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Proboscis monkey: What a face!
Proboscis monkey: What a face! | © casen / Pixabay

11 Amazing Reasons to Visit Sabah, Malaysia

Picture of Sam Bedford
Updated: 8 March 2018

Unsure of where to visit in Malaysia? Check out these great reasons to visit Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, including its vast biodiversity and pristine landscapes.


One of the biggest reasons to visit Sabah is to experience the vast diversity of landscapes and environments. From the monkeys living in the jungle to the parasitic ‘Rotting Corpse Lily’, Borneo often ranks among the world’s top regions for ecotourism.

Exotic flowers such as the Rafflesia can be found in Sabah | © Steve Cornish/WikiCommons

Exotic flowers such as the Rafflesia can be found in Sabah | © Steve Cornish/WikiCommons

Flora and fauna

Sabah is the definition of biodiversity. With more than 8,000 species of flowering plants, 600 types of birds and more than 200 different mammals, ecotourism often incentivises visitors. Tourists can experience this ecological wonderland in favourite spots such as Kinabalu Park and Danum Valley Field Centre.


Sabah has almost 400 islands. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park consists of five islands off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. Others include Kota Belud’s Mantanani Islands, Pulau Tiga: The Survivor Island, and the worldfamous diving hotspot Sipadan.

Manukan Island one of the most visited islands in Sabah.

Ethnic diversity

Sabah houses some 42 different ethnic groups and over 200 sub-ethnic groups. Each has a distinct culture and traditions. Travel through Sabah and see Kadazan-Dusun, Bajau and Murut groups among many others. Notice the different styles of clothes and way of life.

The culture

Another reason to visit Sabah is to witness and experience the cultural diversity. From the Kadazan-Dusun Sumazau dance and the Murut’s Magunatip bamboo dance, visitors have the chance to observe traditions seen nowhere else in Malaysia.

The beauty

Head a short distance from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s capital, and find long stretches of jungle, mountains and beaches. Tourists can travel to Kudat’s ‘Tip of Borneo’, the northernmost point of Borneo Island, or head deep into virgin rainforest. The rural kampungs, or villages in English, have rustic beauty in the stilted wooden styles and colourful architecture.

Some of the world’s best diving spots

The small island of Sipadan in Sabah’s east coast often features with the world’s best diving spots. Living coral and an abundance of marine life consistently impress divers in relatively unexplored waters.

Diving spot in Barracuda Point, Sipadan | © MaeManee/Shutterstock

Diving spot in Barracuda Point, Sipadan | © MaeManee / Shutterstock

Clean air

It’s no secret that Asia’s air quality doesn’t have a good track record. Malaysian Borneo has fresh and unpolluted air, probably a result of the rainforests, lack of overcrowding and fewer factories. The air quality is another reason to visit Sabah.

Mount Kinabalu

Boasting a world heritage status and holding the title as Malaysia’s tallest peak, Mount Kinabalu at 4,095 metres (13,435 feet) is often a popular reason to visit Sabah. Climbing to the summit involves an overnight stay and spots fill up months in advance. Mount Kinabalu is also a sacred site in Kazadan-Dusun traditions.

Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia's tallest peak | © Phil MacD Photography/Shutterstock

Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest peak | © Phil MacD Photography / Shutterstock


Those looking to see primates living in their natural habitats adore Sabah. Apart from the macaques, this part of Malaysia has relatively large populations of orangutans in both the wild and rehabilitation centres. Another reason to visit Sabah relates to seeing one of the world’s most unusual primates: Proboscis monkeys.


Headhunting was once practised by some of Sabah’s indigenous tribes. Warriors chopped off and collected enemy heads as a sign of power, status and prestige. Monsopiad, Sabah’s most notorious headhunter who lived 200 years ago, once accumulated 42 heads. The Monsopiad Cultural Village near Kota Kinabalu displays his ‘trophies’ today.

House of Skulls in Monsopiad Cultural Village | © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / WikiCommons

House of Skulls in Monsopiad Cultural Village | © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / WikiCommons