Sabah, The Land Below The Wind
Looking for more things to do, after you have wandered to numbers of attractions on land? Well, it is time for you to venture undersea, to see what lies below its tranquil sea around Sabah and Sarawak!
There are many beautiful and interesting dive sites around Sabah. From the west coast to the east, you can dive as much as your heart desires, as long as you have enough air in your tank! If you don’t have a dive license, we also offer the world recognized PADI certified scuba diving lessons for visitors of all ages and from all over the world.
Our PADI Dive Centers are PADI certified and with our professional yet caring dive instructors, you can get your dive licenses in a matter of a week (for Open Water) to a couple of days (for other advance levels). We have divers come diving at our water throughout the year and it is no surprise, to see them coming back years after years, as they just can’t get enough of the serenity of the tropical paradise under the ocean.
Being one of the closest and popular marine parks in the vicinity, with just 20 minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah; these islands boast themselves with stunning white sandy beaches, clear shallow waters rich in marine life, and bountiful of coral gardens awaiting diving enthusiasts such as yourself, to explore.
There are five islands that made up into this Marine Park – Gaya, Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi & Sulug. Gaya being the largest island offers possibly the best beaches and corals; while Mamutik, an internationally- renowned macro dive site, is ideal for novice divers with its shallow waters and gentle current.
Visitors to any of these dive sites will enjoy close encounters with barracuda, snappers, blue-spotted rays, cuttlefish, puffer fish, lionfish, reef sharks, and moray eels. Depending on seasons and luck, occasionally you get to spot green or hawksbill turtles, or even the colossal Whale Shark! If you have never swum with one before, you should plan your dives when the world’s largest fish visit these islands between the months of February to April, to feast on krill with their offsprings.
Macro diving enthusiasts will also have a fine time with nudibranch, mantis shrimps, harlequin ghost pipefish, scorpion fish, and mandarin fish; all calling this place home. With its diverse diving environment (from muck to reef diving), with time permits, you get to explore all 12 dive sites, each with its own unique reef formations, and the wonderful marine creatures living along these areas.
As the second and perhaps the largest marine park in Sabah, these eight islands - Bohey Dulang, Bodgaya, Sebangkat, Selakan, Mantabuan, Sibuan, Maiga, as well as the Church Reef and Kapikan Reef offers divers from the around the world, a taste of heaven in the crystal and warm sea around them.
Tun Sakaran Marine Park is not equipped with facilities for tourists; however, visitors are welcome to explore the marine park’s dive sites with their snorkels and scuba gears. Divers have reported many sightings of eagle rays, turtles, barracuda, bumphead parrotfish, and plenty of nudibranchs.
During your diving trip, we recommend taking some time to tour the Tun Sakaran Marine Research Unit in Bohey Dulang Island, where the giant clam spawning and seaweed farming centre is located.
Visitors who venture to the area in hopes to schedule some diving sessions in the Sipadan Island area, choose stay on or nearby Mabul Island. As the only island allowed by local authorities to setup accommodations on land, Mabul offers divers and non-divers alike, a chance to relax, rewind and enjoy the beautiful tropical island scenery during their dive vacation. Divers will get to experience a combination of the 2 islands - macro sites and critters, deep walls and big fish action.
Pulau Mabul (as it is known locally) is only 25 minutes or so boat ride to Sipadan Island. It has long lived in the shadow of its famous neighbor but is now emerging as a dive destination in its own right. As critter-diving has increased in popularity, many divers come here, for the incredible array of macro-life to be seen at Mabul Island. Sandy sea-beds, coral outcrops, small walls and artificial reefs and jetties, are all home to some of the seas most amazing little creatures.
It is often a good sign when underwater photographers are around (often they are only here for the macro sights, and not at Sipadan!), so you can be sure that there are a wealth of interesting marine creatures lurking in every nook and cranny around the island.
Kapalai is actually a shallow reef upon which sits a stilted resort located around 20 minutes from the Malaysian scuba mecca of Sipadan. Kapalai consists of a small sloping reef approximately 15m deep which contains many strange and beautifully ugly critters. The location of this island is more than just providing a closer proximity for divers going to Sipadan every day. It also offers a lot of its own sites, some of which can be accessed by striding off the resort's own diving platform.
The beautiful wooden resort looks more like people's idea of honeymooner's favorite -- the Maldives. There is something undeniably romantic about falling asleep with the sea breeze wafting in through your chalet as the shallow water gently laps below. Living right on top of a coral reef is Kapalai's chief feature, and that you can dive some excellent critter sites by simply striding off the resort; is worth a special mention.
Blue ring octopus, mimic octopus, ghost pipefish, wasp fish, and stonefish are just some of the common sights. Every day at dusk, in the coral rubble adjacent to the Kapalai jetty, mandarin fish perform their nightly mating ritual. Leaf scorpion fish and frogfish of various colors inhabit the sloping reefs on all sides of the islands. Below the shallow sloping reef is a sandy plateau, which is home to five small wrecks and a resort chalet. Kapalai is an underwater photographers' paradise.
There are several great sites within easy reach of the resort whether be small walls, shallow reefs or sandy flats with little rocky outcrops, where life seems to be concentrated. Just like nearby Mabul Island, some people come to dive only Sipadan and find themselves choosing instead to dive frequently at Kapalai to enjoy the fascination that macro diving here creates.
Voted as one of the World’s Top 10 Dives by various renowned dive organizations and mass media alike, Sipadan is home to over 3000 species of fish and hundreds of coral species. This oceanic island located in Celebes Sea boasts over 100 dive sites, with 12 internationally famous ones including the renowned Barracuda Point and the turtle grave.
The Sipadan Barrier Reef is the largest Barrier Reef in South East Asia and also has the world’s highest marine biodiversity! Diversity is the beauty of this amazing reef: It offers wall dives with vertical drops to over 500M, cleaning stations that attract Manta Rays, Devil Rays and all kinds of sharks. Thousands of schooling fish, and hidden away in the coral shallows are some of the world’s best macro life such as Pygmy Seahorses, flamboyant Cuttle Fish, Mandarin Fish and other marine life that is still to be identified. This is truly one of the last unexplored frontiers on Earth and it is a must, for you to dive here when you come to region. Now a fully protected conservation zone, work is in progress to enlist Sipadan as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The itinerary for the days spent around the islands were pretty simple – eat, dive, sleep and repeat! Yes, the diving trip sounds boring and idle on paper, that’s until you get in your gear and go down the water. You would have grinned like a little child at the candy store, only if your mouth wasn’t stuck with a mouthpiece.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu – the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a surreal experience. Yet like most outdoor activities, bad weather can be a major issue. As such, it is wise to check the weather around the mountain region, before you decide to book your air ticket and pack up.
First of all, to know and accept the fact that very tall mountains are very capable of trapping clouds around them, coupled with the nature of tropical climate and Sabah lying below the typhoon belt (hence commonly referred to as “Land Below The Wind”); rain falls almost every day regardless of seasons.
Sabah is subjected to two main rainy seasons, brought by the northeast monsoon between October and January, and the southwest monsoon between May and July. Precipitation determines the amount of rainfall and as shown in the both charts above, the driest months in terms of rainfall here would be February and March, with January and April being slightly wetter. However, due to recent climate patterns change and global warming, the weather forecast remains to be unpredictable and fluctuates on yearly basis. In conclusion, February to April is the best period to come pay a visit to the mountain.
The general daily weather pattern around the mountain would be clear and sunny early mornings, followed by increasingly cloudy mid-morning, and then showers in the afternoon or evening. Weather around the mountain is rather fickle, so do not be surprised if it rains early morning and gets sunny in the afternoon instead. These downpours are commonly between 1 to 2 hours, so there is no worry about your whole day getting spoiled. As such, do prepare to get raincoats ready and wrap yourself in warm clothing from head to toe. Any gear you would be carrying with you would need to be covered with water-proof material.
Asian countries have a tropical climate, but not Mount Kinabalu. Here it rains just about every day and temperatures range between cool and freezing. Wear warm clothing and the right shoes (hiking shoes or sport shoes); get a lightweight raincoat to keep your body and backpack dry. Cover any other gear you would not want soaked like camera and mobile devices with waterproof material.
Head torch is extremely helpful, as you will be ascending on the summit trail in the dark. At the “danger zone”, you’ll need both your hands to grab on to the ropes.
For those with weaker knees, walking sticks are helpful as well, to keep your pace up to base camp or the summit. Hand gloves and First Aid Kits are useful as well, as you never know when you will get hurt by the rough mountain terrain while climbing on the summit trail.
Experienced or not, it is always better to play it safe when taking on a place like Mount Kinabalu. Listen to your guide and follow any instructions carefully. DO NOT try to pull off any reckless stunts just because it seems fun, and stick to your group during the climb at all times. If you happen to feel unwell during the climb, alert your guide, take a rest and if necessary, ask to be escorted back to the base camp.
Altitude sickness affects everyone on the individual basis, regardless of health, strength, age and sexes. If you cannot continue to ascend to the peak, don’t force yourself. It is better to pace yourself, take in enough oxygen with each breath, and ascend accordingly.
Climbing a mountain is very tiring and you will get hungry sooner than you would have expected. As such, get some dry, easy-to-carry energy packed foods: granola, sports/energy bars, chocolates, bread or candies before or along the climb as you may see fit. It is also not advisable to have heavy meals before climbing, as with any other sports. Doing so would probably make you very uncomfortable during the trip. Unless you have more than an hour ahead of you before climbing, stick to light breakfast rich in protein instead of carbohydrate-laden foods.
Water is provided at rest stops (pondoks) along the way, so it would be useful to just bring a bottle of water and then use it for refilling, instead of carrying litres of bottled water on your back and make your trip harsher than necessary. Despite being clean and drinkable, the water provided is untreated. Bring iodine salts if you happen to have a sensitive stomach. Drink lots of water even if you do not feel thirsty, as it helps with altitude acclimatization.
Sometimes you might feel like having some alcohol to celebrate your great achievement when you reach the base camp, though we don’t recommend it as it will further dehydrate your body, making you weak and woozy. If you really could not avoid alcoholic drinks before your climbing trip, please do so moderately as climbing with a hangover will surely make you feel sicker and more prone to altitude sickness.
By rest, we mean sleep well. It takes a lot of stamina and focuses to climb a mountain like Mount Kinabalu. Do so with shaky legs and woozy heads and you might end up needing to stop or worse, vomit. The height of the mountain would also mean you might be susceptible to altitude sickness. Sleep well and the brunt of altitude sickness may be reduced while lacking good rest will have it hit you harder than it otherwise would.
Follow the tips written above and you should be able to enjoy your climb at Mount Kinabalu. We wish you good luck and hope to see you come back with your Certificate of Achievement!
There are two via ferrata routes at the top of Mt. Kinabalu. The term via ferrata means “iron road” in Italian, is a protected climbing route found in the Alps and certain other locations. The essence of a modern via ferrata is a steel cable which runs along the route and is periodically (every 1 to 10 metres / 3.3 to 32.8 ft) fixed to the rock. Using a via ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall. The cable can also be used as an aid to climbing, and additional climbing aids, such as iron rungs (stemples), pegs, carved steps and even ladders and bridges are often provided.
Thus via ferratas allow otherwise dangerous routes to be undertaken without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing or the need for climbing equipment such as ropes. This activity offers the relatively inexperienced, a means of enjoying dramatic positions and accessing difficult peaks, normally the preserve of the serious mountaineer. As there is a need for some equipment, a good head for heights and basic technique, the via ferrata can be seen as a distinct step up from ordinary mountain walking.At Mt Kinabalu, there are two routes of via ferrata to choose from:
- Walk The Torq is offered for the less adventurous, though with a curious heart. It is shorter, at lower altitude but equally fun!
- Low Peak Circuit is the intermediate level, for those adrenaline junkies. It includes the Walk The Torq route and thus making it the longest and highest via ferrata in the world (as certified by Guinness World Records)!
Sandakan was the former capital of British North Borneo until 1946. The town prospered in the early days due to its port with visiting traders from about the world. Sandakan is an important town to Australian and British WWII history with the infamous Death Marches commencing here in 1945. After WWII the capital moved to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu).
Due to the effort of the local forestry reserve, Sandakan has retained many hectares of dense rainforest, hence making it the first chosen destination for eco-tourism. With heightened awareness and desire to learn more about the environment, Sandakan city has become quite the rage these days.
The most practical way for visitors to get into Sandakan is by air, second by tour packages arranged by your chosen travel agents.
Sandakan Airport is connected directly daily with Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu by AirAsia, and to Kota Kinabalu by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and its subsidiary MAS Wings. MAS Wings also has connecting flights with Tawau and Kudat. Future flight routes include those chartered flights directly from southern coastal cities in China.
There is a two-lane highway (one lane per direction) from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan. The road is paved and road conditions are generally good. Journey from KK to SDK shall take anywhere between 6 – 8 hrs depending on traffic and weather conditions.
When one thinks about Sandakan, the first that comes to mind first would be the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Orang Utans, like most apes, give the impression of being on the smaller side. In actual fact, a dominant male can grow as tall as humans and definitely heavier weight. In recent years, several wildlife conservatories such as the Borneo Sun Bear Centre and Rainforest Discovery Centre were established to provide further information and sanctuary to the flora and fauna in the region.
Then there are the turtles at the Selingan Turtle Island. Turtle hatchings take place pretty much every week throughout the year, with certain months peak at almost tens and thousands of eggs being laid by turtles coming ashore.
A trip to Sandakan would not be completed, without joining the river cruise along Kinabatangan River. The 560km Kinabatangan River, the longest in the state, flows pass some of the richest ecosystems on earth, especially just before it meets the sea. The Lower Kinabatangan and Sukau area are known for their mangrove swamps and flood plains, and is home to its most famous inhabitants, the proboscis monkeys. Up river, you will go past interesting villages where the river is still the main highway. There are also opportunities to view wildlife, including the rare and endangered pygmy elephants, that is unique and only available in Borneo.
There are a lot more other interesting sites where one can roam and explore the wonderful wildlife dwelling in the forest. If you are a nature lover, you really should make this one of the items on your bucket list. Better yet, tick the list off by coming over to explore the nature with us today!
The word “Orou” in the Murut language means “The Sun”. Orou Sapulot was established with the vision to help the economic development of the villagers primarily in Sapulot and its surrounding areas. Orou Sapulot also endeavors to expose and educate people from all around the world on the importance of nature to mankind as well as the importance to conserve it for future generations.
The concept of this tour is based on providing our guests a chance to travel back in time, to explore the region with primitive living but with sufficient amenities for comfort stay. Not only one is able to indulge in the beauty of the natural environment to the fullest, but also able to experience the other wonders and activities offered within the area.
Just a stone throw away from the Pungiton Eco-Camp, this cave is easily accessible. Consisting of multi-level caverns, each level has its distinctive name, based on their characteristic; such as stream cave, marble cave, waterfall cave and etc. Various species of fauna could also be found on the different levels of the caves.
For those seeking adventure, they could go spelunking at these wild cave systems with the designated guide, to discover the many untouched inner world at the area.
Standing tall and strong along Sapulot River lays the mystical Batu Punggul, a limestone outcrop that measures approximately 200 meters in height. To reach the peak, once must trek through the jungle then climb up, and the view from atop is simply worth the effort.
There are many waterfalls, big and small, scattered and some hidden, in the tropical rainforest that makes this place a paradise. These are the natural spas, handcrafted by mother earth as gifts to visitors to the area.
Visitors to the area also have the chance to experience the exciting yet safe wooden boat ride on sections of Sapulot River, whereby river rapids making it a heart pounding journey with a great adrenaline rush!