Sabah is one of the top destinations in Malaysia for local and foreign travelers to indulge in exquisite nature and less crowded town life. Located in East Malaysia, it’s full of hidden jewels of mountains, wildlife nature, and clear beaches. I was beyond amazed with all its beauty the first day I set foot on Sabah with my friends. From the airport, we rented a car, which I highly recommend as its the easiest mode of transportation to explore Sabah at its best.
Nature lovers: Mount Kinabalu Park
From experienced hikers to families seeking a vacation in nature, Mount Kinabalu Park, just 20km from Ranau, is a must visit place. This park truly lifted up my emotions when I immersed myself in the tropical diversity of wildlife plants and animals.
My friends and I went for 45 minutes hike from Timpohon Gate for a better view of the green lush mountain landscape at the low peak. We also encountered with some enthusiastic bird watchers along the hike.
For adventure lovers, a hike up to the highest peak of Mount Kinabalu (4095 metres) for 2 days 1 night with a local guide can be a truly majestic experience. After all, the park is among the most important biological wildlife sanctuaries in the world.
Kundasang Dairy Cattle Farm
As someone who truly appreciates village people and their farm life, I was excited to see Kundasang. Kundasang is a well-known town to experience where the kindness of the people will touch your heart. They go to great lengths to give you help, especially if you need directions. They’re just as kind to foreigners as locals. That said, not everyone in Kundasang speaks English. There might be a bit of a language barrier if you don’t speak Bahasa, but the younger folk generally do speak English.
This famous farm in Kundasang offered a great view of Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop, and the farm cows they bred is something different from other cows in Malaysia. The highlight of this visit was my sweet tooth craved for the gooey fresh dairy ice-cream in chilly weather. Definitely a must try!
Historical Kundasang War Memorial
Another must visit place in Kundasang is the War Memorial. It is made up of four distinct gardens represents different nationalities that involved in Death Marches from Sandakan to Ranau during World War II — Australian soldiers, British Soldiers, and North Borneo locals.
With hundreds of different species of plants, it remained a serene place for anyone who visited it, with fresh blooming flowers accompanied the soul of the deceased – in peaceful memory of those who sacrificed for the nation.
The Kundasang War Memorial is about 10 mins from Ranau.
We didn’t visit, but another one of the popular things to do in Sabah is to visit to Poring Hot Spring. It’s about 20 mins away. Like Japanese style baths, there are both open-air and private baths that are perfect for soothing aching muscles. So obviously a great option if you’ve hiked up Mount Kinabalu and could use a bit of relaxation on those sore muscles.
Kundasang Golf Club and Kiram Village
I woke up one day in Kundasang to one of the most tranquil mornings in my life! A beautiful sunrise view, no sound pollution and you can just take a leisurely walk around Kundasang Golf Club.
Sunrise in Sabah is early, usually at 5.30 a.m. What’s also important to note, in the early morning, the clouds didn’t mask the view of Mount Kinabalu peak. Be an early bird to catch the worms!
Kundasang Golf Club is perfect for those who prefer to play golf in early morning chilly climate.
Nearby the golf club, we took a walk and breakfast in Kiram Village, surrounded with beautiful views of blooming flowers, overly excited with the design of the cabins that made purposely for visitors who wants to experience cabin life surrounding with beautiful tropical flowers.
Sleep and Dine: Kinabalu Pine Resorts
There are plenty of great accommodations in Kundasang to choose from. But one of my recommendations would be Kinabalu Pine Resorts. My local friend had suggested us to book the place but during our visit, as it offered the greatest view of Mount Kinabalu and its best service but it was fully booked!
Kinabalu Pine Resorts. / Photo Credit: Expedia
Mount Kinabalu view from Kinabalu Pine Resorts.
However, we did manage to visit the resort for a seafood dinner at reasonable prices. The complete set includes steamy fish, squids, prawns, veggies rice and drinks. But our love of food was so strong that … we finished the food before we even remembered to take a picture of it. Couldn’t wait :/
But for those who wonder what seafood in Sabah is like, below is typical seafood dinner we had nearly every day in Kundasang (finally remembered to take a picture!)
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan
Another town in Sabah that my local friend had recommended us is Sandakan.
As our time was limited in Sabah, juggling between studying and exploring Sabah, in the end we didn’t manage to visit this top attraction and regretted it. Like, who would visit Borneo if didn’t steal some time for seeking the life of Orang-utan, the endangered species kan?!
The Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan is a conservatory place for this endangered species. It’s a rare chance to see these animals in a protected natural habitat.
Sepilok Orang Utan. Photo Credit: @mayalykke
The Outskirt Selingan Turtle Island Sandakan
Another endangered species that’s endemic to the coast of Borneo is turtles. Visitors can take a boat from the Sabah Park jetty in Sandakan to Selingan Turtle Islands. For a very reasonable entrance fee, you get to observe how the turtle lay their eggs, which typically happens at dusk. Hence, it would be recommended to book an overnight stay on Selingan Turtle Island.
Selingan Turtle Island / Photo By: @apuschkin
In short, Sabah is always a place suit for everyone to visit with family, friends or just to seek adventures. And I would say, give it a week to experience both Kundasang, Ranau and Sandakan at its best! :)