While Kuala Lumpur is said to be navigated easily for first timers to Malaysia, me and my girls dedicated our first visit to Sabah, instead. Reasons that we chose Sabah are: price and authentic local experience. The expenses are much cheaper compared to the capital. And we felt Sabah offers more of a cultural taste according to other travelers’ experience.
Sabah is a Malaysian state situated at the northern part of the island of Borneo. One of the most famous place to visit there is Mount Kinabalu, which is 4,095m-tall and the country’s highest peak. (Sadly we didn’t have enough time for the hike this time) Another thing Sabah is most proud of is its white sandy beaches, diverse rainforest, coral reefs and fascinating wildlife. There are several national parks and reserves where you can spend one whole day there. Sabah is also one of the best places for divers due to its abundant marine ecology.
According to our itinerary from this 5-day trip, I’d like to suggest Top 5 Things To Do In Sabah.
1. Relax in a villa by the beach
Being famously known for its coconut trees, beautiful beaches and heat, there’s no better way to completely relax and recharge yourself in an exquisite villa with a lovely beach view right outside your bedroom window! We stayed at Boreno Beach Villa for 2 days and the experience was beyond description. Our room comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, two bathrooms with bathtub, a small backyard swimming pool, and absolutely stunning beach with less than 3 minutes walk. We were given 15 minute free massage and a welcome drink when we made the reservation. Since the resort is so big, we had drivers driving us between our accommodation and restaurants. What I like most about the place is its endless coastline and the vanilla pink sunset. It’s definitely one of the most stunning sunset I’ve even seen! Remember to take a silhouette photo during sunset, you will not regret it I promise!
2. Join Proboscis Monkey and Fireflies Sightseeing Tour
We purchased this tour via KKday and they provided pickup service from your hotel to the gathered location. We had a little detour on our way but once we got to the designated point, the guide was very hospitable and helpful.
First, a little information about the Proboscis monkey. Also known as long-nosed monkey, it can only be found specifically in Boreno. It is a reddish-brown arboreal Old World monkey with an unusually large nose. We cruised along the Kawa Kawa River and embarked on a search for the monkeys. We were lucky enough to spot not only Proboscis monkey, but also hanuman otherwise known as long-tailed monkey and a huge lizard enjoying his sunbath on a tree. The cruise was about an hour, afterwards we had dinner before heading to our next spot for my favorite activity: Fireflies Sightseeing.
I would say the highlight of the entire tour is the fireflies. It’s a shame my camera wasn’t good enough to capture what I saw. It’s something one should really see for him/herself to believe it’s true. After we boarded the boat, we traveled along the river filled with vast mangrove forest. When we came to one of the bushes, there were some dim silver lights flashing alternately here and there. As we cruised further, the bushes seemed crowded with these flashy lights, which look exactly like those Christmas lights. And as you looked up into the dark sky, your eyes were mesmerized by thousands of constellations. At that very moment, I felt an utter serendipity inside me that was too hard to put them into words. It was one of the best moments I had throughout my entire trip.
3. Visit the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque
Kota Kinabalu City Mosque is a must-see when you visit Sabah. The mosque is built in 1994 but the construction was suspended due to lack of fund. The project restarted in 1995 and took 5 years to complete. You can change into a hijab and enter the mosque to have a look inside and get a feel of the sacred atmosphere. There are two mosques in Kota Kinabalu and the City Mosque is built to alleviate the Muslim population during Missa.
4. Savor Malaysian-style Breakfast at Yee-Feng Tea Restaurant (127, Jalan Gaya, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia)
Gaya Street is the main street for savouring all the Malaysian dishes. We tried several tea restaurants and believed Yee-Feng Tea Restaurant has the best Malaysian food among all. Some of the top-eats at Yee-Feng are: Yee Feng Laksa, Yee Feng Ngau Chap, Claypot Chicken Rice, and Teh Maderas Ping.
-Yee Feng Laksa
Laksa is a spicy noodle soup consists of rice noodles or rice vermicelli with chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup based on either rich and spicy curry coconut milk. Yee Feng Laksa includes shrimp, scallion, coriander, and lemongrass, which altogether gives the soup a particular spiced flavour.
-Yee Feng Ngau Chap
The base for Ngau Chap is beef. The soup is rather mild compared to Laksa. You can smell the aroma coming from not only the beef but other Chinese spices. If you are not a fan of coconut milk, Ngau Chap is your perfect choice.
-Claypot Chicken Rice
Claypot Chicken Rice has got to be my No. 1 favorite dishes during my stay at Sabah. The bottom layer is the rice topped with some vegetables, marinated chicken, and a Sunny-side-up egg. Since the rice is cooked within the claypot under extremely high temperature, the rice appeared to be burned. This is, however, the best part of the whole dish because the rice is also marinated with a special sauce. When you taste the bottom layer of the burned rice, the crunchiness and sweetness merged perfectly!
-Teh Maderas Ping
This is a speciality drink at Yee Feng. The bottom layer is milk, the second layer is Teh Tarik and then the top layer is the milktea foam. The drink itself is very refreshing and the tea flavour is very strong, which I like it a lot! They also have the ordinary Tek Tarik if you are not particularly fond of tea.
5. Go snorkeling at Pulau Mengalum
Last but not the least is snorkeling/diving in one of the many islands around Boreno. We chose Pulau Mengalum for our trip but there are other famous diving spots like Kapalai Island, Sipadan, or Mabul Island. Again, this snorkeling tour was purchased from KKday. The driver picked us up from the hotel and dropped us at the dock where we would take the boat with our coach to Mengalum Island.
Once we arrived at Mengalum, we were instructed to leave our stuff at the resting area and get on another boat to our first snorkeling spot. The one thing I will remember the most from Mengalum Island is its tiffany blue ocean. With reflections from the sun, the water looks more of turquoise and it’s just stunning. The coaches were always nearby so if you’re not a confident swimmer, there’s nothing to worry about. We even brought bottles of breadcrumbs to feed the fishes. It was quite a unique experience to be surrounded by schools of fishes!
On our way to the second snorkeling point, we got the “invitation” to sit at the front deck of the boat. With the wind brushing (more like slapping because the motor was in full speed) through our faces, and the sun shining right above us, life cannot be any better! We even spotted a sea turtle swimming next to our boat. The second snorkeling point seemed to have more species of marine animals. I spotted Nemo and Dory!
In fact, Sabah has more to offer and we’ve only experienced part of its charm. I’m planning to visit again in the future to take on the hiking challenge to Mount Kinabalu.
Have you ever been to Sabah? What are your top recommended things to do in Sabah? I’d love to hear about your experiences!