The name “Sabah” is believed to originate from the Malay word “sabak” which means “a place where palm sugar is made”. The state is also affectionately known as “The Land Below the Wind” because it lies below the typhoon belt, sparing it from most of nature’s tempestuous wraths.
Sabah is located on the northern part of the island of Borneo, which is the third-largest island in the world. It shares its western border with the Malaysian state of Sarawak and its southwestern border with the Indonesian province of Kalimantan. To the north lies the South China Sea, and the Sulu Sea to the northeast.
The region that is now Sabah has a rich history of trade and was influenced by a variety of cultures and empires, including the Bruneian Empire and the Sultanate of Sulu. The British North Borneo Company established a presence in the late 19th century, turning Sabah into a British protectorate. After the Second World War, Sabah became a British Crown Colony. In 1963, Sabah, along with Sarawak, Singapore, and Malaya, formed Malaysia. Sabah’s diverse history has contributed to its melting pot of cultures, traditions, and ethnicities.
Highlights of Things to Do
- Mount Kinabalu: Dominating the landscape of Sabah, this UNESCO World Heritage site is the highest mountain in Malaysia and a popular destination for trekkers from around the world.
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park: A cluster of islands just off Kota Kinabalu, offering stunning beaches and excellent snorkeling and diving spots.
- Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre: A sanctuary for orphaned and injured orangutans, it offers a unique opportunity to witness these majestic creatures up close.
- Kinabatangan River: One of the best places in Southeast Asia for wildlife spotting, offering chances to see proboscis monkeys, pygmy elephants, and a plethora of bird species.
- Sipadan Island: Renowned as one of the world’s best diving spots, it boasts a rich marine biodiversity, making it a diver’s paradise.
How to Get In and Out
- By Air: Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) is the main gateway, connecting Sabah to major cities in Asia and domestically within Malaysia.
- By Sea: Sabah has several ports, with Kota Kinabalu Port being the most significant, catering to cruise ships and ferries from the neighboring islands and countries.
- By Road: Overland routes connect Sabah to Sarawak and Kalimantan (Indonesia), though they might be less preferred due to the dense rainforest terrains.
From its mountain peaks to its underwater treasures, Sabah promises a cornucopia of experiences and adventures for the traveler. Its rich cultural tapestry, complemented by its natural wonders, makes Sabah a must-visit on the Borneo island.