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7 nature itineraries to experience in Sabah

With plenty of unspoiled nature to appreciate in Sabah, these curated experiences will enable you to enjoy it all.

How many times can you say with conviction that you’ve visited East Malaysia? Unless your hometown is in Sabah or Sarawak, chances are, you’ve rarely visited these two states as tourists. Now’s your chance to tick the East Malaysian states off your bucket list, seeing as we’re only able to travel domestically. However, with Sarawak racking up COVID-19 cases, we’re left with Sabah. Not that we’re complaining.

The land below the wind, like its neighbouring state, is filled with unspoiled nature. It’s also home to Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia. The state also boasts many gorgeous islands, most of which are perfect bases for diving and snorkelling. From the forests to the land and the sea, nature experiences in Sabah are plentiful.

Chances are, you’re probably wondering where to even begin exploring Sabah. Worry not – we’ve curated a selection of nature-related experiences below to help you on your way.

(Hero & featured image credit: Unsplash/ Sebastien Jermer)


Northwest of Kota Belud, which is an hour’s drive away from Kota Kinabalu, you can take a speedboat and head towards the idyllic Mantanani Islands. It actually comprises three isolated islands that are virtually unspoiled with clear waters and white sandy beaches. For this experience, you can go snorkelling on the islands and check out the amazing coral reefs below. Choose between just snorkelling at Mantanani Islands or doing that and taking a Kawa Kawa River Cruise to check out the fireflies. Onboard the boat, you can enjoy a buffet meal too.

(Image credit: MantananiIsland.com)

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Even if you don’t plan to hike Mount Kinabalu, the Kinabalu National Park is definitely worth a visit simply to see the dense rainforest and its inhabitants. In this package, you’ll be taken to Kinabalu Park on a guided tour to check out the flora and fauna, then take a dip into the Poring Hot Spring after. The hot spring is rich with sulphur, making it a nice and relaxing time out after all that walk.

(Image credit: Klook)

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Being able to watch fireflies in its natural habitat just means that its surrounding nature is still unspoiled, as these gentle creatures are extremely delicate and non-resistant to changes in its environment. Take a boat ride down at Klias Wetlands for a safari cruise and you’ll not only see fireflies, but also mangroves and various other animals including the Proboscis monkeys. While onboard the cruise, snack on some local cuisine they’ll be providing, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

(Image credit: Borneo Trails)

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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Malaysia is home to some of the best diving spots around the world, and the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine national park is one of them. When you dive underwater, you’ll be entering a whole different world with stunning coral reefs and sea creatures. Experience it with this package, where you’ll be brought to Manukan, Mamutik, Sapi, and Gaya islands to snorkel in their crystal clear waters. On the way to Gaya Island, you’ll be boarding a double deck catamaran, so be sure to pack your best beach outfit to take some pictures. While onboard, you can also enjoy a local lunch accompanied by spectacular ocean views.

(Image credit: Light Holidays)

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If you’re in Kota Kinabalu and want a short trip out to escape the city, Dinawan Island is your best bet for a tranquil and idyllic getaway. Not only will you get to appreciate stunning views, but you can also try out a myriad of water activities from kayaking to snorkelling. With this package, you’ll be ferried directly from your hotel to the island, and enjoy a seafood barbecue buffet lunch.

(Image credit: Klook)

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Is the beach not really your thing, and you prefer getting into the forest and just losing yourself in nature? Then hiking in Mount Alab might just be right up your alley. Also known as Gunung Alab to the locals, this hiking trail sometimes gets overshadowed by Mount Kinabalu, but it’s equally as scenic of a climb (and less challenging). From Crocker Range National Park, you can hike all the way up to the summit and enjoy lush views of the forest and mountain range. After everything, cool off at the Mahua Waterfalls. This package includes a guided hike to the summit with lunch included.

(Image credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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You’ll quite literally be seeing stars with this 3D2N excursion to Mount Kinabalu. Expert guides will be leading you through this camping experience in Mount Kinabalu which begins with a ride to Porohon Garden, way out of the city. From there, you’ll be hiking through the trail to the dedicated campsite and enjoy a picnic lunch by the waterfall. When night falls, it’s time to head into the forest for a spot of stargazing. The following day, you’ll head to a second campsite by Dolungang Waterfalls.

(Image credit: Unsplash/ Nick Dietrich)

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PohNee Chin
Editor, Kuala Lumpur
Poh Nee is the editor and writes about travel and drinks. When she's not living out her holiday dreams via Google Earth and sipping on an Old Fashioned down at the local bars, you can find her snug at home bingeing on Netflix and mystery fiction.