Top 10 Outdoor Experiences in Sabah Like No Other

10 Experiences in Sabah That Will Make You Fall in Love With The Land Below The Wind

There are so many things you can do in Sabah!

For nature lovers out there, if you haven’t been to Sabah before, you’re totally missing out! Besides the rocky landscapes of Mount Kinabalu, there are also gorgeous tropical islands and serene nature parks. In fact, places like Kundasang boast beautiful scenery reminiscent of New Zealand’s vast meadows! Simply put, outdoor adventure enthusiasts and curious travellers alike would be pleased to know there are a lot of things you can do in Sabah! 

Not sure where to start? Here are 10 experiences in Sabah that will make you fall in love with the Land Below The Wind! 

Do you want to experience the best parts of the Land Below the Wind?

Malaysia Airlines is currently offering 20% off on direct flights between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu from now till 31 Aug 2022! Find out more here.

You could also jet off to Kuala Lumpur with the MH Flex Package for even better benefits and hassle-free travel!

Book now

Also read: 5 Reasons Why Sabah Is Every ‘Lazy’ Traveller’s Best Friend

1. Go on a guided trail at Kinabalu Park and climb to the top of Mount Kinabalu

climbing mount kinabalu in sabah

Image credit: paulwongkwan via Canva Pro

For many, Mount Kinabalu would be considered the heart of Borneo. When you go in the early morning, the impeccable sunrise views and rocky landscapes make it one of the most beautiful places in Sabah. As such, conquering Mount Kinabalu is undoubtedly one of the top experiences in Sabah and one of the bucket list activities for most avid hikers. 

If you’re one of them, we recommend planning your trip between March to September — the dry seasons give way to higher visibility and better ground conditions. But do be warned, Mount Kinabalu isn’t for beginners, as it’s a steep climb. You will also need to go on a guided tour if you want to reach the peak. 

kinabalu park sabah

Image credit: SHARIFPUTRA via Canva Pro

On the other hand, you can trek through  Kinabalu Park at the foot of the mountain instead. It’s less physically demanding but just as incredible. The park is home to a myriad of diverse plant and animal species, and you can go on a guided nature trail to explore them. There is also a video show (A Beacon of Biodiversity) and if you love gardens, there’s a guided tour to the Botanical Garden as well! 

Also read: 15 Outdoor Activities in Malaysia for Thrill-Seekers to Jump Into

2. Try white water rafting at the Kiulu River

Located in Tamparuli, the 15-km long Kiulu River is the site of Sabah’s famous white water rafting activities. Due to its shallow and tame waters, the river has often been dubbed beginner-friendly for first-timers attempting the activity. The site is at least an hour away from the Kota Kinabalu, but it’s worth the trip anyway! Travellers can enjoy the Sabahan countryside with a guided tour, and once you’ve reached the end, you’ll be rewarded with a delicious lunch along the riverbank. 

3. Zipline from one island to another at Sabah’s top islands

Did you know Sabah is home to close to 400 islands? In contrast to the mountainous peaks of Mount Kinabalu, the northernmost part of East Malaysia is abundant with coral reefs and deep blue waters. It’s no wonder Sabah is such a beloved destination by avid divers.  Some of the most famous islands include Gaya Island, Kapalai Island, Tiga Island, Mabul Island, Pom-Pom Island, Mataking Island, and many more. 

At Mataking Island, you can witness one of Malaysia’s first underwater postboxes. It’s located 20 metres deep into the water at the top of a sunken cargo ship named Mataking 1. For years, the underwater shipwreck has been home to unique marine life and a popular diving spot among scuba divers. And believe it or not, this underwater postbox is actually functional! If you want to send an underwater postcard, just get a waterproof envelope from the island’s gift shop! 

4. Dive into the clear waters at Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

Likewise, you can go scuba diving and snorkelling near many of the islands in Sabah. However, if you’re searching for one of the best diving spots, head on over to Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park! Despite its name, it’s actually a cluster of islands: Gaya Island, Sapi Island, Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, and Sulug Island

The clear waters of the national park are perfect for exploring underwater life. Divers can have a chance to encounter diverse fish species, turtles, and colourful corals. Once you’re done, you can relax along the seashores and beaches to soak up the sun. 

Also read: 6 Offbeat Places to Visit in Sabah to Bring Your Travelling Experience Up A Notch

5. Snag a beachside staycation at Semporna

After a day of diving and swimming, you deserve the best kind of rest. What better way to do that than a memorable staycation at Semporna? This idyllic island holds a stellar reputation for being one of the most pristine diving havens in Malaysia.  

The town itself is located close to Tun Sakaran Marine Park, which is another cluster of islands. Travellers can opt to stay at any of the island’s many resorts and hotels and spend the rest of their vacations just winding down. You’ll get to wake up to the turquoise sea right outside your window every morning, which honestly sounds like a catch. 

6. Go on a river cruise tour of Kinabatangan River

river cruise at kinabatangan river sabah

Image credit: Murphy Ng

For animal lovers, this is exactly why Sabah should be up next on your list of dream travel destinations. It’s one thing to watch animals through your phone screen, but to see them in real life would be another. In Sabah, you can witness unique animals like Bornean pygmy elephants, pangolins, orangutans, sun bears, proboscis monkeys, and more! But this poses a question: where do I go to see them from afar? 

Image credit: Sergey Pisarevskiy

There are so many top spots for wildlife encounters in Sabah. These mainly include wildlife reserves, animal sanctuaries, and rainforest lodges. At the Kinabatangan River, you can go on a sunrise or sunset river cruise. It’s one of the top experiences in Sabah, as several of the listed species above flock here. A trip down the river will have you surrounded by nature, spotting animals you’d otherwise miss if it weren’t for the River Junkie guides. Spend half the day looking out for hornbill and kingfisher birds, and watch out for a potential saltwater crocodile! 

7. Get up close and personal with animals at Sabah’s best animal sanctuaries

Image credit: Wang wu shuong 的影像 via Canva Pro

For years, Sabah has been actively involved in the conservation of endangered animal species. There are so many animal sanctuaries and conservation centres scattered throughout the country, and each of them is worth visiting. While the Kinabatangan River requires you to keep your distance for safety purposes, these sanctuaries may let you personally interact and get up close with your favourite creatures. 

Image credit: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

At the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center in Sandakan, you can learn more about and admire the sun bears with a guided tour. On the other hand, if you love monkeys, you can visit Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary

Similarly, if you love orangutans, the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sepilok has interactive feeding sessions and watch them freely roam around the forest. Either way, these places are perfect for getting great photo ops of wildlife while learning about these native species. 

8. Spend a night under the stars at Danum Valley

Image credit: Craig Ansibin via Canva Pro

Danum Valley is a rainforest and wildlife reserve in Lahad Datu, Sabah. It’s 130 million years old, and it’s the perfect spot where both plant and animal ecosystems meet. Over the years, it has become one of Sabah’s top attractions, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. 

You can go on guided nature trails in the presence of towering trees, and go bird watching for native rare species like the velvet-fronted nuthatch. If you’re not afraid of heights, there are canopy walks that let you soak in the views of the jungle and spot animals that prefer to stay on the treetops. 

When night falls, you can go on a night safari to encounter nocturnal animals like the tarsier. You can also go stargazing at the Danum Valley Conservation Center, which offers accommodation for overnight stayers. But if you prefer to spend the night elsewhere, there’s the Borneo Rainforest Lodge and the Kawag Nature Lodge. Either way, they offer an experience like no other, a place to stay in the middle of lush rainforests. 

9. Visit the hot springs of Ranau

hot springs at ranau, sabah

Image credit: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

A trip to Ranau isn’t complete without a visit to Poring Hot Spring, which has been here since World War II. Top off your vacation by sitting in a hot sulphur bath and soaking up its benefits. It’s stress-relieving, good for your skin, and may ensure a good night’s sleep! For those with children, you can let them play in the water and splash around while you sit back in the steamy surroundings. In case you want some privacy, indoor bath houses are available. 

canopy walk at ranau, sabah

Image credit: Arthur Lee (talk)

But your journey doesn’t stop there: you can trek up to the nearby rainforests to see Kipungit Waterfall and Langanan Waterfall. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to come across the Rafflesia flower. You might also consider adding the butterfly farm, the 41-metre-high canopy walk, and the orchid conservation centre to your agenda. 

10. Explore Kota Kinabalu’s best attractions and food scene

Image credit: Eddie Fung

While there is the type of travellers who love to go outside and explore, there are also those who prefer to stay within the city. Kota Kinabalu — Sabah’s capital — is worthy of sightseeing. For starters, you can visit the Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, which is a floating mosque within the city. In addition, the Sabah State Museums has unique galleries you can check out at your own pace. You can learn archaeology, art, and history under one roof. 

When night falls, you can go to Signal Hill Observatory Platform near Atkinson Clock Tower. It offers you the best views of east Kota Kinabalu, as well as some peace and quiet to have a moment to yourself. On Sundays, you can go to the Gaya Street Sunday Market for street food and souvenirs in the form of arts and crafts. 

gaya street sunday market

Image credit: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas

On the note of food, you can go on a food hunt of its abundance of restaurants and even go cafe hopping. Sabah is famous for its range of seafood restaurants like Gayang Seafood Restaurant and He Jia Ho Seafood Restaurant. The seafood is usually very fresh, and it’s better grilled or steamed. However, if you don’t want to eat seafood, you should try any of these dishes while you’re here: tuaran mee, Beaufort mee, sang nyuk mian, ngui chiap, pinasakan, hinava, nonsom, ambuyat, UFO tarts, and more!

Sabah does have its cafe-hopping scene, and you can spend your brunches and breakfasts in aesthetically pleasing cafes in Kota Kinabalu. Some of our recommended cafes include Nook Cafe, Woo! Cafe, The B Side, October Coffee Gaya, Eulogeo, Biru Biru Cafe, Haru Cafe, and Yu Cafe. 

Also read: Seven Foods in Sabah and Singapore That Are Similar Yet Different

If any of these activities have enticed you to stay ‘til the end of the article, then this is a sign for you to book that trip to Sabah now! From 17 Aug 2022 to 31 Aug 2022, Malaysia Airlines is currently offering a 20% discount on direct flights from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu!

Economy class all-in return tickets start from $178 (RM577) while business class all-in return ticket prices start from $899 (RM2,913). So delay no more, book that dream vacation to Sabah now!

Sales Period: 17 Aug 22 – 31 Aug 22

Travel Period: 27 Aug 22 – 29 Oct 22

What’s more, Malaysia Airlines is also offering direct flights from Singapore to Kota Kinabalu. With the MH Flex package, travellers are rewarded with generous benefits including a 35kg baggage allowance. You’re also granted free unlimited changes to your travel dates (fare difference applies). Should you need to cancel your trip, you’ll also be able to get a refund hassle-free!

Book now

Remember to pack what you need, stay safe on your outdoor journey, and make sure to have a lot of fun! Most of all, enjoy what Sabah has got to offer. 

Brought to you by Malaysia Airlines and Sabah Tourism Board. Featured image credit: Skazzjy via Canva Pro

About Author

Natasha Effendy
Natasha Effendy

Natasha is a wordsmith and digital content creator who's been trying to write her way into the adventure of a lifetime. If she's not writing, you'd definitely catch her nursing her addiction to romance and fantasy novels with a cup of tea.