Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia and shares the island of Borneo with Sarawak, Brunei and Indonesian Kalimantan. Sabah is richly blessed with nature diversity, unique cultures, fun adventures, beautiful beaches,and fantastic cuisines.
The capital of Sabah is Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton of North Borneo. Sabah is often referred to as “The Land Below The Wind”, a phrase used by seafarers in the past to describe lands south of the typhoon belt.
Sabah consists of five administrative divisions, which are in turn divided into 25 districts.
These administrative divisions are, for all purposes, just for reference. During the British rule until the transition period when Federation of Malaysia was formed, a Resident was appointed to govern each division and provided with a palace (Istana). This means that the British considered each of these divisions equivalent to a Malayan state. The post of the Resident was abolished in favour of district officers for each of the district.
Divisions: West Coast Division, Interior Division, Kudat Division, Sandakan Division, & Tawau Division
West Coast Division: Kota Belud, Kota Kinabalu (Capital City), Papar, Penampang, Putatan, Ranau, Tuaran
Interior Division: Beaufort, Nabawan, Keningau, Kuala Penyu, Sipitang, Tambunan, Tenom
Kudat Division: Kota Marudu, Kudat, Pitas
Sandakan Division: Beluran, Kinabatangan, Sandakan, Tongod
Tawau Division: Kunak, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Tawau
Mount Kinabalu is a prominent mountain on the island of Borneo in South East Asia. It is protected as Kinabalu National Park, a World Heritage Site. In 1997, a re-survey using satellite technology established its summit (known as Low’s Peak) height at 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) above sea level.
The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with between 5000 and 6000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia plants and the Orangutan. Mount Kinabalu has been accorded UNESCO World Heritage status.
Nature & Temperatures
Tropical Rainforest Climate
Equatorial / Tropical—the climate is generally hot and sunny all year round; visitors need to wear comfortable clothing to avoid heatstroke. We also have scattered unpredictable rains, therefore, it’s advisable to always bring an umbrella in case it rains.
Wet & Sunny all throughout the year
Lowlands (Kota Kinabalu, Kudat, Sandakan, Tawau) – 32 degrees Centigrade
Highlands (Ranau, Kundasang, Tambunan) – 21 degrees Centigrade
Bear in mind though, that Mount Kinabalu has its very own climate. Temperatures can drop to freezing level above 3500 meters.
Flora & Fauna
Sabah’s Flora & Fauna has about 1,200 species of orchids, 26 species of rhododendrons, 9 species of Nepenthes pitcher plants, over 80 species of fig trees, over 60 species of oaks and chestnut trees. 100 species of mammals, 326 species of birds – the list goes on! The Park has continually attracted top naturalists and botanists from around the world and been proclaimed an area with the richest diversity of flora and fauna. Examples of Sabah’s fauna are the Orang Utan, Borneo Pygmy Elephant, the Sumatran Rhinoceros and Hornbills.
Things to Do
Sabah is a naturalist’s paradise that offers an abundant array of nature-related activities such as diving, jungle trekking and wildlife spotting. Be adventurous and opt for adrenaline-pumping activities such as paragliding and white water rafting. Otherwise, take things down a notch and go golfing while enjoying the beauty of Sabah’s natural terrain. For a dose of cultural exposure, check out the weekly tamu markets.
Climbing, Water Rafting
Adrenaline junkies and sports enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice with the variety of adventure and sporting activities available in Sabah. From the exhilarating Mountain Torque Via Feratta, to the Kiulu White Water Rafting, to jungle trekking expedition in Mesilau—Sabah is abound with challenges to suit the wild at heart.
As a melting pot of 32 diverse ethnic groups; Sabah is the ultimate destination to experience dense cultural heritage. Be spellbound by the graceful traditional dances, vivid ornamental costumes, and be enticed by the exotic cuisines we serve. In Sabah, culture vultures will have a blast!
Currency & Credit Cards
Malaysian Ringgit (RM)
Travelers’ cheques and foreign currencies can be changed for Malaysian Ringgit at banks and hotels. However, there are also money changer kiosks available at major shopping complexes and airport. Most major hotels charge a nominal fee for currency conversion.
VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club — credit and charge cards are accepted in almost all departmental stores , supermarkets, petrol stations and restaurants.
Shopping centers, supermarkets, restaurants and mini markets are generally open daily from 10am to 10pm. As for tipping; food and beverages in exclusive restaurants, cafes and clubs, as well as accommodations normally include 5% service charges.
Language, Time & People
English and Bahasa Malaysia is widely spoken; Mandarin and some Chinese dialects (ie. Hakka, Cantonese) are also widely spoken. All throughout the districts of Sabah, the Kadazan, Dusun, & Murut languages are widely spoken.
Standard Local Time is 8 hours ahead of GMT (GMT+8)
The people of Sabah are known as Sabahans. Sabah is the third most populous state in Malaysia after Selangor and Johor; it also has one of the highest population growth rates in the country. There are currently 32 officially recognized ethnic groups in Sabah with the largest indigenous group being the Kadazan-Dusun people and the largest non-indigenous ethnic group being the Chinese. Two other larger ethnic groups in Sabah are the Bajau and Murut.
Electricity & Water
Electricity is on the 240 Volts AC/ 50-Cycle system. It is a rectangular blade plug.
Treated pipe water is available in most urban and sub-urban areas. It is advised not to drink tap water without heating it first.
For a mere RM0.50, you can hop on any of the 4 routes and get to anywhere in the central business district between the Wawasan bus terminal and Jesselton Point, Sabah Trade Centre or the Berjaya Palace Hotel. Assuming you can find a space, of course, because the service is popular.
With reportedly 15 buses on the route, the target time for each bus is every 5 minutes. However, if you know Kota Kinabalu traffic you’ll realise that isn’t always possible, and practically the buses appear anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes.
They can be found hanging about hotels, shopping centres, one or two actual taxi stands dotted around town or really anywhere where you can flag them down safely (and sometimes not so safely too).
Telecom operators in Malaysia are historically based on the GSM system. 2G frequencies are the 900 and 1800 MHz band. 3G (UMTS) frequencies are 2100 and 900MHz band while the 4G (LTE) frequency is mainly 2600MHz though some also occupy the 850 and 1800MHz band.
Coverage in East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) tend to be very patchy outside of city centres. Celcom tend to have better coverage in rural areas of East Malaysia.
For tourists to Malaysia, the best and cheapest way is to get a prepaid SIM card. Most airports in Malaysia have several counters right at the arrival hall. If you are not arriving through the airport, one can also easily get a SIM card from bus stations, shopping malls or shops in the city centre. There are Traveller SIM card packages that are specifically designed for tourists who will be staying for a short period in Malaysia. These packages typically come with a preloaded credit, certain number of minutes for calls and data that can be used for the entire validity of the SIM card. Additional data can usually be purchased by adding credit to their account. Please present your Passport/ID when purchasing the SIM cards as sellers are required by law to register the user.
* Based on information obtained on March 2018
Word of Advice
In Sabah, we greet people by saying “selamat datang” (welcome) and/ or “terima kasih” (thank you) with a smile. Due to religious reasons, some may prefer not to have physical contact with others. However, a handshake is generally acceptable as a way of introducing oneself.
It’s customary to remove shoes before entering a mosque as well as homes. In places of worship, visitors are required to dress modestly. Nude sunbathing is not allowed and is very frowned upon. Avoid pointing your index finger at others, as this is considered rude in the local custom.
It is recommended to take care of your belongings while travelling. Just be careful of the pickpockets and it is better to use your credit card only in big trustworthy shops.
Due to recent confrontation in March 2013 between insurgents and Malaysian security forces, it is advised to exercise extreme caution when traveling to eastern coast of Sabah and in particular on the islands close to the Philippines border.