Sometimes when you fall in love, you know from the beginning it can’t last. And when you fall in love with a place, knowing (before even arriving) that you are doomed to leave, your time there is bittersweet.
Malaysia’s Sabah, on the northern tip of Borneo, is a beautiful, if cruel, tease. Just when you discover one treasure, there is another close behind it. From the peaks of Mount Kinabalu to the depths of its turquoise seas, she will take you on a journey that will make you wish you could stay longer and force you to return time and again to know her better.
Here are just five (of many) reasons why you should guard your heart from Sabah — but be warned: one glimpse of her orang-utans, one taste of her fresh produce, one smile from her people and you will have already fallen under her spell.
SHE’S DEEP: Exploring dive mecca Sipadan Island
Fancy swimming within a vortex of swirling barracuda? Or simply walking off the beach and dropping off to explore an underwater marvel? Sipadan is for you.
One of the world’s top dive sites, Sipadan boasts 12 different dive spots, all of which allow you to discover more than 3,000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species.
But as wondrous as the place is, it is not crowded. Jacques Cousteau called Sipadan “an untouched piece of art” and Sipadan authorities want to keep it that way.
In order to explore its waters, you must have a permit and only 176 permits are allowed each day (156 dive permits, 20 snorkelling special permits). And each December the island closes to allow for a month-long recuperation period for the coral and marine life.
SHE’S ALMOST GOT TOO MUCH ON OFFER: Choosing between Kinabalu Park’s plethora of attractions
Kinabalu Park is big. Like bigger than Singapore big. Really.
Within the World Heritage park is Malaysia’s highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, Poring Hotsprings, a 41 metre high canopy walkway, an array of trails and the magnificent 120 metre Langanan Waterfall.
If the rest of Sabah wasn’t what it was, one could holiday in Kinabalu Park alone!
SHE TAKES YOU TO NEW HEIGHTS: Climbing Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu is one of the more accessible of the world’s peaks to climb. Just 90km from Kota Kinabalu (or KK), climbers can reward their efforts with all the splendours of some amazing hawker food and beautiful accommodation, post-climb of course.
At 4,095 metres above sea level (Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain between New Guinea and the Himalayas), aside from some amazing views, climbers will also get up close and personal to six levels of different vegetation, waterfalls and even Malaysia’s highest post office!
Guides (mandatory) and porters (optional) are assigned before your trek up to the peak and it is recommended you book beforehand.
SHE’S PRETTY UNIQUE: Discovering the wonders at Danum Valley Conservation Area
Danum Valley Conservation Area is considered one of the world’s most complex ecosystems. It is home to the banteng, clouded leopard, orangutan, slow loris, proboscis monkey and the endangered Bornean pygmy elephant.
The world’s tallest tropical tree (Yellow Meranti) is also found in Danum Valley. At a recorded height of 100.8m this giant tree, known as ‘Menara’ (Malay for Tower) is only 21.2m lower than the iconic Tun Mustapha Tower in Kota Kinabalu.
SHE’S GOT SOME PRETTY CUTE FRIENDS: Meeting the locals at Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre
Orphaned orang-utans have found temporary solace at the Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC) since 1964.
Here, lucky visitors may chance upon orang-utans feeding on outdoor platforms at 10am or 3pm. But as the goal here is not to please tourists, but rather prepare the orang-utans for a return to the wild, it isn’t guaranteed that you’ll see them - especially during fruiting season.
But the Kabili Rainforest is also a great place to trek and check out the amazing bird life.
Adjacent to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre is the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre.
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