8 Reasons Why I Love Sabah

Published 20 September 2016

Richard Collett

Richard Collett

Sabah: one of the most diverse lands in the world. This eastern province of Malaysia is in the far north of the enormous island of Borneo. The vast, impenetrable rainforests are home to unique species of wildlife found nowhere else on the planet, while the coastal waters are brimming with an abundance of aquatic sea life and coral reefs. Sabah is the destination for jungle trekking, for scuba diving and snorkelling, for spending lazy days in paradise on golden beaches and for gorging on unbelievably delicious Asian food.

Here Richard Collett, a.k.a. the Travel Tramp, tells us 8 reasons why he loves Sabah:

Orangutan, Sepilok

Orangutan, Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre image: Richard Collett


Sabah is one of the last remaining places to see the orangutan. These intriguingly human-like apes are found in only two regions of the world – Borneo and nearby Sumatra. 'Orangutan' translates from the Malay language as 'forest man', and these tree dwellers share 97% of the same DNA as human beings. Unfortunately, this hasn’t stopped these elegant creatures from being poached and hunted to the point of extinction.

Sepilok is the best spot to really get up close to these playful apes. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah has been working tirelessly for decades to care for and eventually release orphaned orangutans into the wild. On the jungle trails here you can experience close encounters in the trees, while at the feeding stations you are guaranteed to see some real mischief amongst the youngsters!

Fresh seafood in the market, Sabah

Fresh seafood in the market image: Richard Collett

Fresh seafood

Borneo might be known for its rainforests, but the big cities are actually all along the coast, so seafood fans can rejoice, as some of the freshest, tastiest sea cuisine can be found in Sabah. Kota Kinabalu’s nightly, fresh fish market is a culinary fishy feast for all you seafood connoisseurs. It was my favourite spot in Sabah to just gorge! The local guys will barbecue up whatever you choose from their huge array of catch – anything from snapper to tiger prawns – and all at ridiculously good prices. I opted for the outlandish stingray and crab combo, cooked fresh in a spicy sauce while I drank an ice cold beer on the seafront.

Night market, Sabah

Night market in Sabah image: Richard Collett

All the other food

If seafood isn’t your thing, then never fear, because Sabah offers literally everything in terms of cuisine. And in my opinion it’s all glorious! For breakfast you can enjoy a plate of steaming, fresh Chinese buns, filled with anything from barbecue pork to lamb curry, then for lunch why not try a plate of the signature nasi goreng ayam, that’s the Malay favourite of chicken fried rice, before heading out for an Indian-influenced tandoori chicken for dinner. Sabah truly has one of the most diverse culinary scenes in the world.

An island in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

An island in Kota Kinabalu Marine Park image: Richard Collett

The islands

The islands around Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s ‘big city,’ are a beautifully preserved marine national park. If you picture a tropical paradise, you’ll be imagining the islands here. There’s turquoise waters, colourful coral reefs and white, sandy beaches. And the best bit is that this collection of five islands is only ever a fifteen minute boat ride away from the big city.

Scuba diving in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Richard scuba diving in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park image: Richard Collett

Diving and snorkelling

Sabah offers some of the greatest scuba diving and snorkelling spots in the world. I went diving in Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, but the coral is shallow enough here to simply jump in with a mask and snorkel too. The sea life is abundant and if you’re there in the right season, you can even dive with the humongous whale shark.

Sabah's jungle

Sabah's jungle image: Richard Collett

The jungle

Borneo is the place to see the jungle. Well, technically it’s the rainforest, but it’s as jungle as jungle can be. The adventurous can head deep into the rainforests of Sabah, to the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, where the orangutan just might be seen in the wild. The leeches and spiders are worth enduring for even the smallest glimpse of these ginger apes in their most natural of habitats. Watch out too for the crocodiles on the rivers, and keep one eye in the sky for a rare sighting of the beautiful birds of paradise. Sabah is simply nature at its most incredible.

Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia

Mount Kinabalu, Borneo

The mountains

At the frightfully high altitude of 4,096 metres, Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Southeast Asia. The climb to the top is tough to say the least, but places are limited so arrange your trip well in advance or you’ll be disappointed like I was. Even if you can’t summit this killer climb, then the surrounding national park provides some outstanding mountain walks to compensate.

Fresh fruit market, Sabah

Fresh fruit market image: Richard Collett

The locals

Of course, you can’t forget the locals. They are possibly the best reason to visit Sabah. Sabah is one of the most diverse countries in the world, and that includes the people too. You can mingle with Chinese, Malays and Indians in the cities and then head out into the villages and jungles to meet the more traditional locals. Borneo has a history of headhunting in the vast rainforests, while on the coast, you can find people still living on traditional stilted houses, and in floating villages.

For more information about our tailor-made holidays to Borneo, take a look at Round the World Experts' Best of Borneo Journey or give your Expert a call today.

You might also like:

8 Things to Do in Borneo

10 Must-Sees in Malaysia

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