Offbeat Places In Sabah That Will Give You The Adventure Of A Lifetime

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

Bookmark Sabah’s underrated adventures, from turtle hatching to adrenaline-pumping rafting.
offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Ryan ‘O’ Niel

There is something about Sabah that always captivates the imagination. While it only occupies a small portion of the world’s third-largest island, Borneo, there is certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to this East Malaysian gem. Beyond its vibrant jungles teeming with life and the majestic Mount Kinabalu, there are many alternative attractions and activities that keep you away from the bustling crowds. Here are some of the best offbeat places and activities in Sabah to help make your Borneo holiday extra special for when travel resumes.

When in Sabah, live as the locals do. Find out the essential attractions, activities, and eats from region to region the next time you’re in the Land Beneath the Wind!

FIND OUT MORE

Also read: Sabah: A Journey of Cultural Wonders 

1. Ready your wetsuits for Kota Kinabalu’s newly-discovered diving paradise

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Seatango

Here’s a diving opportunity you don’t get on every trip! Discover underwater wonders at Seatango Ballroom, a newly-discovered dive site out of the 300+ diving places in Sabah. As quirky as its name is, this magnificent display of dense corals in a plethora of colours reveals Sea Anemones, Marble and Eagle Rays, and even a school of dolphins! Indeed, it is an uncharted diver’s paradise away from hordes of tourists.

Image credit: Seatango

If you’re lucky, you can spot other occupants sharing the reef with the rays — such as Golden Trevallies, Leopard Eels, Bamboo and Nurse Sharks, and Mantis Shrimps. Be sure to look closely into every nook, cranny, and crevice as Spiny Lobsters enjoy the solitude of coral “caves”.

It’s not every day that you’ll come across a diving expedition that takes you through relatively unknown territory; so take the plunge before Seatango Ballroom blooms into a bustling tourist favourite!

Surely an opportunity to traverse these uncharted waters shouldn’t be missed! Here’s what you can expect when you dive into this underwater paradise.

FIND OUT MORE

2. Raft to the view of Mt. Kinabalu at Kadamaian

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Xtreme Paddlers 

Kadamaian is located approximately two hours away from Kota Kinabalu city and less than an hour away from the Kinabalu Park UNESCO World Heritage Centre. It stretches from the foot of Mount Kinabalu to the village valleys in Kadamaian, offering a scenic view closer to the mountain, plus a thrilling white water rafting experience.

Image credit: Xtreme Paddlers 

Raft down 10km on the Kadamaian route with new obstacles at every twist and turn. The challenge? To work with your team and navigate the river’s bumps and bends along with your well-skilled and experienced guide. What we’ll tell you, though, is that the bumpy ride is definitely worth it. You’ll be rewarded with majestic views of the picturesque Kota Belud.

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Xtreme Paddlers

If you’re up for the challenge, we recommend you join Xtreme Paddlers. They are the only white water rafting operator in Sabah that offers three rafting sites to match all rafting experience levels. Yes, even beginners are welcome here!

Gear up for one of the most adrenaline-pumping offbeat places in Sabah.

If you’re down for adventure (or enjoy the sound of crashing waves), don’t miss out on this exhilarating activity. Snag a spot early lest you miss out on this wild ride! 

FIND OUT MORE

3. Kick back & relax with a farm stay in Sabah’s countryside

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Kiulu Farmstay 

Kiulu Farmstay brings together the essence of Sabah’s countryside, ensuring you have a holiday to remember. Set 15 minutes away from the peaceful hamlet of Tamparuli, Kiulu is surrounded by rolling fields and lush green paddies with charming farms that offer an idyllic escape. With comfortable accommodations and plenty of kid-friendly nature-based activities, farm stays could be a more convenient alternative to camping — especially for those travelling with their families!

Image credit: Kiulu Farmstay

At Kiulu Farmstay, you can fill your day with fun activities such as traditional rice sieving, quad biking, and water rafting. When you’re ready to slow the tempo, take leisurely walks through the fields or along the country lanes. Here, you can make several stops to try the best locally sourced produce.

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Kiulu Farmstay 

Be one with nature and take a break from the cityscape at Kiulu Farmstay.

This place is perfect for #selfcare and well-deserved me-time!

FIND OUT MORE

4. Stand at the ‘Tip of Borneo’ for a sunset you won’t forget

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Merrimas Villa 

Yes, there’s an actual spot called the ‘Tip of Borneo’ and it is located in Kudat district. While it’s one of the most popular go-tos in Sabah, we recommend actually staying here just so you can watch the skies change colours at different times of the day. It’s a slow travel activity that will help you become more present and mindful. After such a long time of being homebound during the pandemic, imagine the feeling of just breathing fresh air in a magical destination — and getting to appreciate that fully, amid peace and quiet.

Image credit: Merrimas Villa

Fun fact: The Tip of Borneo used to be a watchpoint for pirate invasion hundreds of years ago! That’s why the Tip of Borneo is also known as Tanjung Simpang Mengayau in Rungus, meaning the ‘lingering junction to the battle at the tip’. Its northernmost tip is the meeting point of two big oceans: the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Merrimas Villa

Wondering where to stay to get the best views? Look no further, since Merrimas Villa’s new wing room offers you one of the best vistas in Kudat! Wake up to the beautiful Kalampunian Beach and its calm blue sea. Unwind by enjoying the sunset on your very own private balcony. The villas are strategically built along the cliffside of Tanjung Simpang Mengayau to let guests witness Sabah’s gorgeous sunsets. Bring your cameras to make the moment last forever.

Catching first light and stunning sunsets are just about on everyone’s to-do list in Sabah. Make those dreams come true by getting a prime location to soak in the sights!

FIND OUT MORE

5. Treat yourself to a luxe getaway with [email protected]

offbeat sabah places

Image credit: [email protected]

The Mantanani Islands form a small group of three islands off the northwest coast of the state of Sabah, Malaysia. They’re located opposite the town of Kota Belud in northern Borneo. 

Image credit: [email protected]

The largest island is Mantanani Besar; the other two are Mantanani Kecil and Lungisan. These places are popular sites for recreational diving; there are three nearby dive wrecks dating from World War II. That said, there are plenty of underwater adventures to tick off in these parts of Sabah. To get there, take a 90-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu City to Rampayan Jetty, Kota Belud. You then board a 40-minute boat ride to Mantanani (Besar) Island.

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: [email protected]

This tropical nirvana blessed with natural wonders and rich marine life awaits at the end of your land-to-sea journey. Set on a pristine beach, [email protected] is an oasis located on the idyllic island of Mantanani Besar.

Image credit: [email protected] 

Accommodations vary between Beach Chalets and Deluxe Rooms complete with opulent furnishings and top-quality amenities, warranting an ultimate island gateway for everyone to enjoy. 

offbeat sabah places

Image credit: [email protected] 

Outside, the sea beckons. Snorkel in clear turquoise waters and be mesmerised as you get up close and personal with Sabah’s sea creatures. On a rare magical night, you may witness one of the world’s most spellbinding natural phenomena — marine bioluminescence or Blue Plankton. When these microscopic critters gather in clear waters amid ideal weather conditions, they create an amazing visual effect that borders on the supernatural. This will definitely be one of the most memorable experiences ever!

Guaranteed, you’ll have just as much fun onshore. Take a dreamy stroll along the white sandy beaches of Mantanani while watching the spectacular setting of the sun. It’s the perfect way to cap the day, once you’re all tuckered out from the many beach activities offered by the resort — such as beach soccer and volleyball, trampoline on the sea, kayaking, and ATV rides.

This offbeat place in Sabah will take your breath away in no time. Get ready to live the ultimate tropical resort life at [email protected]!

FIND OUT MORE

6. Witness the birth of baby turtles at Libaran Island

offbeat places sabah

Image credit: Walai Penyu

Have you ever had the honour of welcoming new (wild)life into this world? Libaran Island offers you an unforgettable turtle hatching experience — provided that your timing is right.

About 45 minutes by boat ride north of Sandakan, the sanctuary lies next to the Turtle Island Marine Park that covers Seligan, Gulisan, and Bakungan Kecil islands. It is approximately 650 acres in size, with 450 villagers who mainly rely on fishing as well as boat and net making to earn a living.

 

Plan a trip to Libaran Island, where nature’s beauty runs free!

Participate in conservation efforts; play a part in witnessing the Earthly magic of Sabah.

FIND OUT MORE

 

offbeat sabah places

Image credit: Walai Penyu

Tucked away in the northeastern part of Libaran, Trekkers Lodge Sdn Bhd operates Walai Penyu Resort and a turtle conservation hatchery. Visitors to the resort may learn more about the importance of turtles to our ecosystem and experience first-hand the turtle conservation work done on this island. The trip will also include a walking tour of the village to observe how Libaran locals go about their daily lives.

The biggest highlight would be the release of baby turtles in the evening! Have a #proudmom or #prouddad moment while you let these small creatures crawl free into the ocean, knowing well that their survival rate is, most likely, only one percent! It’s easy to see why this was voted 2019’s “Best Tourism Product” by Sabah Tourism Board.

Delve deep into these offbeat places in Sabah for an authentic, captivating journey through one of Southeast Asia’s gems! 

FIND OUT MORE

There is still so much of Sabah yet to be discovered. As we await the day leisure travel resumes, these offbeat places to visit in Sabah should inspire you to kickstart your Sabah holiday plans!


Brought to you by Sabah Tourism.

 

 

About Author

Shawn Tan
Shawn Tan

Shawn believes that travel is a state of mind. Whether it is winding through the bustling medinas of Marrakech or the morning ritual of brewing coffee, travelling to him is all about being lost in the moment.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Shawn Tan