Nautical Tourism in Sabah

Sabah Nautical Tourism

After many years, nautical tourism in Sabah has gotten some attention after State Assistant Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai brought this topic up in the media.

Sabah is blessed with abundant waterways, which should be tapped for the recreational activities of nautical tourism.

Nautical Tourism in Sabah

After a courtesy call from Sail Malaysia at the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) office in Kota Kinabalu, Joniston was positive that any event held in the state would have the potential to bring visitors to Sabah.

Sabah's picturesque coastline has fantastic potential for nautical tourists to prolong their stay in the state, which can generate an economic spillover for Kota Kinabalu.

Nautical Tourism Malaysia
Datuk Joniston Bangkua with Sail Malaysia.

Joniston has also suggested that Sail Malaysia make Sabah a benchmark to organise their future sailing events and make the state a destination of choice for sailors worldwide. He said;

"We should develop Sabah into a vibrant boating culture because we have received many locals and foreigners participating in recreational boating activities. 

Sabah's picturesque coastline, pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning landscapes, combined with good marines for boat docking, provide a visually appealing sailing experience,

The state's niche appeal to host sailing and boating exposition can draw boating enthusiasts and create revenue for local shops, restaurants, hotels, and other service industries.

The success in hosting the events can enhance Sabah's reputation as a nautical tourism destination and also generate temporary and permanent employment opportunities for the local community,"

East Yacht Rally Passage 2023
The East Yacht Rally Passage passes through Sabah in 2023.

Joniston believed the events could also spur investment in local infrastructure like marinas, piers, and boating facilities.

Sail Malaysia managing director Sazli Kamal Basha mentioned that Sabah offers stunning bays on par with other well-known sailing destinations for mooring boats or yachts.

According to statistics provided by Sail Malaysia, the passage to the East Yacht Rally saw 386 participants between 2008 and 2022, including 24 repeat participants.

The list of rally stops in Sabah includes Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Karakit, Pulau Silingan, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Pulau Tambisan, Lahad Datu, Silam, Bohey Dulang, and Tawau.

The East Yacht Rally participants were from Australia, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United States, France, Sweden, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland.

According to statistics, the average tourist stays for a week, but those participating in the Sail Malaysia programme typically stay for two years.

Route Passage East Yacht Rally 2023
The route for the 2023 East Yacht Rally.


Nautical Tourism has been around in Malaysia for a long time now, and in most cases, it is primarily on Langkawi Island, where the infrastructure is yacht-friendly.

Sabah also has impressive facilities but has never embarked on this unique genre of tourism. Since January 2023, after Sail Malaysia's visit and presentation, Nautical Tourism in Sabah is now something that could be added to the niche tourism genre.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.

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