelers can revel in the island’s underwater marvels. Sipadan Island epitomizes the untouched beauty of a tropical paradise, devoid of human activities that threaten the environment. Read more…

5. Danum Valley

The Borneo rainforest stands as one of the oldest in the world, boasting unparalleled biodiversity. Within this pristine expanse lies Danum Valley, a sanctuary teeming with wildlife and untouched natural beauty. Here, you’ll encounter the world’s tallest tropical trees amidst the dense foliage. For an immersive experience, consider staying at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, a 5-star jungle retreat.

  • Canopy walk of Danum Valley
  • A sleeping Black-crowned pitta (Erythropitta ussheri)
  • Morning walk in the misty rainforest of Borneo
  • Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley

Guests can partake in a range of guided activities, including canopy walks, birdwatching, waterfall explorations, riverside picnics, night safaris, and tubing adventures. During the fruiting season, observe orangutans and hornbills feasting on fig trees. Night walks offer a rare glimpse of elusive Bornean creatures such as the tarsier, clouded leopard, and bearcat. Read more…

6. Klias Wetland

The Klias Peninsula is poised to become Malaysia’s next RAMSAR site, recognized for the exceptional biodiversity of a wetland. This unique ecosystem, encompassing peat swamp forests, harbors a rich variety of wildlife. Visitors can embark on leisurely boat cruises along the brackish river, which serves as a crucial carbon sink storing vast amounts of wood beneath its surface.

  • Male Proboscis Monkey on a tree
  • River cruise at Klias Wetland
  • Blue-eared Kingfisher
  • Klias wetland is a peat swamp forest with unique vegetation
  • The brackish water of Klias River

During the daytime, the enchanting sight of proboscis monkeys, endemic to Borneo, steals the show. Abundant sightings of other animals, including oriental darters, hornbills, kingfishers, grey-leaf monkeys, and macaques, add to the allure. As night falls, prepare to be mesmerized by a magical spectacle as thousands of fireflies adorn the trees along the riverbank, resembling twinkling Christmas trees on a summer’s night. Read more…

7. Poring Hot Springs

Poring is not boring! Poring offers a refreshing escape for those seeking relaxation and adventure alike. Relax and rejuvenate in the soothing Sulphur hot springs, renowned for their therapeutic properties beneficial for both skin and ailments. Explore the butterfly garden, home to rare species like the Rajah Brooke Birdwing.

  • Bath area of Poring Hot Springs
  • Canopy walk of Poring Hot Springs
  • Langanan Waterfall of Poring Hot Springs
  • Red-bearded bee-eater
  • Chalets in the park of Poring Hot Springs

For thrill-seekers, challenge your fear of heights with a stroll across the wobbly canopy walk, suspended 40 meters above ground—a thrilling experience and one of Sabah’s highest. If that’s not enough excitement, embark on a two-hour hike to the majestic Langanan Waterfall, one of Sabah’s tallest.

Poring also offers cozy chalets for those wishing to fully immerse themselves in nature’s embrace. Nearby, keep an eye out for the blooming rafflesia flower, a rare and impressive sight during the right season. Read more…

8. Boheydulang Island

Prepare to be awestruck by the breathtaking beauty of Boheydulang Island, where every vista elicits a resounding “WOW!” This enchanting island boasts arguably the most scenic sea views in all of Borneo. Situated within the Tun Sakaran Marine Park, Boheydulang is one of eight islands formed by an ancient volcano that erupted 2.5 million years ago. Most of the volcano’s crater is now submerged beneath the sea, with the remnants forming the picturesque islands we see today. Nicknamed Pearl Island, Boheydulang is steeped in legend, with tales of Princess Salamiah, who is said to have taken refuge on the island and transformed into a fairy.

  • View of Tun Sakaran Marine Park from the top of Boheydulang Island
  • Taking photos on the top of Boheydulang Island
  • Boardwalk of the jetty on Boheydulang Island
  • Tun Sakaran Marine Park of Semporna, Sabah
  • Sea water of Tun Sakaran Marine Park in Semporna

To soak in the island’s unparalleled beauty, embark on a 45-minute hike to the summit of Boheydulang, towering approximately 353 meters above sea level. The panoramic scenery from the summit is truly unforgettable, making Boheydulang one of the most sought-after destinations in Semporna, often hailed as the Maldives of Southeast Asia. Read more…

9. Kinabatangan River

Stretching an impressive 560 kilometers, the Kinabatangan River holds the distinction of being Malaysia’s second-longest river. Meandering from the heart of Sabah to its eastern coast, this river nourishes vast expanses of Borneo rainforest, including ox-bow lakes, mangroves, and wetlands. It’s a realm inhabited by a rich array of Borneo’s iconic wildlife, including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles, sun bears, and pygmy elephants.

  • A herd of proboscis monkey on the tree
  • Kinabatangan River and an Oxbow Lake
  • Pygmy elephants at the riverside of Kinabatangan River
  • Morning river cruise in the misty Kinabatangan River
  • A forest lodge in Kinabatangan River

Embark on a tranquil boat ride during the morning or dusk hours, and you’ll witness wildlife bustling along the riverbanks, showcasing their natural behaviors. Bird enthusiasts flock here to capture images of unique avian species such as hornbills, kingfishers, and oriental darters. Spotting rare birds like the Pitta, Bornean Ground Cuckoo, Storm’s Stork, and Bornean Bristlehead is considered a prized achievement, akin to discovering a hidden treasure. Read more…

10. Mari-Mari Cultural Village

After having so much fun with nature attractions, most tourists miss out on the important part of the Borneo experience – the colorful Borneo cultures. The Mari-Mari Cultural Village fills in the gap by showcasing the captivating traditions and customs of the five main tribes of Sabah. All of this is done in a village complex surrounded by rainforest with authentic traditional settings.

  • Mari-Mari Cultural Village
  • Sampling the freshly cooked local food (Kuih Jala)
  • Visit the longhouse of Mari-Mari Cultural Village
  • Tourists trying the bamboo dance
  • Colourful dais for wedding couples of Bajau

In just half a day, visitors can get a glimpse of the traditional lifestyle of our natives. Moving from one traditional house to another, you can sample some local food and drink of the Bajau, known as the Cowboys of the East, see how the vest of a Murut warrior is made from tree bark, play traditional games, observe the skill of starting a fire and hunting with a blowpipe, and participate in a bamboo dance. Read more…

Others / Special Interest

No matter what your interests may be, Sabah offers something special for everyone. Here are a few more recommended attractions tailored to suit various visitor preferences.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Travel Destinations of Sabah

  1. Hi Murphy..how do you usually travel?Do you travel by joining specific travel tour or just go by yourself?I am planning to travel across Sabah soon (thanks to your list!) but still short of idea on how to travel to remote places in the most secure and safe way. Please guide me hehe thanks!

    1. Hi Stefpenny, I would say “half-half”. For public parks, I usually go by myself. Some remote or private attractions would need boat transfer or booking via tour agents, then I have to join a travel agent. đŸ™‚

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