Sabah is part of East Malaysia, situated on the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia. Administratively this island as a whole is divided between both Indonesia and the Kingdom of Brunei as well as Malaysia itself. Sabah occupies the northernmost tip of Borneo and its apt name alludes to local weather patterns! Translating to “land below the wind”, Sabah’s name is a reference to the nearby Philippines and the propensity for typhoons in that region.
Whilst today Sabah is a peaceful region and officially part of Malaysia, some of its territory is disputed by the Philippines who consider much of the eastern part to be their own. Sabah has a rich historical and cultural past, in part due to mingling of various native peoples over thousands of years of known settlement. Remarkably, a total of 32 individual ethnic groups are officially recognised in Sabah, the largest of which are the Bajau and Murut peoples.
Today, travellers are drawn here by cultural and traditional diversity, as well as delightful natural sights. There is something here to suit every holiday experience, be it a relaxing beach trip by tropical waters; a jungle trekking and mountain climbing adventure; or a snorkelling and diving exploration. This state is also well suited to food connoisseurs looking to branch out and taste some delightful local cuisine!
Sipadan Island is one particularly well known dive spot, prized for its staggering marine habitat and the range of species that lie within. Sabah’s capital is Kota Kinabulu – one of East Malaysia’s primary hubs for diving tourists looking to explore the range of beautiful nearby islands.
The airport in Kota Kinabulu is one of Borneo, and indeed Malaysia’s, largest international access points. Local transport links are also excellent here with well linked road and boat trips available. Nature enthusiasts are drawn here due to the remarkable range of species that call Sabah home! Amongst them are the Proboscis monkey, the rhinoceros and indeed the tiger. These can be witnessed both in the wild (if you get lucky!) and also in the main conservatories prized for their contribution to ethical eco-tourism.
Adventurers and mountain climbers embark on Sabah in numbers to scale the highly regarded Mount Kinabulu. Standing 4,000 metres above sea level, scaling this peak is not all about the trek. As a matter of fact on the ascent you’ll get chance to mingle with some of the mountain communities and gain an insight into the unique traditions in these parts. Another plus is the amazing views that reward climbers throughout the journey. The perspective of Sabah from the peak (assuming good weather!) is truly beautiful.
A trip to Sabah can never be complete without an experience of local cuisine. The Sabahan people (as they are known) are legendary for their hospitality so expect good service too! Kota Kinabulu’s Sunday market is a great place to browse for your favourite dishes and other shopping bargains simultaneously!
A stay in Sabah is particularly highly recommended to those with an adventurous spirit. Be it scaling soaring peaks or diving deep for marine treasures – you’re sure to gain lasting memories here in East Malaysia!
This article was written by the team at the Malaysia Explorer Travel and Tourism Guide www.malaysiaexplorer.net – an independent guide written by dedicated local Malaysians.