Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary is the most mesmerizing place for animal lovers. Trainers at this sanctuary look after the orphaned orang-utans very well and put their best foot forward to make the animals apt for living in the natural surroundings. The best time to have a close look at these animals and be with them is at 10.00am and 3.00pm since this is the time when these primates come down from the trees for their daily feedings of bananas and milk.
Kinabalu National Park
Located 138km away from Kota Kinabalu and covering 754sq.km of area, the Kinabalu National Park offers great scenic views and natural diversity to its visitor. Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia with its peak at 4,095m is the main attraction of the park. It has attracted enough attention, both geographically and historically, with many legends woven around it. But, apart from this peak, the surrounding slopes, valleys, rivers, and rainforests of Mt. Kinabalu make the Kinabalu National Park even more scenic. The National Park is a protected reserve area, governed by the Sabah Parks. Some of the richest ecological diversity in flora and fauna can be seen at this park. Despite being the third-largest mountain, climbing Mt. Kinabalu is one of the easiest journeys and takes approximately 2-3 days with no special hiking equipment needed. The mountain manifests rich vegetation and plant growth along the trail. The Poring Hot Springs is one famous attraction that has been developed into open-air Japanese styled baths. The sulphur water is known to cure many skin ailments.
Danum Valley Conservation Area ( Visit Site )
Danum Valley, a protected lowland rainforest, is located towards the southwest of the town of Lahad Datu, Sabah’s fourth largest town. After it was declared a national park in 1976, the area came to be called the ‘Danum Valley Conservation Area’. Today, it covers more than 400sq.km of untouched, virgin forests and is home to some rare species of animals like the orang-utans, Wallace Flying Frog, Sumatran rhinoceros, mouse deer, and blue coloured leopard. Some 90% of the conservation area is classified as a dipterocarp forest where the canopy of trees sometimes reaches a height of 70m. The Borneo Rainforest Lodge nestled within the magnificent setting of Danum Valley is said to be the first eco-resort in the area. It provides all the hotel facilities such as restaurant, bar, and chalets to the visitors who want to explore the diverse and complex ecosystem of Danum Valley. Jungle treks, river swimming, bird watching, and night jungle tours are some of the outdoor activities that keep the tourists overwhelmed!
Tambunan Rafflesia Centre
The Tambunan Rafflesia Centre located at the edge of a forest reserve serves as the point of entry for the Rafflesia Forest Reserve. For those who do not want to or have the time to explore the park, it proves to be the best option to educate themselves about the conservation of world’s largest flower, Rafflesia, which is unique to the Rafflesia Forest Reserve.
Lankayan Island, a practically virgin island in the Sulu Sea is located at just a 1.5-hour boat ride from Sandakan. The island can be counted as one of the best tourist getaways. Situated within the Sea Turtle Corridor, the pristine blue waters of the island proffer an excellent chance to spot the Whale Shark, see the nestings of Hawksbill Turtle, and gaze at the colourful fauna. Through the Lankayan Dive Resort, which arranges all the tours, one can avail the facility of getting close to the whale shark. During the period between June and September, one can also see new hatchlings of baby turtles being released. The island is also home to the famous Lankayan Wreck, a popular diving station for divers who visit Sabah.
Located only about 15 minutes from Sipadan Island, Mabul Island is reputed to house some of the best underwater species of fish and other photographic marine animals. Recognized as one of the best muck diving sites in the world, the pristine waters surrounding the island give a clear vision of the animals, a supposed boon for underwater photographers. Some of the marine animals one can get a quick look at are a blue-ringed octopus, frogfish, moray eels, spike-fin gobies, cuttlefish, and cuttlefish.
The Madai Caves are famous because of the nests of Swiftlets birds. These nests are harvested annually by the Idahan tribe, for a special Chinese delicacy called the ‘bird’s nest soup’. Every year a festival is held by the tribe at the entrance of the main cave when the male members of the tribe remove the nests from the high cave roof by risking their lives. This ritual and the rights to the Madai caves have been held by the Idahan tribe for over twenty generations and one has to obtain their permission to visit the caves.
Pulau Tiga Marine Park
Located opposite the swampy Kilas Peninsula are three small coral reef islands, Pulau Tiga, Pulau Kalampunian Besar, and Pulau Kalampunian Damit. The park has been named after ‘Pulau Tiga’, the biggest of the three islands. Gazetted in 1978, the reserve covers 158sq.km and has a unique and particularly rich marine flora and fauna. Dubbed Survivor Islands from the reality television show that was filmed here, the unadulterated islands offer some good prospects for snorkeling and diving.
Sipandan Island has been chosen amongst the top five diving sites of the world. As it is an oceanic island, it is home to some of the most assorted variety of gorgeous marine life. For avid divers, this island is a paradise in itself. It was also declared a bird sanctuary in 1993, providing tourists a glimpse of migratory birds such as the wood sandpiper, greater sand plover and common sandpiper. Surprisingly, this island is so small, that just a 25-minute walk is enough to orbit the island!
Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Named after Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is situated just 3km or 10 - 20 minute speedboat ride off Kota Kinabalu. The Park is well known for its flora and fauna as well as its abundance in marine species. The Park protects and shelters five islands, their seas, and surrounding reefs. The islands Pulau Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, and Salug are rich in coral life and therefore attract tourists, underwater photographers, and marine researchers. A wonderful assortment of marine life such as Mantis shrimps, cuttlefish, scorpion fish, blue-spotted rays, and the rare harlequin ghost pipefish and mandarin fish make it an interesting dive location for experienced divers.
Turtle Island Park
Founded in 1977 to protect endangered species of turtles, the Turtle Island Marine Park consists of three islands - Selingan, Gulisan, and Bakungan Kechil. The Park encompasses a total area of 1,740-hectares, which includes the islands, seas, and the surrounding reefs. Its main attractions are the ‘Greens’ and ‘Hawkbill’s’ turtles which come ashore every night to lay their eggs. Hatcheries on the islands take care of the eggs and see to that the turtles are left in their natural environment after hatching. Apart from the turtles, the coral reefs are also famous for water sports such as scuba diving and snorkeling as well!