WHERE IS SABAH
Sabah is on the northern tip of that mystical Island of Borneo, the world’s third largest island. Also known as the “Land Below the Wind”, Sabah lies below the typhoon and monsoon belt, and is thus sheltered from the more dramatic caprices of tropical weather. In the South, Sabah borders its neighbouring Malaysian State Sarawak, and the Indonesian State of Kalimantan. Sabah’s West Coast is flanked by the South China Sea, and the North and East Coast by the Sulu Sea.
GEOGRAPHY AND CLIMATE:
Sabah has an area of 7,362,000 ha and measures roughly 1700 kilometers along the north-south axis, from the very Tip of Borneo to the deep interior south of Long Pa Sia, and about 2100 kilometers on a west-east axis.
Located just below the typhoon and monsoon belt at equatorial doldrums between roughly 4 ° N and 7 ° N, Sabah boasts a fine tropical climate, with uniform temperatures averaging from 23 ° C to 33 ° C and a mean humidity of about 90% for town and plain areas. Rainfalls are copious, accounting for Sabah’s lush vegetation, and generally, two seasons are distinguished: the rainy / wet season, and the dry season. The wet season starts in November, with the onset of the northeast monsoon in Peninsular Malaysia and ends towards April, with the most rain falling in January.
The climate on Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain between the Himalayas and Papua New Guinea is of course a completely different story. Its many climate zones have allowed a unique, and in many places endemic flora & fauna to develop. For the traveller and especially those who want to climb Mt Kinabalu, it is important to know that the mountain tends to concoct its own climate, and a raincoat and some warm clothing for the climb are de rigueur. Temperatures on the peak may drop to 0 ° C!
FLORA & FAUNA
Sabah’s lush jungles – the oldest rainforest in the world – have provided an ideal playground for nature. The world over, scientists travel to Sabah to study about the unique nature of this part of the planet, and only slowly, do we begin to realise what treasure nature has given to us. Some parts of Sabah’s extraordinary rainforest have not yet been developed into palm oil plantations and are protected as National Parks. Sabah has also some of the most astounding diving destinations on earth, the underwater world offering just as many wonders, if not more, than Sabah’s rainforest.
From the largest flower to the smallest deer in the world, flying lizards and flying frogs, orang utans and proboscis monkeys, black orchids and nepenthes (pitcher plants) with pitchers that contain more than two liters of liquid, from Borneo’s only elephants to the exceedingly rare Sumatran rhino, Sabah really has it all.
CULTURE AND PEOPLE
Sabah boasts no less than 32 indigenous ethnic entities, speaking as many languages and over 50 dialects. The main indigenous group is the Kadazandusun, living in the plains in and around Kota Kinabalu. Once primarily farmers, they are now mostly engaged in salaried employment in a variety of jobs from industries over tourism to the government sector. The second most important group are the Bajau, once a seafaring Muslim tribe and sometimes referred to as ‘sea gypsies’, though only a handful of Bajau still live the ancient life of the true nomads of the seas. They have settled along the coast in typical villages, often built right over the water. The third most important ethnic entity in Sabah are the Murut, an interior tribe once famous for their intrepid warriors and are reputedly the last to give up the ancient custom of head-hunting. The most important non-indigenous people in Sabah are the Chinese, whom are the ones mostly running many businesses. All this gives Sabah an almost bewildering multi-cultural and multi-religious aspect, yet everybody lives together in harmony. This multi-faceted cultural patchwork is probably best experienced in sampling foods throughout Kota Kinabalu, a veritable cultural melting pot!
ADVENTURE TOURISM IN SABAH
Tourism in Sabah has become a major economic activity. Long left outside the beaten track of the larger tourism routes, Sabah has retained much of its charm and relaxed attitude, and its people are overwhelmingly friendly. There are some adventurous tours on offer: for most people, climbing Mt Kinabalu is already an adventure in itself, though shared with many same-minded climbers… a thrilling experience is certainly the Padas White Water Rafting, and if you are looking for true trekking adventures through some of Sabah’s last truly undeveloped areas, trekking in the Crocker Range might just be what you look for.
Sabah is a place where there is not a single month in the year without any special celebrations. People of many creeds and from different cultural backgrounds share this unique place and make it their home. They all observe their very own celebrations and they all share national celebrations. The most elaborate celebrations and maybe the most colourful month of them all is May, marked by Sabah’s Harvest Festival. You are invited to participate and join us!
SEE YOU SOON IN SABAH, THE LAND BELOW THE WIND!