You only need one day to enjoy the natural beauty of this North Borneon gem, be it from land, water or mountain
East Malaysia’s main attraction of Mount Kinabalu may be off limits for the time being but if you’ve made plans for a quick getaway there anytime soon, countless more activities and attractions are prepared to keep you occupied for as long as a day. Blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, Sabah's islands, rainforests, coral reefs, parks and reserves will delight every type of nature lover. Here are just some activities for the perfect day trip.
Kudat, 'Tip of Borneo'
The strong winds and sharp, craggy shores punctuated with fits of choppy, rapid waves do not deter both locals and tourists alike from setting foot on the Tip of Borneo in Kudat. In fact, the thrill of keeping balanced among slippery rocks is worth the danger, just to say you’ve stood at the very edge of the world’s third largest island.
The Tip of Borneo is better known for its position as the meeting point between the two large oceans of South China Sea and Sulu Sea. It also has a unique role in history as a lookout point for pirate invasion hundreds of years ago. In fact, historians guesstimate that there might be twenty or more hidden wrecks sitting on the bed of the surrounding ocean. We strongly recommend you to stay for the sunset. To get here from Kota Kinabalu city takes around two and a half to three hours’ car ride. A return trip by taxi costs around USD 73.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park Island Hopping
Just a 15-minute speedboat ride away from the city is a cluster of islands, the main ones being Pulau Gaya, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi and Pulau Sulug. They are the most accessible islands to the city centre, should you wish for a short excursion of sand, sea and sun in a day. You can opt to unwind on the beach or take part in various activities, from snorkelling to diving, paddle boarding to jet skiing, parasailing to ocean kayaking, and much more. To reserve a good spot on the beach, aim to be at the Jesselton Point Ferry Terminal (within walking distance of the city centre) to book your ticket by 7.30am. Island hopping fares for two islands start from USD 10 per adult.
Sandakan Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center
Of course, no trip to Sabah is complete until you’ve had an up-close and personal encounter with one of Borneo’s fascinating but endangered species, the orangutan. The best way to observe them in their element, within their natural habitat, is at this rehabilitation centre founded in 1964, to care for injured and orphaned baby orangutans whose mothers fell prey to illegal loggers and poachers. These orangutans are treated and trained for survival before being released into the wild. The main attraction is during twice-daily feeding sessions, when they all emerge in bobbing flashes of reddish gold, climbing ropes to access the feeding platform. Entrance fee is at USD 7.45 for foreign adults. If you're coming from Kota Kinabalu, you will need to book a return flight to get to Sandakan.
Kiulu River White Water Rafting
If you’ve a water baby with a taste for adventure, why not go on a wet and wild journey riding the rapids of Kiulu River? It’s also the best way to enjoy the natural scenery of stunning riverbanks while you navigate the winding rivers, dodging boulders and rocks throughout sections like ‘Banana Rapids’ and the ‘Wall Rapids’. Only an hour and 15 minutes drive away from the city centre, this accessible attraction is great for both old and young, and welcomes both seasoned and beginner rafters. The rafting distance of this longest white water rafting route in Sabah varies on different days depending on the weather, with high water levels allowing for 15 kilometres, while normal water levels can only flow as far as 7 kilometers. Tour packages include lunch and return transportation to the city, beginning from USD 12.30.
Tambunan town and Rafflesia Centre Day Trip
Sabah is known for its lush rainforests and the best way to experience this is on foot, of course – in lieu of the Tambunan and Rafflesia Centre Day Trip nature trek. guests are whisked off on a scenic drive past a serene countryside as they head for the slopes of the Crocker Range. From the Rafflesia Centre there, you’ll be taken on a nature trek of lowland rainforest to hunt for majestic Rafflesia flowers, in full bloom if you’re lucky. After a spot of lunch overlooking the mountaineous landscape, adjourn to a bamboo village where you’ll learn how local tapai, or rice wine, is made. The tour includes return transport to the hotel and lunch, priced from USD 121 onwards.
Klias Wetland River Safari Tour
If you’re looking for a fuss-free, relaxing yet intriguing activity to do towards the end of the day, this river safari tour comes as highly recommended. About 120km from Kota Kinabalu is the Klias Wetland, a tranquil, relatively untouched mangrove forest reserve bursting with the rare sights of river wildlife and birds. The mangrove cruise day trip typically starts at 3pm, taking guests on scenic tour down the the Klias River to spot proboscis monkeys, long tail macaques, birds and silver langurs. As dusk settles and your boat cruises to the jetty, be ready for a magical display of fireflies. The itinerary ends with a delicious dinner buffet of local delicacies. You may opt to stay in the chalets or choose for a return package back to your hotel. Prices start from USD 58 per adult.