TOP 10 THINGS TO SEE IN BORNEO
1. TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PARK (TARP)
Consisting of five islands, Gaya, Sulug, Mamutik, Sapi and Manukan which is under the management of Sabah Parks (except for a small area at Gaya Island). These islands which are famous for snorkelling, picnicking and sea sports are only twenty minutes from mainland Kota Kinabalu. Accommodation facilities are available at Manukan and Gaya islands.
2. KINABALU PARK
This is Malaysia's first World Heritage Site together with Mulu National Park in Sarawak for its botanical wanders which stretches from tropical vegetation at Poring (40 km beyond Park HQ) where you can visit the hot springs and canopy walkways to montane forest at Kinabalu Park HQ at 1,500 metres (88km from KK) to alpine vegetation and finally ragged peaks of the summit at 4,095 metres. An overnight stay is recommended to cover the alternative and more challenging route to the summit at Mesilau Plateau at 2,000 metres.
3. TIP OF BORNEO
A 3 hours (170km) scenic drive north to the Tip of Borneo past ricefields and buffaloes and countryside to the land of the Rungus longhouse and Borneo's sunshine coast and golden beaches. Worth visiting are the cottage industries including honey farm at Gombizau, gong making at Sumankap, virgin coconut oil factory at Kimihang and Bavanggazo Rungus Longhouse at Tinangol.
4. MULU NATIONAL PARK
Listed Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site jointly with Kinabalu Park in 2000, it is one of the largest cave systems in the world. There are five show caves (Deer Cave, Langs Cave, Clearwater, Wind and Turtle Cave). Highlights include the treetop walkways near Deer Caves and the daily BAT exodus (2-3 million bats) between 5-6 pm at the Bat Observatory. For the more adventurous, try the optional alternative “Headhunters’ Trail”from Limbang up the Terikan river by longboat to Camp 5 and to the jagged pinnacles of the Mt. Api (1,750 metre). You can fly direct by Fokker 50 (60-seater) either from Kuching or Kota Kinabalu.
5. SANDAKAN/ SEPILOK ORANG UTAN REHABILITATION CENTRE
The former capital of Sabah, this is the gateway to Borneo's wildlife comprising Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Labuk Bay proboscis sanctuary, Rainforest Discovery Centre RDC, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation centre. Also worth visiting is Agnes Keith House and the Sandakan War Memorial Park.
6. TURTLE ISLANDS PARK
Consisting of three island 45 minutes by speedboat north of Sandakan, visitor can stay overnight on Selingan island to experience the nightly visitation of green turtles to lay eggs. However, accommodation is limited and early booking is highly recommended. Worth noting is that the sea can be rough at year end and using operators with sea going speedboat (like those used by Borneo Eco Tours) is recommended.
7. LOWER KINABATANGAN REGION
This is one of the largest wetland region in Malaysia and has the highest wildlife biodiversity. The region has ten species of primates including wild orang utan, proboscis monkey, eight species of hornbills and Bornean pygmy elephants. There are more than 15 lodges, backpackers and homestay along the river between Abai up to Batu Putih. Most lodges are accessible by road while the multi-award winning 20 rooms Sukau Rainforest lodge operated by Borneo Eco Tours also operate speedboat direct from Sandakan. If time permits, a half day tour to Gomantong Caves is worth a visit.
8. DANUM VALLEY
The world renowned conservation centre is a must visit for those interested to visit the best of the tropical virgin dipterocarp rainforest with accommodation facility at Borneo Rainforest Lodge. Activities include bird watching at the canopy walkways, trekking through the rainforest to the escarpment, night wildlife spotting tour, tubing on the river or soaking in ice cold jacuzzi rock pool. Danum Valley is accessible by gravel road from Lahad Datu which is also accessible by road to Sandakan, Sukau, Semporna and Tawau.
9. SIPADAN/ MABUL/ KAPALAI/ MATAKING/ POM-POM ISLANDS
These group of islands make Sabah into what is now known as the diving capital of the region due to its rich biodiversity. There are many dive operators and lodges of different standard on these islands and most of them depart from Semporna town which is accessible by all weather road from Tawau, Sandakan, Sukau and Lahad Datu. Worth visiting is Tawau Hill Park which has the tallest tropical tree in the world. It is best to go overland and visit Danum Valley and Sukau (No.8 and 7) after diving to avoid decompression problems.
10. MALIAU BASIN
For the hard core trekkers who appreciate the wilderness and don’t mind a more basic accommodation, Maliau Basin will not disappoint them. A true ecotourist paradise totally unspoilt. Pure natural beauty through its sheer isolation which gave its name “The Lost World”. Those who prefer something nearer and easier (though still tough for the average trekker) to Kota Kinabalu can opt for the alternative Crocker Range National trek.