It is very easy to get overwhelmed by the endless pit stops the Malaysian Borneo has to offer. From the regal Mt. Kinabalu, to the lush forests, and the dense deep blue sea, this place will surely rock any nature lover’s heart.
To keep you sane, it is best to know what Sabah – Borneo is really all about. Don’t get confused now… Let me drill it down for you.
What to do, Where to go:
For a diver and a mountain-enthusiast like me and my friends, we had to plan it all ahead. To make sure we cover the experiences waiting to be discovered, we had to choose which activity to do first.
Below is a list of activities that you should not miss on this side of the earth:
- Snorkeling/Diving in their crystal-clear waters of Sulu sea
- Exploring the Borneo jungle
- Hiking in Borneo’s highest peak – Mt. Kinabalu
- Visiting the animal sanctuaries like the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center & Sunbear Conservation Center
- Exploring the natural habitat with the Little Kinabitangan Tour for the endangered Proboscis monkeys & fireflies.
My advice is to explore the farthest vicinity first so you could get settled-in properly and also so you could be closer to the city center and airport as you progress with your trip and move on to your next destination. It wouldn’t hurt to hire a tour guide either to ensure that you are well taken care of, especially since the activities could take its toll. The Amazing Borneo offers several tours to make the most out of the Sabah – Borneo exploration.
That being said, Kota Kinabalu airport shall be the gateway to Sandakan airport where we commence our trip.
From Sea to Summit:
Snorkeling at Lankayan
On the same day of your Kota Kinabalu arrival, board a plane to Sandakan airport which takes a little less than an hour. When you get there, take a speed boat for about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the water condition, to reach Lankayan Island Dive Resort. I recommend at least two full days in the island to give you ample time to swim, snorkel, dive, unwind, bask in the sun, eat, and swim some more. I tell you, the place is so peaceful and quiet, it is the perfect place to recharge and rejuvenate. The island has tranquil crystal-clear waters that you would like to immerse yourself into. Sea turtle encounters are not rare and the coral formations are pretty hefty.
If you are lucky, you will be able to witness the hatching and the release of the sea turtles Lankayan Island is known for. It is home to these fascinating creatures so get ready to be amazed.
Orangutans and Sunbear
It’s hard to say goodbye to lounging around with the Sulu Sea in the background but hey, there is a lot more in store. When you get back to Sandakan, make sure to stop by the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center where you will get to witness feeding sessions to these endearing primates. After all, they are a lot like humans and it’s quite interesting to see the up close.
Another site to visit is the Sunbear Conservation Center. See the Sunbears climb up the trees, play with each other, and take a pose for your camera. Learn how they contribute to our ecological system and take an insight or two on the importance of preserving the wild.
Both of these places can be visited in a day and is an easy walk from the Sepilok Nature Resort.
After fulfilling the inner animal-lover in you, not too far away is the Rainforest Discover Centre. You’ll need a cab to get to this place. This time it’s more flora than fauna. There is a lake and a canopy walk where you get suspended with the trees. Spot a bird or two with or without your binoculars.
With that done, you are ready to get back to Kota Kinabalu and explore the rest of what it has to offer. Fly back the same route and settle for the night.
Mt. Kinabalu Hike
If you are to climb the mountain, it is best to spend the night in one of the nearby stays near the jump-off in Kinabalu park. Jump-off starts at 9:00 am the next day.
One of the most anticipated activities in Borneo is reaching the peak of its tallest mountain, Mt. Kinabalu. It is after all, a UNESCO Heritage site. Despite the huge excitement that is common to most new climbers, it is a must to keep in mind that it takes a lot of energy and perseverance to get to the top and one must come prepared mentally and physically. Do not forget to bring all the necessary gears to keep you warm, alert, and safe. This includes comfortable yet sturdy trekking shoes, jackets, headlamps, first aid kits/medicine kits, trail foods, et al. For some, this is their practice mountain to Mt. Everest as the altitude of this particular mountain also comes into play.
Trekking would normally take 4-5 hours, depending on the hiker’s pace, to Laban Rata, the base camp. Here you would need to acclimatize and rest for the early morning trudge to the summit the next day (2:30 am!) which would take another 3-4 hours.
If you are up for a more adrenaline-pumping action, then you are cut for the Via Ferrata route which is a personal favorite. Via Ferrata uses steel cables to help you scale a mountain in your harness and carabineers. What makes it even more special? It is regarded by the Guinness World Records as the highest Via Ferrata in the World. Now that’s something that we could all brag about!
Nothing could prepare you for the ecstasy this mountain and it’s summit brings. It is certainly one for the books!
Do note however that for safety reasons, the weather is to be considered before the climb is allowed to start so it is best to visit during the summer, where rainfall percentage is at the very minimum.
After a day’s rest with the certificate of completion from Mt. Kinabalu hike as part of your credential, you can ride a boat and circle the river to spot the endangered species, the Proboscis monkeys which are characterized by their huge noses. Not your usual monkey fix if you ask me.
End the night by getting mesmerized by fireflies in the darkness which left me in awe. It was really dreamy. I’m pretty sure adults and kids alike will like this display which is pretty much like gazing for stars in the sky.
The City of Kota Kinabalu
One must not leave without sampling the traditional massage in the City. Suria Sabah Mall is the place to go for this and for some trinket shopping for souvenirs you could bring back home.
With the wide range of activities waiting to unfold, Sabah – Borneo is a must-visit travel destination for those who would like to get away from the hustle and bustle of it all.