Sabah is rich in its diverse culture, natural beauty of the sea and the famous Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in South-East Asia, plus a host of accommodations and nature resorts. Sabah is a favorite haunt for tourists from China and Singapore, amongst others. It has one of the best coral reefs and diving spots in the world. The natural beauty is mostly left untouched unlike other popular diving spots where some of the coral reefs may be affected.
It might only be a small part of Borneo, the world’s third largest island, but Sabah is filled with incredible once in a lifetime experiences. More than half of Sabah is forest, perfect for spotting tropical birds, and if you’re really lucky, pythons and clouded leopards! Away from the forest, you have excellent trekking above the clouds on Mount Kinabalu, and below them, some of the most stunning coral reefs hidden somewhere in those turquoise waters.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at 7 things you can strike off your bucket list by visiting Sabah. Some are packed with adrenaline, some are a little more chilled out, yet they all have one thing in common. They’ll help you make unforgettable memories on your trip to Borneo. Hopefully, our list will help make planning your trip to Sabah much easier! From Sabah’s best places to stay, best experiences and to best things to do, you’ll never get bored visiting Sabah.
Go for a walk along the sea bed
Let’s start off with an unusual one – sea walking. Yes, everyone loves to snorkel and scuba dive, but not everybody can! If you’re one of those people, then don’t worry, we have a solution for you! Do you want to get up close and personal with the tropical fish around Sabah’s reefs? What a silly question. Of course you do! Now that’s possible, well at least with the help of a 35kg helmet. Sea walking sees you hold on to a rope as you navigate your way across the sea bed. Observe the colourful and tropical fish flitting in and out of the coral reef and be mesmerised by those brave enough to get close to your helmet visor! A truly unforgettable bucket list experience!
Dive with whale sharks
Of course, if you do know how to scuba dive, then this is one of the best spots in Asia to do it. Borneo has some of the most biodiverse coral reefs and waters, so you’re guaranteed to be astounded by the wildlife you see. Endangered hawksbill turtles, octopus, and giant clams are just some of the marine life you can expect to see. However, the highlights are tornados of barracuda and the world’s largest (and one of the gentlest) fish, the whale shark. Though whale sharks are migratory fishes so you may not be able to see one up front as they are seasonal. Chances of diving with these gentle giants are around from March to May.
If you’ve never dived before but feel like this would be a good place to start, then don’t worry. Many of the area’s dive resorts offer PADI affiliated dive courses, so you can take your first steps (or strokes) here!
See the local way of life in a homestay
Is there a better way to learn about a culture and people than living with them for a short period? There might be, but we’re not sure what it is. You’ll be incorporated into village life, able to try real and authentic local food, and make memories with new friends that you’ll never forget. It’s a good idea to bring a gift from your home country for your hosts, as they are inviting you to stay in their home. One thing is for sure, with a homestay experience, you’ll see Sabah in a way that would never have been possible in a resort hotel or backpacker hostel!
Camp out under faraway galaxies and shooting stars
One of the most magical experiences you can have is seeing the stars in a cloudless sky. If you live in or near a city, you won’t often get the opportunity to do this. However, that’s not the case in Sabah. Kundasang, Kota Belud, and Tawau are just some of the areas in this magical part of Borneo where you can stargaze to your heart’s content. In the crystal clear skies, see distant galaxies like the milky way staring back at you while shooting stars make their way across the endless vacuum of space.
Enjoy a traditional Sabahan massage and let your worries float away
Not all bucket list experiences have to get your heart rate going twice its regular rate! There are a number of spas and health centres in and around Sabah. And they’re not all in exclusive luxury hotels! You can go for something that you’ll find on most spa menus around the world, such as wraps and scrubs, or even a bath. However, if you really want to experience a slice of Sabahan culture, have a traditional massage. Experience age old techniques that have been passed down families only in this part of the world for a truly relaxing experience!
Trek on Mount Kinabalu and in its national park
Do you want to tick off climbing the highest mountain on Borneo off your bucket list? Well, you may as well while you’re there! Mount Kinabalu will take you above the clouds to the height of 4,095 metres. That’s higher than Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji! The climb is a challenge, but it shouldn’t put you off if you’re not a hiking expert. Especially considering that you can see the Philippines from the summit of Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site on a clear day! Mount Kinabalu is around twice the high of most of the surrounding mountains. If it sounds a bit too difficult, there are plenty of other hiking opportunities in the surrounding national park.
Make a splash with white water rafting
Although we said before that not all bucket list activities need to get your heart racing, let’s end with one that does! Adrenaline junkies will love the opportunity to try out white water rafting, all the way up to level 6 (if you’re not familiar with rafting, that’s the most difficult level, only recommended for experts). If you’re a beginner, don’t worry though. There are some easier rafting experiences too!
Other great activities for adrenaline junkies include abseiling, biking, and jet-boat riding!
Have you got your backpack ready yet?
If not, why not? We hope that these 7 incredible experiences to tick off your bucket list while you visit Sabah have whetted your appetite for one of Asia’s most incredible and biodiverse destinations. If you need any assistance with planning your trip, check out the Sabah Tourism website. It’s got everything you could possibly need to know about this magical part of the world!
Author name: Daniel Hall
Author Bio: Travel writer, blogger, and English teacher interested in learning new languages and cultures and trying a cooking class everywhere I go! I also enjoy reading, writing, playing and watching football, and comedy.
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