Sabah in Malaysian Borneo attracts tourists and backpackers for its rainforests, wildlife, biodiversity and exotic cultural traditions.


Malaysia’s tallest peak. Mount Kinabalu rises an impressive 4095 metres. Featuring on Sabah’s state flag and giving the name to the capital city, Kota Kinabalu, climbing the mountain has and always will be one of the top things to do in Sabah. Hikers need to join an organised tour and there is very limited places for the tour, usually sell out months in advance. But the two-day climb up the sacred mountain and witnessing the sunrise at the peak is an experience not to be missed.

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The five islands near the coast of Kota Kinabalu boast an impressive variety of colourful corals and marine life. The protected islands include Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Mamutik and Sulug which are all accessible by speedboat from Kota Kinabalu. Expect unpolluted beaches and crystal clear water creating ideal snorkelling conditions there.

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Located a short distance from Kota Kinabalu in the South China Sea. ‘Three Islands’ in English, made up of the main island along with Kalampunian Damit and Kalampunian Besar. You can experience the seclusion and see and jump into a rare mud volcano on a day trip from Kota Kinabalu. Others can stay overnight in a chalet at either Gaya Island Resort or Pulau Tiga Resort.

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In 1964, Sepilok became the first rehabilitation centre for young and orphaned orangutans. Deforestation and logging destroyed their habitats while others are hunted for sports or to keep as a pet. Located 25 kilometres west of Sandakan, this centre helps to train the orangutans to survive on their own. Visitors can walk along a boardwalk to the viewing platform. At both 10:00am and 3:00pm, rangers give the orangutans bananas and milk. Visit during feeding time to catch a glimpse of the rare orange primates.

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The Kinabatangan River stretches 560 kilometres through Sabah. But the appeal isn’t the beauty but a chance to join a river cruise and see wild monkeys. The threatened primates with a pot-belly and long red nose are endemic to Borneo and live in large communities along certain stretches of the river. Lucky tourists might also see pygmy elephants, hornbills and crocodiles. Bungalows and chalets are available for overnight stays here.

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Sabah’s rain forests form habitats for thousands of plants and animals over millions of years. Located near Lahad Datu provides the ultimate jungle experience. One of the top things to do in Sabah for anyone who wants to experience the eco-side of Borneo is to spend a night or two at here. Bungalows, hostel and camping facilities provide a comfortable and affordable place to sleep. Activities at the centre range from trekking through virgin rain forest with expert guides to night safaris and canopy walks. A trip here also gives visitors a chance to learn more about conservation from resident scientists.