Friday, June 21, 2013

Borneo: Sabah's Top Five

Outstanding natural beauty, five star luxury and enough wildlife to satisfy even the most budding of Richard Attenborough types - North Borneo's Sabah has it all.

From spotting forest-dwelling orang-utans to climbing the highest mountain in South East Asia, here are the top five Sabah 'must-dos' that you won't want to miss.


Sandakan - the former capital of British North Borneo - is a bustling, character-filled town that is the entry point for most visitors to the area. While the abundance of wildlife in the region is obviously its biggest drawcard, Sandakan itself is rich in history and definitely worthy of a visit. To maximise your time here, take the self-guided Heritage Trail – a comprehensive hour-long walk that covers the town's important and interesting sites.

Highlights include: the restored colonial house of famous American authoress, Agnes Keith, the Masjid Jamek mosque and the Australian Memorial, dedicated to almost 3,000 soldiers who died in Sandakan as Japanese prisoners of war. Also, for the best view of the town and its beautiful bay, make the climb to the stunning Puu Jih Shih Buddhist Temple.


In Sukau - a two-hour drive from Sandakan - nestled on the banks of the Kinabatangan River is the Borneo Nature Lodge. A base from where to explore an area that has the richest concentration of wildlife in South East Asia.

Playing home to everything from crocodiles and pygmy elephants to proboscis monkeys and orang-utans, this is a nature-lovers paradise. The lodge offers guided river cruises both at dawn and dusk (when animal activity is at its highest) though spotting the elusive red haired ape isn’t guaranteed.


For a more guaranteed viewing of Sabah's most famous resident, the orang-utan, a trip to the largest and oldest rehabilitation centre in the world is a must. This place has been an environmental success story long before the prevalence of 'eco-tourism'.

One of only four in the world, the centre aims to rehabilitate and educate the world about some of our closest relations - and the crises affecting them. A short walk through the forest from the adjacent visitors centre - amidst the screech of hornbills – is a raised feeding platform, where feeding takes place twice daily. Like any family gathering, there’s a mixed bag of personalities – some orang-utans are shy, some cheeky (guides will recount the time one unfortunate tourist was stripped naked by an unruly ape).

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