Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Beauty of Borneo: Part II, Sandakan

While Sandakan city isn’t much of a site in itself, it has some of the most awe-inspiring sites in nature right on its doorstep, making this one of the tourism hubs of Sabah. Treks into ancient rainforests, excursions to protected islands and adventures down the Kinabatangan River are all easy day trips from Sandakan, making this a great base to experience the wild nature that’s made Borneo famous.

While you can fly between Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, the best way to make this journey is to drive across Sabah. Driving in Sabah is impressively good by Southeast Asian standards, and drivers largely follow road signs and rules and roads are generally of good condition.

The drive between the two tourism hubs is about 6 hours and gives you a great perspective of life outside of the tourist cities.

Leaving Kota Kinabalu is a less-than-inspiring sight, as industrial badlands take up most of the scenery on the outskirts of town. But this quickly gives way to stunning views over the rainforest canopy and near perfect views of Mt Kinabalu as you make the climb up the winding road to Ranau, almost 4,000 feet above sea level and the base of Mt Kinabalu and Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mt. Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo and Malaysia and is seen as the heart and soul of Sabah, so much so that it’s been emblazoned on the state flag.  The mountain itself is considered a sacred site to the indigenous Kadazan-Dusun people, who believe that tourists climbing the mountain in June 2015 caused an earthquake by disrespecting the mountain spirit.

As well as holding spiritual significance, Mt Kinabalu has offered Ranau and surrounding towns an economic lifeline with the tourism the park brings in, as many visitors to Sabah will climb some or all of the mountain.

New regulations mean that anyone wishing to climb to Mt. Kinabalu’s summit (4095m) must take a local guide and must spend two days climbing the mountain, spending one night in one of the guest houses at Laban Rata (3273m).

Prices vary by operators, but a two-day/one-night climb will generally cost between 700-1580MYR for non-Malays (depending on how many climbers in the group) and may include transfers from KK . Check with various operators, but note that summit packages sell out well in advance, so book as early as possible.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: The Beauty of Borneo: Part II, Sandakan