Often called the 'Land below the Wind' because it lies below the typhoon belt, Sabah occupies the eastern part of
North Borneo and is East Malaysia's second largest state with an area of 74,500
sq.km. Sabah has the South China Sea on the west and the Sulu and Celebes Seas on the east.
Mountainous and largely carpeted by lush
tropical rainforests, its population of nearly two million is made up of 32
colourful ethnic communities.
Kinabalu, the capital, lies in a fertile lowland
plain where most commercial and administrative activities are concentrated. But
the 'real' Sabah can best be found
in its countryside.
Kinabalu Park has been listed as a UNESCO
Heritage Site, due to the diversity of plant life and wildlife there. It
provides a challenging climb amidst a lush virgin rainforest, where you can
find hidden hot springs in cool high altitudes.
Island off the south eastern coast of Sabah has been one of the top five dive
sites in the world for years. This is attributed to unique underwater geography
that encourages proliferation of wildlife. Leatherback turtles, barracudas and
white tipped sharks are a common sight while diving in Sipadan.
Sabah is one of the most culturally diverse states in Malaysia. Its
population of about 2.5 million is a mix of native groups (who are usually
divided into Muslim and non-Muslim groups), Chinese, and other smaller ethnic
groups such as Indians and Eurasians. The main native groups are the Kadazan,
Dusun, Murut, Bajau, Suluk, Bisaya and Orang Sungai. Most of the
Chinese, who migrated to the state during the British era, belong to the Hakka
dialect group although there are also large numbers of Cantonese especially in Sandakan.
Tourism, particularly eco-tourism, is a
major contributor to the economy of Sabah.
In 2006, 2 million tourists visited Sabah and it is estimated that the number will continue to rise following rigorous
promotional activities by the state and national tourism boards and also better
stability and security in the region. Sabah currently has 6 national parks. One of it, the Kinabalu National Park, was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2000.
Abdul Rahman Marine Park is a park off the coast of
the island of Borneo in Malaysia made up of five islands: 5 islands; Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik. Travel to the TAR Marine Park
is easy as hourly speedboat rides can be caught at the Point Jesselton Ferry
Terminal in the northern end of Kota
Kinabalu. Boat rides take a short 10 to 25 minutes. They cost between RM15
and RM40 depending on island.
It is best to try and go to these islands
during the week as the islands are a popular destination for locals and it can
get busy during the weekend. The further the island is that you visit the less
amenities on the island and also the more secluded. An alternative that avoids
the hassle and expense of staying on the islands is to stay in Kota Kinabalu and head over to the
islands on day trips.
Kota Kinabalu - formerly
known as Jesselton, is the capital of Sabah. Located on the northwest coast of the island of Borneo facing the South China Sea and Tunku Abdul Rahman
Park on one side, and with Mount Kinabalu in the background, Kota Kinabalu sprawls for kilometres
along the coast and towards inland. Kota
Kinabalu is named after Mount
Kinabalu, situated about 90 kilometres east-northeast of the city. The
meaning and origin of the name Kinabalu is uncertain. One theory suggests it
means "Chinese widow", where Kina meaning "Chinese"
(person) in Kadazandusun language, and balu meaning "widow" in
Malay language. This theory derives from a folk tale about a Chinese prince who
came to the mountain in search of a giant pearl which was guarded by a dragon
at the top of the mountain. While he was here, he married a local woman but
later returned to China and left the woman heartbroken. Alternatively, it is
also argued that Kinabalu or Akinabalu is the name of the dragon which guards
the giant pearl itself. Another theory suggests that the term is derived from
the name Aki Nabalu meaning the "revered place of the dead", in
which, Aki means "ancestors" or "grandfather", and Nabalu
being a name for the mountain in the Dusun language. Finally there is also a
source claiming that the term originated from Ki Nabalu, where Ki meaning
"have" or "exist", and Nabalu meaning "spirit of the
dead". Kinabalu National Park is located about 90 kilometres from the
city, and besides this, it also features a number of tourist attractions in and
around the city itself. The city is also one of the major industrial and
commercial centres in East Malaysia besides Kuching in Sarawak. These two
factors combine to make Kota Kinabalu one of the fastest growing cities in the country.
Kundasang - Kundasang is a village in Sabah, Borneo that lies along the bank
of Kundasang Valley. It is located about 6 kilometres away from Kinabalu
National Park and is renowned for its vegetable market which is open seven days
a week. It is the closest village to Mount Kinabalu and has a panoramic view of
the Mountain. It is populated mainly by the native Dusun and a very small
population of Chinese people. Almost 100% shops are operated by locals. Be sure
to have thick clothing at hand should you plan to visit here as the weather can
be pretty cold during rainy seasons!
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park - The
Tunku Abdul Rahman park comprises a group of five islands located only 20
minutes away from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah's capital. The park is spread
over 4,929 hectares, two thirds of which is sea. The five idyllic islands,
Manukan, Mamutik, Sulug, Gaya and Sapi have soft white beaches and are teeming
with fish and coral, perfect for beginner divers as well as snorkelers and
picnickers. Gaya and Sapi Islands also have hiking trails through their
pristine jungles. These islands are home
to a variety of flora and fauna, including one of the most intriguing birds,
the Megapode or Burung Tambun, a chicken lookalike with large feet and makes a
meowing sound like a cat.
The peoples of Sabah are blessed with an abundance of seafood, their rivers
providing freshwater fish and prawn, with deer, wild board and other game, plus
innumerable wild plants, herbs and luscious fruits there for the taking in the
forest. The traditional foods of Sabah’s more than thirty ethnic groups
vary, and depend on available resources. Naturally, the diet of coastal peoples
was- and still is- dominated by all types of seafood, while those living far
inland relied on freshwater fish and wild game. Although both hill rice and paddy
(rice planted in irrigated fields) have been grown in Sabah for generations, this is not always the staple food, and in
the far north, corn and cassava (tapioca)
are often eaten.
In many swampy areas, the wild sago palm
flourishes. Just how long ago man discovered that it was possible to extract
starch from the grated interior of the sago tree is unknown, but the pre-
western name for all of Borneo, Kalimantan, comes from the word ‘lamanta’, meaning sago starch. The
Bisaya people of the klias Peninsula,
near Brunei, still make a gluey ‘porridge’ with sago starch, ‘ambuyat’, using a pair of chopsticks cut
from the rib of the palm to twirl it up into a sticky mass for dunking in a
Most famous of these is the Kadazan Dusun hinava tongii or pickled Spanish
mackerel (ikan tenggiri). This is an
absolutely delicious combination of spanking fresh fish, red chillies, shredded
ginger and sliced shallots, the whole lot drenched with lime juice which
'cooks’ the fish. The secret ingredient of this dish is the grated seed of a
variety of mango found only in Sabah,
For meals, head to the outdoor food stalls
fronting the sea or coffee shops along the streets. The less adventurous could
make a beeline for fast food outlets in the Centrepoint shopping centre while
those with deeper pockets could try the pier-side restaurants just after the
open air fish market. Seafood in Kota Kinabalu is very popular and at some places, very cheap, so
getting a dose of it is a must. Among the popular eateries in KK are:-
Hyatt Hotel Restaurant - The restaurant
is located in the prestigious Hyatt Hotel near to the lobby. The restaurant
serves basic local mamak dishes with a bit more spark than local presentation
and on certain days, a wonderful buffet is served with foods ranging from
Italian to local delights which attract many of the hungry Sabahans. The specialty of this restaurant however rests with the
mighty Ox-tail Assam Pedas in which Ox-tail chunks are cooked in a secret gravy
recipe and has remained a local favourite for the past decade, hands down. The
Hyatt restaurant caters for the slightly higher-up market, with a price range
of about RM25+.
Jeff De Corner - If you want to have
Quality West Dishes with low cost here is the place. Situated in Luyang,
approximately 15 minutes from the city, Jeff De Corner provides vast range of
dishes including Lamb & Beef Steak, Oxtail soup, lamb shank and BBQ Lamb
New Gaya Seafood Restaurant, One of the
most visited seafood restaurant by locals. Price are fixed and 20% - 30%
cheaper than city's seafood restaurants. Captains are helpful. Visitors must
try their deep fried crabs with egg yolk & butter prawn. It’s located next
to Gaya Sports Recreation Centre, highly recommended for visitors who have
Ocean Seafood Restaurant - Right next to
the Promenade Hotel and Parkson Grand (shopping mall). The restaurant faces the
coastline. You can take a pick on your seafood orders by the fish tanks, or if
you prefer, you can let the waiters recommend at your table. It’s your choice
on how you would like the seafood prepared.
Pete's Corner - Located in Asia City in
the heart of Kota Kinabalu, Pete's
Corner is the one and only Western breakfast place which specialises in
"Cheap but good" Western style dishes. The shop mainly caters for
steaks and other western dishes at reasonable prices (RM10-18).
Portview Seafood Restaurant- There are 2
branches of this in Kota Kinabalu. One
of them is right opposite Centrepoint Shopping Centre, called The Waterfront.
This one is quite new, a very popular place for tourists and orders can be
taken either way similar to Ocean Restaurant. This restaurant is nestled
amongst other popular nightlife hangouts, mostly bars and clubs, but also cafes
like Coffee Bean. The other older one is nicely set in front of a pier, within
walking distance to banks such as HSBC and Standard Chartered, and some
supermarkets stocking imported goods. Salim - Situated in Lintas Square,
approximately 20 minutes drive from the city, Salim has proved to be a highly
popular supper spot for many local Sabahans both young and old. Specialising in
many local mamak (Indian Muslim)
foods and delicacies, the most popular meals would be the Malaysian roti styled bread which is cooked over
an open flat iron skillet which is bathed in oil. The meal along with a nice
cup of Teh Tarik Madras would range at around RM 5-8.
Salut Seafood Restaurant- It takes about
20 minutes car journey from the city centre to Salut where the restaurant is
located near the Sepanggar Bay and Telipok. It is a famous place for cheaper
seafood dishes as the prawns are bred by the restaurant owner himself. Talk
about being fresh!
Viet Cafe - Located opposite Hyatt
hotel, main street "Haji Saman Road" - very nice Vietnamese dish,
inexpensive, worth to try. @mosphere, Menara Tun Mustapha.
Revolving restaurant in Borneo's tallest building serving predictably generic
"Pacific Rim" cuisine. Open throughout the day and for drinks at
night. Anjappar, Asia City Complex (facing Api
Api centre, diagonally across the street from CentrePoint) specialises in Chettinad
(North and South Indian) cuisine. Serves authentic Indian food such as banana
leaf meals, biriyani, naan & roti, tandoori dishes, and dosai. Prices range
from RM3.50 to RM10.00. Anjappar is an Indian franchise with branches in Kuala
Lumpur, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka and Canada.