Is Sabah Safe? This is a question brought up by many travelers who are totally unsure of the recent situation that occurred there in February 2013. However, I would personally like to stress that YES, Sabah is safe. The situation has been under control and the area effected was in a remote part of Lahad Datu which is way out of the main tourism areas. So, for those still thinking about this, think no more as I was there recently and everything is normal in the major city and towns there.
Why did this happen? Generally, the mainstream media had a field day and blew the entire thing out of proportion to gain readers, popularity and so on. To make things worst, the international media added salt to the wound by running headlines that were misleading and scaring would-be holiday makers and travelers. Well, that my readers is the mainstream media for you. Anyway, my article is to share with you what is Sabah like as I visit this place frequently and have many local friends there.
As I have visited Sabah over 30 times in the last few years, I would easily brand the Land Below the Wind as a miniature Bali which is less crowded and with more nature. Sabah boasts of all kinds of tourism in one place where travelers can find an assortment of things to see and do but with some internal traveling. There are many islands with white sandy beaches, rainforest conservations, ethnic culture and heritage, all kinds of sports tourism and many more available here.
One thing that most people would probably know is that Sabah has the highest mountain in Southeast Asia which is Mount Kinabalu. As not many are eager to climb this mountain, the Kinabalu Park at the foot of the mountain is one of the top spots to visit for a day trip. This means, you can visit the park and the foot of the mountain within half a day. These are just some of the things to do in Kota Kinabalu as there are much more.
Gaya Street in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
KK town itself is an interesting place with a good mix of old and new. An interesting Sunday market called Gaya Street Market is one of the must visit places while the handicraft market and waterfront is also not to be missed. Just outside of Kota Kinabalu City, there is the famous Tunku Abdul Rahman Park or TAR Park which is only a 15 minute boat ride from the jetty in town. A total of four islands make up this park where one can spend half a day there just enjoying the island life, snorkeling, scuba diving and even a small jungle trek there.One of the better islands to visit is Pulau Sapi Island which is less crowded too.
Yes, very much so. I have many personal friends who stay there and operate tour businesses there and a quick phone call to them assured me that everything was as per normal, even during the minor troubles. Sandakan is well known for their nature attractions like the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, Labuk Bay, Turtle Island, Sunbear Rehabilitation Center and the well known Kinabatangan Conservation Area.
Sipadan and Mabul Islands Safe?
Again, yes they are. In fact, I just spoke to some divers who just were there in mid March this year and everything was as per normal. The only thing they saw were general police road blocks on the way from Tawau to Semporna town. Otherwise, all is good there. Sipadan and Mabul islands are one of the top dive spots in the world and is very popular throughout the year.
Personally as a scuba diver myself, I have visited these islands about 8 times in the last year as I find that diving here has the best of everything. From big to small macro life, you can find it around the islands. Note that Sipadan Island has one of the top 3 dive spots in the world too.
Map of Sabah - Image from SabahTravelGuide
For the first timers who are planning to visit here, the above is a map of Sabah where you can see all the many towns. KK or Kota Kinabalu is the capital while Semporna is your gateway to Mabul and Sipadan Island. The best way to come here is taking a flight as there are many airlines that fly into KK, Sandakan, Tawau and Lahad Datu.
Overall, Sabah is safe and despite what the mainstream media has been saying, I seriously hope that travelers would not believe just about anything and know how the media works on these kinds is situations. Nevertheless I will be going back to Sabah in April and most likely to Sandakan for some Eco-Tourism and will relate my experience once again. As mentioned earlier, there are many things to do in Sandakan and just about all over Sabah, it all depends on what you want to do when you visit here. Finally, as a seasoned traveler, I would like to stress that Sabah is Safe.