Here in Sabah, the reality is even more wonderful than the age-old myths.
Spreading across the northern tip of Borneo, the world’s third largest island, Sabah’s seemingly endless beaches, rocky foreshores and coastal mangroves stretch for almost 1,500 km. The warm waters of the South China Sea bathe the west coast, while on the east, the Sulu Sea merges with the Sulawesi or Celebes Sea further south. Romantically known as the Land Below the Wind, Sabah lies below the tropical typhoon belt, roughly 6 degrees north of the equator.
The year-round summer weather ranges from around 23-33 °C in the lowlands, with cooler weather enjoyed in the mountains. Kota Kinabalu, the capital, is the international gateway to Sabah, and less than a three-hour flight from major Southeast and East Asian cities. Direct flights arrive from Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, Osaka, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, Kaoshiung, Perth, Singapore, Jakarta, Manila, Clark and Brunei. Sandakan and Tawau, on Sabah’s east coast, are both served by direct daily flights from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, bringing the wildlife and other attractions of this region even closer. A world of rare animals, birds, spectacular plants and endlessly varied marine life does indeed await discovery in some of the world’s oldest rainforests, and on our richly diverse coral reefs. Yet thanks to Sabah’s modern infrastructure, these treasures of nature can be explored in a remarkable degree of comfort. Our natural world offers endless options for fun and adventure. Climb one of the region’s highest mountains, or dive into the deep ocean at one of the world’s top dive spots. Go white-water rafting or enjoy a leisurely round of golf. Cruise through the wetlands to see the strange proboscis monkey; meet orang utans in a sanctuary or in the wild; go bird-watching or photograph the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia. You may want to explore life in a Borneo longhouse or simply indulge in a relaxing holiday at a luxurious resort. Along with their distinctive heritage and colourful festivals, our diverse people offer a natural warmth and genuine friendliness that makes visitors feel especially welcome. Sabah is, quite simply, Borneo at its natural best.
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital, has got it all. Perfectly positioned on a bay protected by islands, and backed by forested ranges, the city offers a modern infrastructure and international- standard facilities. Yet the the holiday mood is inescapable, for despite its modernity, Kota Kinabalu remains a surprisingly relaxed and friendly city. Stroll along the waterfront and discover everything from fascinating food and handicraft markets to a lively restaurant and entertainment scene. See the village come to the city at the Sunday Gaya Street Fair, or shop in Sabah’s malls aplenty.
Discover age-old traditions in the Sabah State Museum and in cultural villages, or delight in nearby islands and beaches right on the city’s doorstep. Play night golf on the bay, or ease away the activity of the day with a visit to a spa. Not far away, a different Borneo awaits in the villages or kampungs. Experience the unique lifestyle of a communal longhouse; visit the tamu, a colourful open air market, or have a holiday like no other in a resort set on stilts over the sea. Sabah’s infinite variety is not restricted its natural treasures.
Visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to accommodation. And regardless of location and cost, they will enjoy the warm and friendly hospitality for which Sabah is renowned. Luxurious 5-star resorts with an extensive range of activities are found in Kota Kinabalu, while there are comfortable 3-4-star hotels, eco-lodges and island resorts throughout the state. There are plenty of options for the budget conscious, from bed and breakfast, backpackers to homestays, which offer the chance to experience local lifestyles.
MA MULTI-CULTURAL MOSAIC
With more than 30 races making up the population of about 3 million, and many spoken dialects, Sabah is Malaysia’s most diverse state. Living harmoniously side by side for generations, Sabah’s different ethnic communities still maintain their own distinctive culture. This amazing mosaic is most evident during festive occasions. The largest indigenous ethnic group, the Kadazandusun, consists of many sub-groups or tribes whose costumes and headgear tell them apart. Traditionally rice producers, the Kadazandusun still honour the spirit of this sacred grain in their annual Pesta Ka’amatan or Harvest Festival each May. Ancient ceremonies are presided over by ritual priestesses, followed by dances, contests and games. Once longhouse dwellers in the interior of Sabah, the Murut tribes were renowned hunters, and feared for their head-hunting in days gone by. Their spectacular dances and skill on the lansaran, a type of rattan trampoline set in the longhouse verandah, can be seen during their major festival, the Pesta Kalimaran, held each April. Two groups of Bajau are found in Sabah. The East Coast Bajau, centred around Semporna, are still seafarers at heart; their unique Regatta Lepa, a water festival celebrated each April, dazzles with colour- fully decorated wooden sailing boats and traditional games. The West Coast Bajau of the Kota Belud district have exchanged the sea for growing rice and raising cattle and ponies, their skills as horsemen earning them the name “Cowboys of the East”. On festive occasions, especially Kota Belud’s Tamu Besar each October, the sight of the gorgeously dressed horsemen with their even more spectacular ponies is unforgettable. The Rungus of Kudat are famous for their intricate skills in beadwork and the costume shows off some of their finest. The beadwork often tells a story, usually about hunting in the olden days. Regardless of their ethnic group, all Muslims in Sabah celebrate a number of religious festivals, including Hari Raya Aidilfitri at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. Typical of the harmony among different peoples, an open-house when everyone is welcome regardless of race and religion is part of all major festivals. Sabah’s Chinese community literally celebrates the Lunar New Year with a bang, plus colourful lion dances and lavish amounts of festive food. Wherever you are and whatever the occasion, you’ll be invited to celebrate more with Sabah’s warm and friendly people.
Contents are published by: Sabah Tourism Board
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