Malaysia and Borneo
Sabah, the northern state of Malaysian Borneo, is a vast natural treasure trove of deep rainforest, tall mountains and an abundant oceanic world. This is a place that whilst it is easy to find adventure, the easy-going culture of Sabah means exploration can be as relaxed as you like, whether it’s wildlife spotting, discovering the local culture or strolling the cosmopolitan streets of capital Kota Kinabalu.
Sabah’s vibrant, welcoming capital is an atmospheric place to while away a few days. Head to the waterfront to browse the wares of the excellent markets – the huge night food market is particularly excellent. Before heading out to explore jungle, ocean or mountain, visit the Sabah State Museum where you can learn about all of Sabah’s major tribes and the diverse heritage of the state.
Mt Kinabalu dominates Sabah’s skyline. Thrusting 4095 metres skyward, it is revered by some tribes as the home of the spirits of the dead, whilst to others it is just there to be conquered. The centrepiece of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Kinabalu National Park, for those who aren’t looking to climb to the granite spires at the mountain’s peak, there are a range of excellent nature trails that showcase the national parks diverse ecology and geology – the plant life is pretty good too. From the summit, on a clear day, the views over the coastal plains and ocean can stretch as far as the Philippines, but these can only be enjoyed if you make the climb.
Established in 1964 and located 25 kilometres from Sabah’s second city Sandakan, Sepilok rehabilitates and trains orphaned and injured orang-utans so they can be re-introduced back into the forest. Feeding times give a guarantee to see these beautiful creatures up close, but there are also trails through the forest that may give another chance at a glimpse. Catch the video in the Nature Education Centre to get more information on what the centre does. Visit Sepilok’s companion sanctuary, Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, to see more of the native proboscis monkey.
Sabah’s longest river provides some of the best wildlife viewing opportunities in the state. Cruise up the river in a little boat scouring the surrounding forest for all sorts of local fauna from hornbills to orang-utans. An area made up of lakes, mangroves and swamps the range of wildlife here is extensive enough for it to be declared the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. It is possible to stay overnight in a lodge here, amongst this beautiful nature.
Sabah is best known for its outstanding rainforests and wildlife but there is also plenty of opportunity to take some time to relax on tropical beaches. Tropical islands dot the horizon off Sabah’s coastline – the easiest to access are the five paradise islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park just off Kota Kinabalu, which you can visit on a day trip or spend a few days of total relaxation. Eastern Sabah you will find some of the world’s best diving, accessible to both beginner and experienced divers alike. Palau Sipadan particularly is at the heart of one of the richest marine habitats in the world and home to thousands of species of fish and corals. For those who don’t dive, the nearby islands of Palau Kapalai offers great snorkelling.
Right on the river close to the village of Sukou, the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge is the perfect way to experience the nature of this beautiful area. Consisting of simple, clean and comfortable stilted chalets, settle into the jungle lifestyle, keeping an eye out for the local flora and fauna.
Sat on the beautiful Pantai Dalit beach in a nature reserve, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort offers high-end relaxation amongst tropical landscapes. With an Orang-utan Education Centre and tree-top canopy walk the resort is uniquely Borneo, whilst there are also award-winning dining options, three swimming pools and Shangri-La’s signature spa. For those feeling a little more active, try a range of watersports or play a round of golf.
Sat on a private beach front, the Tanjung Aru Resort offers high-end relaxation in a jaw-dropping location amongst tropical landscapes. For those feeling a little more active, try a range of watersports or play a round of golf, whilst evenings can be spent sampling the delights of the seven dining options on offer.
The Hyatt Regency is a luxury hotel in the heart of Kota Kinabalu where the spacious rooms are exquisitely designed with sophisticated comfort in mind. The hotel features six restaurants, an outdoor swimming pool and the Avantang Spa.
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The world’s largest and most populous continent, Asia is a vibrant and rambunctious fusion of ethnicities, cultures and customs; an incomparably rich and turbulent history showcased by mindboggling feats of architecture and engineering; a geography that encompasses towering peaks, unfathomable gorges and paradisiacal beaches; and a biodiversity that is so abundant that you’ll be reaching for your wildlife guide.