The Exotic Island Paradise
Sabah is Borneo, Malaysia’s premier nature adventure destination situated in the northern tip of Borneo Island, the third largest island in the world. Sabah is popular for its wildlife conservation attractions, rainforest, surrounding nature and islands, beach resorts, tropical white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and its warm and friendly people. If you are thinking of visiting Borneo, these places of interest and activities will wet your appetite!
Let me begin with my favourite place, Mt. Kinabalu, definitely not to be missed if you are visiting Borneo. It is the summit of Borneo and the tallest mountain in southeast Asia. This mountain is sacred to the locals. Thousands from around the world have trekked to its peak. At the foot of this mountain is Kinabalu National Park, a botanical paradise where rare plants are found: orchids, nepenthes pitcher plants and the rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre
If you haven’t heard yet, the most popular native of Borneo is the orangutan. The world-famous Sepilok Rehabilitation Centre enables visitors to come in close contact with these amazing animals. This sanctuary allows visitors to witness an exciting conservation programme in action. Set in forty-three square kilometers of beautiful rainforest, the sanctuary helps once-captive orangutans learn to fend for themselves in the wild. Watch how these orphaned orangutans are taught to climb, and then go to a platform where you can witness them coming in from within the forest for their daily meals of milk and bananas.
Danum Valley Rain Forest
If nature is close to your heart, then this next destination I am going to introduce to you is a must, Danum Valley. Danum Valley is nestled deep in the rainforest of Borneo where nature is at its most pristine. As you travel deeper and deeper into the jungle, you will suddenly come across a magical paradise of the Borneo Rainforest Lodge (BRL), overlooking the magnificent setting of the Segama River and flanked by tall hill ranges. BRL is an impressive resort, designed by naturalists and built on stilts using traditional timber materials, and has the comfort of a three-star hotel. I totally recommend Danum Valley to those who yearn to see wildlife in a primeval Borneo rainforest – the rare Sumatran rhino, proboscis monkeys, orangutan, elephants and over 275 species of birds.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Island Park
When you want to take a day’s break idling around to charge your energy, I suggest you go on a thirty-minute boat trip to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park. The park is made up of five beautiful islands and is a well-known sanctuary where peace and tranquility prevail. The tropical, white sandy beaches are ideal for relaxing and tanning. The crystal clear water is fantastic if you fancy snorkeling or watching the sea lives and corals. The park is also a great spot for a barbeque picnic under the long hours of golden sunshine. Other activities include windsurfing, fishing, parasailing, kayaking and bird watching.
If golf is your sport, then try the numerous high quality golf courses in Sabah. One of the courses is described by its designer, Graham Marsh: “I had to create a masterpiece by combining the natural splendor of the mountains and the seas with ingenious architecture, and create a first-class championship course to provide an enjoyable, yet challenging game for top professional golfers and amateurs alike.” Enough words said for the quality of golf courses here.
For the true adventure seeker looking for an adrenaline-pumping activity, Sabah offers some of the most exhilarating thrills in the world. My scariest experience, only because I am not a good swimmer, is whitewater rafting down the Padas River (a grade three river). Apart from trying to negotiate the rapids along the river for a distance of about five kilometers, enjoy the breathtaking view that the surrounding rain forest offers. However, don’t take your eyes off the rapids and waves!
Off the northeastern coast of Borneo, lies a tiny jewel of an island, Sipadan, with a marine ecosystem so perfect and unique that it is world renowned as one of the best dive spots in the world. Sipadan Island rises as a pristine coral sea mount, 650 meters from the floor of the Sulawesi Sea. This three-thousand-foot pinnacle off the eastern coast of Borneo is an oceanic magnet for marine life. As soon as you enter the crystal-clear waters of Sipadan Island, you’ll understand why you have endured a journey that has taken you halfway around the world. As you begin to descend into this tropical water, you’ll also appreciate why the World Wildlife Fund says, “No other spot on the planet has more marine life than this island.”
Walter Rajah is owner of Exploration Borneo Tours. Visit his site for more information on Borneo – The Exotic Island Paradise.