Just mention the word “Sabah” to anyone and chances are images of Mount Kinabalu comes to their mind. But that does not really paint a full picture of an authentic Sabah experience. Yes, we are blessed with a majestic mountain, filled to the brim with unique species of plants and animals. But that is not all there is to Sabah!
The state is surrounded by water—to the West, you can find the South China Sea, while the Celebes Sea is East of Sabah and the Sulu is in the Northeast. Not only that, our rainforests mean that we have no shortage of amazing rivers around the state. And thanks to all these bodies of water, it goes without saying that fun water activities are aplenty in the Land Below the Wind.
From relaxing cruises to heart-pounding water sport, Sabah has everything for everyone to enjoy! So, if you are in the state for a little R&R, here is a short guide on what you can do here.
1. Go on a little island getaway
Located just a few minutes of boat ride away from the city centre is the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park (TARP), housing five breathtakingly stunning islands teeming with diverse species of flora and fauna. The islands — Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug — are the top tourist destination for those who want to experience tropical islands of Sabah without driving too far away from the modern life of the city. But if you prefer travelling in style and would rather not have sand all over yourself, you might want to hop on a morning cruise that allows you to see the island from the comfort of a cruise ship.
For those who fancy somewhere quieter and less crowded, there are some other options that you might want to consider, including (but definitely not limited to!) Mengalum Island, Tiga Island (a.k.a. Survivor Island), and Mantanani Island.
2. Marvel at Sabah’s unique wildlife on a river cruise
We have mentioned this fact a few times now, but the state is famous for its abundant species of flora and fauna. Because of that, seeing people come in droves to get a peek of our biodiversity is not a rare sight. If you are one of them, river cruising should be on your to-do list. Go on a leisure cruise along Sabah’s river to spot some of our unique jungle critters during the day or take a boat ride to watch fireflies dance around in the evening—we guarantee the nature lover in you would be ecstatic!
Closest to Kota Kinabalu, Kawa-Kawa river cruise is “wildly” popular! Located in Kota Belud district, north of Kota Kinabalu, it is surrounded by paddy fields and mangrove forests. The mangrove habitat that thrives along the river banks of Sungai Tempasuk is a playground for the Proboscis Monkeys.
Another more popular river cruises is the Klias Wildlife River Cruise. Located in the Beaufort district, south of Kota Kinabalu, it is one of the best places in Sabah to see fireflies in their natural habitat. And if you want to experience Kinabatangan River without having to endure the long journey to Sandakan, Weston River Cruise might be more your cup of tea. Dubbed as “The Little Kinabatangan”, Weston River has all that Kinabatangan River can offer, including sightings of Proboscis monkey and the rare silver langur, all in a few hours’ drive away from the Kota Kinabalu.
3. Hop on a sunset cruise for the best sunset of your life
You would probably know that Sabah’s sunset is one of the best in the world. As the sun slowly swallowed by the ocean, it is almost impossible not to feel overwhelmed with emotions as you stand to witness the explosion of colours in the sky, gradually evolving from one hue to another. Obviously, your experience varies depending on the weather you are currently having. But if Lady Luck is on your side, you should be able to experience something you cannot get elsewhere in the world.
There are several cruises that you can hop on, each one suits people with a different preference. If you want to go on a cruise that has an extravagance feel to it, North Borneo Cruises or Amazing Love’s luxury yacht should be on the top of your list. But if you want a more intimate session in a smaller group, Seatango sunset cruises might be more your speed.
4. Challenge yourself on a white water rafting session
So far in this list, the activities are not really that physically taxing. But if you are an adrenaline junkie, do not fret because Sabah has something that might quench that thirst of yours: white water rafting. With several white water rafting spots that range from Grade I to IV in difficulty, you surely cannot go any wilder and wetter than that!
One of the more famous spots is the Padas River in Beaufort. With a difficulty of Grade III to IV, even seasoned rafters will experience a challenge in manoeuvring the rapids. But if you are looking for something more relaxing for the whole family, Kiulu River is probably more suitable to your taste. Other white water rafting spots include Kadamaian River and Papar River.