Places of Interest in Sabah: Rainforests, Reefs and the Ape with “the Soul of a Man.”

South Asia

May 01
Amazing things to do in Borneo Sabah Malaysia article with child throwing sand in the air at sunset near Kota Kinabalu

Amazing things to do in Borneo Sabah Malaysia

Places of Interest in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo

A recent commission from Lonely Planet has me reminiscing over Sabah, her blood red sunsets and bold, bewildering wildlife.

Often overlooked in favour of sister state Sarawak, Sabah mixes up bright cities, lemongrass, turquoise water and eco-reserves and rude-looking monkeys like nowhere else on earth. Without further ado, here's our inside guide to the stunning places of interest in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Heads up!

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently has some travel warnings in place regarding Sabah, so please consider this when planning a trip. 

Disclosure -I visited these beautiful places of interest in Sabah as part of a project with iAmbassador and Sabah Tourism  Regardless of it all, I always keep the right to write whatever I like over here. Because I'm a closet megalomaniac that's the way I think the world should be. Also, if you book through these links then I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Here endeth the legalese.

Red chilli pepers for sale in Sabah Malaysian Borneo

Wildlife hits the headlines but the people, food and culture of Sabah make a trip worthwhile too!

Highlights of Sabah

Mount Kinabalu

At 4095 metres high, Kinabalu is the highest mountain in the country and a sacred spot for locals. It's possible to reach the peak in a day (without climbing skills) but it's still a tough gig. The path is uneven, the air sticky, and... well, it is 4095 metres high.

Orangutan Sanctuaries

Only two places on earth house these magnificent ginger-bearded friends: the rainforests of Borneo and the rainforests of Sumatra. Endangered as they are, you're unlikely to simply stumble across one. Key spots to find them include the Orangutan Sanctuary in Sepilok, near Sandakan, and the nursery at the Shangri-La near Kota Kinabalu.

Orangutan eating fruit and swinging from a branch in Sabah Malaysian Borneo

Orangutan eating fruit and swinging from a branchat the Sepilok Centre

Turtle Sanctuaries

Not content to stop at saving the orangutans, conservation efforts continue in earnest for the endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas.) The small but charming Marine Sanctuary on Gaya Island offers an introduction to their life span as well as allowing access to the rescued baby turtles in the centre.

Golf Courses

While the wilderness steals the show, Sabah isn't shabby when it comes to resorts. If you want to play golf while crocodiles wait in the bunkers, then try a spot of night golf in Borneo.

Interior view in Gaya Island Resort Malaysian Borneo

Gaya Island Resort Spa - One of the Best in the World

Spas

Likewise, expect to find some of the best spas in the world at some of the top resorts in Sabah.

Sun Bear Conservation Centre

Less famous but potentially far cuter, sun bears also thrive in this rainforest environment. Around the size of a large hog but fluffy and dark chestnut brown, the Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sepilok both educates and makes everyone go "ah."

Night Markets

Found throughout Sabah, night markets aren't just for shopping, they're the place to see and be seen. Amid chatter and bare light bulbs, men, women and children gather to shop and to eat, gathering durian, pineapple and fermented shrimp paste onto plastic plates on shared tables.

Sukau Rainforest Lodge-overlooking the Kinabatangan River

Travel down the Kinabatangan River

The Upside Down House

Erm. It does what it says on the tin. It is a house that is upside down. As are the furniture and fittings. The house itself, sugar-shock pink and tilting at a jaunty angle on its roof attracts coach loads of visitors who want to see the world upside down. 

The World's Longest Island to Island Zipline

The Coral Flyer Zip line from Gaya Island to Sapi Island claims the world record for its length but it deserves an award for its beauty. Over white sand and shallow clear waters, it's almost worth falling in. 

Diving

According to divers (I'm not one, although I have done it a handful of times), Sipadan is one of the best diving spots in the world. 

Proboscis monkey in tree in Malaysian Borneo Sabah

The proboscis monkey. There's nothing quite like it!

The Mango Restaurant Cooking School

Learning to cook beneath the canopy of the rainforest with lemongrass and galangal gathered right from where you stand is a thrill. Finding out that the Malaysian recipes are actually fairly easy is even better!

​Proboscis Monkeys at Kinabatangan

Take a night cruise in the smallest boat on the calmest water from the Sukau Rainforest Lodge to see proboscis monkeys leaping at twilight.

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.

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