Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Kudat, latest tourism icon of Sabah


KUDAT: Getting to know the Rungus ethnic community is the perfect introduction to Sabah’s northernmost district of Kudat and its array of tourism offerings.

Their unique traditional handicrafts and cultural dances aside, they are the only indigenous group in this state who dwell in longhouses.

Kudat is also known for its fresh seafood, as well as Tanjung Simpang Mengayau – dubbed the Tip of Borneo – which affords stunning views when the sun sets over the horizon, where the South China Sea meets the Sulu Sea. Not many people, including this writer (Kurniawati Kamarudin) before her recent maiden trip to this quaint town, seem to be aware of its attractions.

Visitors to the state capital Kota Kinabalu probably give it a miss because it takes a good three hours to get to Kudat by car.

Air accessibility is limited too as Malaysia Airlines operates flights only twice a week from Kudat to Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu and that too using its 19-seater Twin Otter aircraft.

About 80,000 to 100,000 domestic and international tourists visit Kudat annually, but the local tourism authorities are confident that visitor arrivals will swell once the Sabah Pan Borneo Highway is completed.

The project includes the RM2.5 billion 130-kilometre coastal highway from Tuaran (located about 32 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu) to Kudat which, when completed in five years time, is expected to cut travelling time between Kota Kinabalu and Kudat by half to one and a half hours.

“We expect the new road to boost Kudat’s economy and tourism industry,” predicted Kudat district officer, Sapdin Ibrahim.

Speaking to reporters participating in the 2017 Sabah Media Tour from March 23 to 26, organised by the Information Department, he said preparations were already underway to build the necessary infrastructure and facilities to lure more tourists to the northern part of Sabah.

A total of 18 media representatives took part in the four-day visit to Kudat and Kota Belud, which was the first edition of the department’s 2017 Sabah Media Tour.

At the end of the trip, the main takeaway for this writer was that Kudat was indeed a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered by tourists near and far.

The district of Kudat has two sub-districts, Matunggong and the fascinating Pulau Banggi, which is the biggest island in Malaysia and has in its vicinity other islands like Pulau Balambangan and Pulau Malawi, as well as a cluster of smaller islands.

The still pristine islands and their white sandy beaches are delightful and bound to be a hit with nature and adventure lovers when tourism picks up in this part of Sabah.

Kudat’s population comprises the Bajau Ubian (mostly fishermen living in the coastal areas), Rungus, Suluk, Murut and Dusun ethnic groups, besides the Chinese and Malay communities.

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