Sunday, December 14, 2008


Sabah, Malaysia.
Sabah... ( Land beneath the winds ) is situated on the Northern tip of Borneo Island and is the second largest of 13 states in Malaysia, after Sarawak. It's a land of awe-inspiring natural scenery, lush primary rainforests, vibrant coral reefs and mysterious indigenous cultures. It is a melting pot of people and cultures, of immigrants and indigenous groups, all with their own dialects, unique traditions, customs, festivals and cultures. It's a fascinating blend of the contemporary and the traditional, the ancient and the modern, the wild and the soothing.It's one of the few places in the world that's fortunate enough to have such a mixture of beautiful things. Here natural and cultural heritage are not forgotten in the face of modernisation and changing life-styles.The peace and harmony that exist among the peoples of different races and religions, makes it a truly special place and an example to the world. Sabah is an ideal and exciting holiday destination for adventure seekers, jet-setters and backpackers. It has some 300 miles of beautiful coastline, golden beaches, a National Marine Park (The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, consist of five offshore islands that are within a short ferry ride from Kota Kinabalu, the Capital City ) several other islands including the renown 'Pulau Sipadan' in the Celebes Sea, all offer the most enviable scuba-diving sites in the world.These diving 'havens' has attracted some of the best divers from all around the globe. Sabah is considered the heart of the world's greatest marine bio-diversities, the answer to every scuba-divers wiildest dreams. Come dive the magical waters of East Malaysia where a choice of beautiful resorts and facilities will reveal a rich abundance of marine life that will overwhelm you. British ecologist, professor Dr. David Bellamy, a well-known TV presenter said 'I can't think of a better place to spend the happiest part of my year than being on holiday set between the coral reefs and the rainforests, with the diversities of Mount Kinabalu. It is a natural solar powered theme-park he exclaimed.'Dominating the landscscape is Mount Kinabalu. At 4,101metres, it is the highest mountain between New Guinea and The Himalayas. This is the erena for the annual Mt. Kinabalu 'International Climbathon' regarded by many as the world's toughest mountain race. A jungle's adventure is only 2 hours away from the Capital City at the Kinabalu National Park.This is a world heritage site. It covers over 750 sq kilo metres and with it's wide range of habitats from rich lowland rainforests and hill forests to tropical montane ( mountain ) jungles, sub-alpine forest and shrubs in the higher elevations. It is a treasure house of incredible plants, including the Rafflesia, the world's largest flower spanning 3 feet in diameter (as seen in the above picture ) With it's wide range of plants, the Kinabalu Park has been designated as a centre of plants diversity for South East Asia. It contains more than half of the family of all flowering plants in the world. This includes about 2,000 species of orchids of which, one third of these can only be found here and nowhere else on earth. This place is simply an Oasis of biological splendour in one of the largest remaining tracts of Rainforests left in the country.Established in 1964, the 'Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre' is the biggest facility of it's kind in the world. It has pioneered efforts to rescue and rehabilitate displaced orang utans. The centre is both a research and a tourist facility. The Darum Valley Field Centre is for research and education. It has attracted some of the world's most prominent scientists and naturalists. Close to the field centre, is the Borneo Rainforest Lodge, a jungle resort set up by the government to promote awareness and understanding of the rainforests and it's inhabitants. Also on the east coast is the Tabin Forest Reserve, which is a breeding place for several endangered species of mammals and other wild life in Sabah, for example the Borneo pigmies, the smallest elephants in the world. Then there is The Turtle Islands National Park and as the name suggest, turtles. These islands are an important location for turtle-nesting and have been a Marine Park since 1977, The Nesting Season is between August and October, You can stay in the Sabah Parks chalets on Pulau Selingan to watch the turtles at night, under the watchful supervision of the Ranger. The Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park are easily reached via a short ferry ride from K.K for day trips or overnight stays. The islands here have good beaches, coral reefs and shallow waters are ideal for snorkelling and diving. The largest island here is Pulau Gaya covering 1,550 hectares with one of the best beaches at Bulijong Bay. The island has 20 km of walking trails through the forests and mangroves and is home to monkeys, pangolins and bearded pigs. Outside the park boundaries, there is a huge stilt village. The second largest island is Pulau Manukan, the location has been redeveloped with new chalets, a swimming pool, restaurant and bar. Water sports are available including water skiing, windsurfing and dingy-sailing. The most heavily visited of the islands just 25 minutes from K.K, is Pulau Sapi, off the southwest tip of Pulau Gaya. There are camping and picnic facilities. Pulau Mamutik is the smallest island in the park and is also popular with day -trippers on weekends and holidays. Pulau Sulug the most remote of the islands, is the least visited and as yet has no facilities. Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah once known as Jesselton Town was almost totally destroyed in the second world war. Now a modern city has emerged in its place and you will enjoy the warm hospitality of the local people wherever you go. Kota Kinabalu, also known as KK, is right next to the sea (The South China Sea) You are only minutes away from the local beaches and 5 star and budget hotels are within easy reach. Shopping Malls, restaurants, and all major local banks are centrally located in the city centre.The Sabah State Museum is the main local attraction,which houses ceramics and craftworks from Bajau, Murut, Kadazan and Runggus peoples.The mock-ups of tribal longhouses in the museum grounds are also well worth a look. Nearby is the ferry terminal offering day-trips to the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, and make sure you do not miss out on the Filipino Market next to the jetty where local handicrafts are worth haggling for. Several new Shopping Complexes has been added recently, offering branded products such as electronic goods, imported clothings, jeweleries,as well as Batiks and other local products.There is a wide range of restaurants to select, from Seafood crusine to KFC, MacDonalds, chinese, indian, malay and other local crusines.Also available in the city are several Tour Agencies to plan your trips and excursions.There are several Diving Operators offering scuba-diving courses and diving trips all around Sabah. For further Info of other tourist attractions, drop by at the Tourist Information Centre at Gaya Street near HSBC Bank. While you are in Gaya Street you will also find a couple of local Tattoo shops, they are quite a bunch of talented local artists. I got a'customised'half sleeve 'polynesian' tribal tattoo from The 76th Street Tattoo Borneo Body Art Shop.Check them out.The Sunday Street Market is also held here,where you will find cheap local products such as handicrafts and other brigs and brags. There are several nightclubs in KK with imported live-bands and cultural dances. Pulau Sipadan across the Celebes Sea, looks no different from any other tropical islands.. a small blob in the ocean surrounded by white coral-sand beaches and topped off by jungle vegetation. Sipadan, however is not just any old island. It is the only deep water oceanic island in Malaysia and sits on top of a massive limestone sea mountain that was formed millions of years ago by an undersea volcano. A magnificent reef ecosystem has developed on the sheer walls of this sea mountain and this has attracted all the best divers in the world to explore this special site. The diving is exceptional, just a stone's throw from the beach bar, the pale aquamarine waters over the sandy seabed change abruptly to hues of deep blue, indicating the beginning of the massive coral drop-off into the darkness of about 600m or 2,000 feet depth to the seabed. Underwater, the reef is a profusion of sea-fans, black corals, soft corals and indescent hard corals inhabited by shoals of fusiliers, parrotfish, grouper, sweetlips and other colourful fish. Because of it's position in mid-ocean, Sipadan also has large numbers of pelagic ( open water ) species cruising the reefs, with schools of manta rays, barracuda and hammerhead sharks frequently seen in currents on the reef headlands. There are so many turtles here ( hundreds, possibly thousands live around Sipadan ) that once underwater you can hardly turn around without seeing them snoozing under reef ledges,scooting off into the deep blue, feeding on the reef or floundering around the surface as they mate. Sipadan started out as a bird sanctuary until in the late 70's, was discovered by recreational divers and only a handful of the previleged were allowed into this new amazing underwater world. It's geographic location within the Indo-Pacific basin makes it the richest bio-diversity area in the world. Some experts believe that the Indo-Pacific basin was Earth's marine incubator and researches are still discovering new species as new places and depths are being explored. In 1989, the world's most renown diver and icon, Jacques Cousteau, an explorer and scientist who had brought the incredible world of 'Undersea-Adventures' into our living-rooms for 50 years, with some 120 television- documentaries, arrived at Sipadan with the crew of his 'Calypso'. He had not seen such an 'oceanic-kingdom' for 45 years. After he made a documentary of his latest discovery, Sipadan became the new Haven for every diver from all 4 corners of the world. Within 15 years Sipadan had reached a potentially critical situation with several resorts being built on this tiny island and popular diving sites being over-dived, sometimes between 80 to 120 divers at any one time. In 2005, the Sabah Marine Parks closed the island off to resorts and prohibited overnight stays and restricted daily dives at Sidadan. Divers now stay in the other nearby islands such as Pulau Mabul, Kapalai and Mataking. In a land where its eco-treasures are as diverse as heaven and earth, the choices of accommodation are just as endless, from 5-Star resorts by leading Hotel Groups to comfortable lodgings for the budget conscious. You would still enjoy the common aspects of warm hospitality of the local Malaysians wherever you go. Malaysia has several International Airports throughout the Country and it may be possible for travellers to fly directly to their chosen destinations, depending on the Airline Company that you have booked with. There is a wide range of Airline Companies to choose from, depending on which country of origin. Sabah is easily accessible from all international Cities. Best Wishes from Sunny Sabah. Jet Santana. xxx