Where to go in Sabah for 2017


You may be asking Where to go in Sabah for 2017, and fear not as Malaysia Asia will give you a basic guide to this as we have been traveling around North Borneo quite a bit. For the year 2017, there are many interesting places in Sabah for all kinds of travelers out there, which includes Ecotourism, adventure, islands, beaches, mountains, wildlife, birding, food hunting and even shopping. Yes, you guessed it, Sabah is one of the destinations of Malaysia that offer the best of just about anything. 

The main entry point into Sabah is Kota Kinabalu, the capital city which is a located by the sea and a mere 10 minutes from both the international airport and also the domestic airport which are side by side. You should also know that Kota Kinabalu or KK as it is commonly called is central, is your gateway to all around Sabah. 

For those visiting Sabah for the 1st time, you should read my other article on Sabah for first time visitors while for those returning, this article will shed some light on some interesting places to visit in Sabah based on what you may like. Before I proceed, I will just highlight what KK has to offer below.
Kota Kinabalu's beautiful sunsets from the KK Esplanade
Kota Kinabalu offers a mixture of lifestyle, shopping, food, relaxation, islands & beaches and loads of culture. While some may spend a day or two in KK, note that you can easily hop on a 15 minute boat ride from Jesselton Pier to visit the beautiful islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park which consist of Manukan, Mamutik and Sapi Islands. Sunbathing, snorkeling, scuba diving, sea walking, trekking and an island to island zip line awaits you here. 

For those wanting food, lifestyle and culture, you can simply explore KK city on foot and encounter all of these, especially near the Gaya Street area. Hotels, restaurants, cafes, malls and souvenir shops await the city traveler. A tip is to try the local breakfast and tea time at one of the classic coffee shops here. However, we recommend that you visit other parts of Kota Kinabalu to fully experience what Sabah has to offer. 

Where to go in Sabah for 2017

This is a common question that I always get from travelers from my social media accounts and now, I can recommend some interesting places for where to go in Sabah for 2017. I will also highlight them by the destination and not by the city or town so you can roughly find what you would like to to or where you would like to visit in Sabah. Take note that the places below are not for your commercial tourism as those can be easily done at KK City with abundance of information available. The ones recommended below are catered to visitors wanting something different from the ordinary. 
River Cruise along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah
Kinabatangan River for a Wildlife Experience 

Kinabatangan is clearly one of the best places in Sabah for wildlife and everything related to it. In short, it is here where visitors will see the most wildlife, birds, reptiles and flora, all in one destination. The popular Kinabatangan River is also known as Sukau where you will find numerous Eco resorts and lodges along the main river where moving around in boats is your main transportation.

Among the activities, the Kinabatangan River Cruise is listed as the number one thing to do there, where you have the opportunity to spot wildlife, namely the Borneo Pygmy Elephants who move around in herds. Other wildlife include Orang Utans, Gibbons, Proboscis Monkeys, Birds, Snakes and even Crocodiles. Trekking is also available, but with the local nature guides that take you into the dense rainforest.

For the nocturnal animals, there is a Kinabatangan night river cruise where you will experience spotting crocodiles, wild cats, snakes and birds in a boat that moves really slow along the side of the river and some smaller rivers here. Chances are you will be seeing wildlife, hence this is one of the best places in Sabah to spot wildlife. To book tours here, you can contact North Borneo Safari as they are one of the reputable Kinabatangan tour operators for many years. They also provide professional services like wildlife photography tours and video shooting.
Danum Valley Canopy Walk in Sabah
Danum Valley

Since the dawn of age, Danum has always been there and till this very day, Danum Valley is still one of the top three pristine rainforest that is under conservation. The absolute beauty about this place is that there is only one Eco resort called Borneo Rainforest Lodge or BRL in short, which is a 5-Star luxury resort and the Danum Valley Field Centre. Recently in 2016, news of another new resort in Danum Valley surfaced where they plan to open in 2017.

Why visit Danum Valley? Well, to fully experience what a pristine rainforest is, and to see wildlife and nature in its natural condition, Danum Valley is one of the highly recommended places to do so. The place is so exclusive, you will only find pure nature lovers here as there is nothing else but nature here. No shopping, no bars, no cafes.... nothing.

Must do at Danum Valley includes waking on the amazing canopy walk, going for the night safari and doing a nature trek with the highly trained local nature guides. To book the tours here, you need to book through Borneo Nature Tours who operate the Borneo Rainforest Lodge or BRL at Danum Valley. Minimum time to spend here is at least three to four days, or a week if you are a nature lover. 
Lankayan Island Dive Resort in Sabah
Lankayan Island

One of the isolated islands off Sandakan is no other than Lankayan Island, where there are no immediate neighbours within your eye view. This beautiful tropical island sits two hours off the east coast of Sandakan in the Sulu Sea and houses only one resort, which is the Lankayan Island Dive Resort where all of their 23 villas or chalets are sea facing! This means, you will not be getting those garden view type of units like most resorts have.

While diving is the main activity here, many come here to get away from the other crowded islands as this place is so remote, there are no speed boats whizzing by or loads of people on the beach. Divers will be in for a treat as some of the best diving in Sabah is found here. A lot of macro life like nudibranches and other micro sea critters are easily spotted at the healthy corals here. Sometimes, the occasional whale shark makes a stop here while larger fishes are easily spotted too.

Lankayan Island is also well known for turtle nesting and during the season from July till October. You can see how the turtle eggs are collected to be re-buried in their conservation efforts and if you're lucky, even see some turtles coming up to shore. Perfect for the honeymooner or even diving couple and if you're not a diver but one of those who loves peace and quiet during your vacation, this is one of the recommended islands to visit in Sabah. And if you are spending additional time around here, do read this article on things to do in Sandakan. For those interested, you can book through the official Lankayan Island Dive Resort website.
Crocker Range in the morning, Photo by www.wikiwand.com
Crocker Range 

While everyone is talking about Mount Kinabalu and Kundasang, those two places are overrated and over the years, many have forgotten that Crocker Range is another highland or mountain range just two hours out of Kota Kinabalu but heading south. Over here, you can find the Manis Manis Resort which is beautifully perched on a hill at the Crocker Range Park.

This highland venue also has an average temperature range from 18°C at night and 24°C during the day which is similar to Kinabalu, minus the large crowds. The Manis Manis Resort was once known as Kayu Manis Resort and has been here for many years too. Re-branded recently, they now offer chalets for those seeking privacy and nicer accommodations while they still have dorm styled lodges and a camping ground for the adventurous.

Things to do at Crocker Range include bird watching, trekking and hiking and simply absorbing in the natural beauty of this place. Personally, I would like to give some love to Crocker Range as this place has always been shadowed by Kinabalu and perhaps in 2017, more visitors will visit this beautiful place. You can book your Crocker Range Resort through the Manis Manis Resort Website.
The River Lodging at Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah
Tabin Wildlife Reserve

Another reserve gets some love for 2017, the Tabin Wildlife Reserve is as big as Singapore, if not, Bigger! Bet you did not know that, and this wildlife reserve has an amazing reputation for some of the best bird watching is Sabah. Not forgetting the other wildlife like the Borneo Pygmy Elephants, rare jungle cats, civets, porcupines and the list goes on. Tabin Wildlife Reserve is located in Lahad Datu, a town in the east coast of Sabah and driving from the Lahad Datu airport will take you around 90 minutes.

What is offered here are some really amazing lodging, they have two styles which are the river lodges and also the hill lodges. Both are equally beautiful and offer different views but the experience of staying here is something that is hard for me to put in words. In one word - Awesome! Provided you love nature and the outdoors, Tabin has some of the best nature guides in Sabah which are well knowledgeable and experienced.

The resort is also situated in the heart of the wildlife reserve and there is no other hotel or resort for miles, meaning you are one with nature, minus the huge crowds. Guest here are usually nature lovers from Europe who enjoy trekking, hiking, bird watching or nature watching. There are night safaris which take you into the core area where you will definitely see some wildlife. For bird watchers, this is heaven as you can probably spot at least 40 to 50 species of Bornean birds here. Minimum time to spend is again three to four nights but better for five or six nights to fully experience this place. You can book through the official Tabin Wildlife Resort website.
Maliau Basin Conservation Area Viewpoint in Sabah
Maliau Basin 

Often called the Lost World of Sabah, Maliau Basin is in the top three conservation's in Sabah that is least visited. Probably, if you are not a nature or Eco lover, you best skip this suggestion. Otherwise, Maliau Basin to me, is one of the prime nature escapes in Malaysia. Some say that only 30% of this conservation has been explored which makes this place even more inviting. However, to visit here, you need to book tours from appointed agents who specialise in Maliau Basin, not just any Tom, Dick or Harry tour company.

Entrance to the Maliau Basin Canopy Walk
What is in Maliau Basin? Well, think of 60,000 hectares of pristine rainforest in a basin. That's how huge Maliau Basin is. In total, the conservation spreads over 588 square kilometres which is also larger than the island of Singapore. Impressive right?

When I visited in 2015, I was captivated by the sheer size of the place and they only have one lodge that is available for accommodations. A very nice dorm, individual rooms and a semi-luxury villa with three rooms. I stayed at both, the dorm and room with air-condition. The place is operated by Yayasan Sabah and has their own management team, wildlife rangers and facilities. There is a research centre in the vicinity too.

The beauty about Maliau Basin is that the trekking here is out of this world. The main trek is only an hour long but the serious trekking takes days to reach certain parts of the basin. To visit the famous seven tier waterfalls, you need to trek at least three days both ways. However, for short stays, you would trek to Agatis Camp, visit the Maliau Basin Canopy Walk and do the night safaris.

Good news for environment lovers, in 1997, Maliau Basin Conservation Area was upgraded by the Sabah state government to a Class 1 Protection Forest Reserve. It is also said to be one of the few remaining relatively untouched wilderness areas in the world, therefore I would highly recommend visiting this unique nature wonderland in Sabah. If you love trekking, hiking and camping, this is you mecca. To book, you need to go through Sabah Tourism Website as they have a list of reputable tour operators for Maliau Basin.
Sea Bajau Kids at Semporna, Sabah
The above is compiled and highlighted as part of the unique tourism places in Sabah and you will notice that all the places are not your commercial spots like Kinabalu, Desa Farm Kundasang, Tip of Borneo, Mabul Island, Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and so on  as these commercial places have already been promoted by the Sabah Tourism Board and most people know of these places.

As an travel influencer, photographer and writer, my main mission is to highlight some of these beautiful places, based on interest, genre and infrastructure for the would be traveler here. Meaning, I have personally been to all these places, stayed there and experienced the activities and can vouch for them. More information can also be obtained from the official Sabah Tourism website.

If you have any enquiries or comments about this article on where to go in Sabah for 2017, do leave them in the comment form below and I will get back to you. Alternatively, you can also follow my Malaysia Asia Instagram account for more info and photos. Have a great year for 2017. 

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