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North Borneo, Sabah – Kota Kinabalu, Sungai Kinabatangan and Sandakan

What can I say, I love Borneo, see these posts for what I think of Sarawak, but this post is about my latest trip to Northern Borneo.

Bako National Park

Gunung Gading National Park

I visited the North Borneo region of Sabah with my friend Shawna, who was ready to escape the cold of the Chinese winter.

We had just eight days here but managed to cram a lot in, having a few days snorkeling on the islands off Kota Kinabalu, a few days wandering the treks at the base of Mount Kinabalu, some animal watching on the Sungai Kinabatangan, and scones and cream at a colonial house in Sandakan.

Kota Kinabalu has a diverse population including many Chinese, this amused Shawna as she thought that she was leaving the language behind her, as it was still Chinese New Year (which seems to last for about a month) we saw some celebrations, including these dancing Lions.

Kota Kinabalu dancing Lion

Kota Kinabalu dancing Lion

It is pretty easy to get to the islands from KK. Their are lots of boats that go from the Jetty and they cost about 13 to 17 MYR, there is an additional charge of 10 MYR to the national park to enter the islands (keep your ticket as they are valid on all of the islands if you are island hopping). Snorkels also cost 10 MYR to hire.

The Borneo sea has some fantastic creatures beneath its surface. At the time of year we were there, (February) it was Jellyfish season (I managed to get a nice sting) but they are not that dangerous; I went back to KK in July and there was not a jellyfish in site.

Other than the jellyfish there were lots of beautiful fish to see amongst the coral. The islands off KK are a great place to go snorkeling.

Kota Kinabalu Tropical Island

Kota Kinabalu Tropical Island

After a hard days snorkeling it is nice to get some food down you. Kota Kinabalu does not fail in this regard. There is a large outdoor food market, and the waterfront part of town has a lot of good (though fairly expensive) restaurants.

Food at the KK Market

Food at the KK Market

The town faces west this means that the sunsets can be quite pretty.

Kota Kinabalu Sunset

Kota Kinabalu Sunset

After KK we went to the Mount Kinabalu national park, we didn’t go up the mountain, which was pretty expensive, and pretty damn high. We did do some of the treks through the forest at the base of the mountain, which were tough but worth it.

Kinabalu National Park

Kinabalu National Park

We next went to Sandakan, and then onto the Sungai Kinabatangan where we did a two day/ one night stay. On the way we called in at the caves where they harvest Swiftlet nests for the Chinese birds nest soup dishes.

Birds nest cave

Birds nest cave

Once we got to the Sungai Kinabatangan we went on a few river trips. The animal life had to be seen to be believed. What has happened is that much of the area has been took over by the palm tree growers; this has resulted in the animals retreating to the protected national park area by the river.

We saw lots of animals including proboscis monkeys, Orang utans, long tailed macaques, a baby crocodile, Darters, Fish Owls and my favourite, the horn bills.

Sungai Kinabatangan river trip

Sungai Kinabatangan river trip

Sungai Kinabatangan Lizard

Sungai Kinabatangan Lizard

Sungai Kinabatangan Proboscis Monkey

Sungai Kinabatangan Proboscis Monkey

Darters in the tree tops

Darters in the tree tops

I’d recommend a trip to Sabah, North Borneo to anyone,

Deano