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Borneo: 14 Fun Things To Do In The Sabah Region

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

Borneo, an island that is barely known by many people, yet its the third largest in the world after Greenland and New Guinea.The island is divided into 3 parts, Indonesia taking 73% of the land, Malaysia 26% and Brunei with just 1%. It already sounds pretty interesting!

Whats more, Borneo has one of the oldest Rain-forests in the world dating over 140 million years. It’s home to the Borneo Orangutan, hundreds of bird species, mammals, and fresh water fish. If that wasn’t enough, thousands of species of flowers and trees make Borneo an incredible island for nature and adventure lovers.

The Malaysian side of Borneo is divided into two parts Sarawak and Sabah which are separated by the Sultanate of Brunei. With a focus on Sabah, Kota Kinabalu is the perfect place to start, as it gives easy access to the 14 fun thing to do in the Sabah region.

1 Mari Mari Cultural Village

In half a day, the Mari Mari Cultural Village offers an amazing overview about the different tribes in Borneo. The houses, costumes, what they were known for, as well as the opportunity to take part in some of the activities prove a great educational and fun half day out.

Read more on Mari Mari Cultural Village experience.

2 Klias River & Probescius Monkey spotting

After visiting a local home to indulge in local sweets and tea, get taken on a boat ride up the Klias River to spot the famous wobbly nosed proboscis monkey. If lucky enough, fire flies can be spotted on the way back in the dark.

3 Mount Kinabalu

Malaysia’s highest mountain stands in Borneo at just over 4,000 meters. The mountain has a rich collection of fauna and flora and makes it a well sought after destination for mountain climbers from all over the world. Mount Kinabalu has a main trail that people follow for the climb to what is called ‘low’s peak’. No major mountaineering skills are required. Climbers do however need to be in good physical condition.

4 Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

A well looked after zoo with a variety of endangered and exotic species of animals. Visitors of Lok Kawi will also find a botanical garden of flora that can only be found in Borneo.

5 Rafflesia Flower

The Rafflesia known as the largest flower in the world, could grow to be over 100 centimeters in diameter and 10 kg in weight. This giant looking flower has an interesting life cycle worth learning about as part of a trip to Borneo.

6 Poring Hot Springs

One of the Japanese contributions to Borneo, the Sulfurous natural hot springs. Visited by locals and tourists alike. Poring Hot Springs can be enjoyed as part of the canopy walkway (read below) or part of a visit to Mount Kinabalu.

7 Poring Treetop Canopy Walkway

A 20 minute hike through the million year old rain-forest you reach the Canopy Walkway. Admire the sensational views of this tangled jungle, as the Canopy walkway with a stretch of 175 meters, on a height of 60 meters, keeps any knees wobbling. Not exactly for the faint hearted but highly recommended!

8 Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park

The islands of Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi and Sulug form Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. Each island no more than 20 minutes apart. Each offering an activity (apart from the uninhabited Sulug) from diving, snorkeling or zip lining. These islands are worth a full day out. Boats head out to the islands daily and last return to the main island at 5 pm. A great seafood lunch is served as part of the package when booking an island trip at Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal (in the city center).

9 Crocodile Farm

North of Sabah is Tuaran, where a Crocodile farm which accommodates over 1000 crocodiles exists. It is one of the main producers of the saltwater crocodile worldwide. Besides putting on the shows of watching a man place his head inside the crocodiles mouth. There are crocodiles lazing about in the sun, you would think they were statues until they get into a fight! Some of the fights may get pretty violent for kids and even some adults, but totally worth the visit!

10 Stilt Houses

In some of Borneo’s rivers and sea-side, wooden stilt houses still exist. Their history and what they are about today is not that much different. It’s still mainly the fisherman or sea gypsies that still live in these houses. Although Stilt houses can last up to 30 years, most of the ones you see around Borneo are as old as this. Some can be seen to have damaged stilts and no one lives in them anymore. The government has however offered to provide new modern homes with fresh water and electricity to those in the stilt homes. Many have opted against moving.

11 North Borneo Steam Train

Stepping into a nostalgic era on a 4 hour steam train from Tangjun Aru station is one of Borneo’s main highlights! The wooden-fed steam train goes through rice fields, stilt house areas, before arriving to Kinarut Town. There a quick visit to the Tien Shi Temple is a must to see the smiling Buddha . Shortly after that, coming to Papar Town for a Tiffin Box lunch just like in the 1800’s.

12 Floating Mosque ( Masjid Bandaraya)

One of 2 Mosques in Sabah is Masjid Bandaraya which sits on a man-made lagoon, accommodating up to 12,000 worshipers. The mosque itself has 3 educational units, one of which includes a wellness clinic specialized for life limiting illnesses. For non-Muslims, it’s better to visit the mosque outside of prayer times. One can also rent a paddle boat to see the mosque from the water!

13 Gaya Sunday Street Market

A bustling street market every Sunday offering anything from cotton wear, fake sunglasses, fake designer trainers, ornaments to even selling animals! It starts at 6 am a perfect time to beat the crowds and the heat!

14 Waterfront Sunsets & Food

Borneo offers some incredible sunsets and while it has history with all its surrounding islands and countries, Borneo gives its visitors a range of cuisine to choose from, all of which can be found at the Kota Kinabalu Waterfront. The Thai and Indian restaurants serve incredible food. There’s also of course the usual bars and pubs which also serve good food. Don’t miss the foot massage parlors on the waterfront!

It doesn’t stop here. There are plenty of more things to do which include shopping in the city center, seeing the graffiti walls, heading to Paradise island for snorkeling, or horse riding on the beach. One of the other highlights of Borneo is the 5 hour drive from Kota Kinalabu to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. Getting up close and personal with the furry friendly Orangutans and learning about them will surely melt anyone’s heart!


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