The state of Sabah is divided into five divisions, and the West Coast Division with a size of 7,588 square kilometres is the second smallest. This area encompasses the Kota Belud region from the north and stretches down south to the Kimanis area, and it also includes the Ranau region, a popular tourist destination. Since independence this division has experienced a big population growth, and it is where the state capital, Kota Kinabalu, lies. Many visitors will arrive at KK because of its international airport the second largest and the second busiest in Malaysia, before venturing out to other destinations in Sabah. If time is short for your visit to Sabah and you don’t want to spend too much time on the roads, below are ten best destinations of the West Coast Division.
1. Kinabalu National Park
Since nominated as a world heritage site by United World Organisation in 2000, the visitation of Kinabalu Park from people around the world has increased tremendously. As one of the highest mountains in South East Asia, climbers around the world have also taken up the challenge, the Laban Rata accommodation is almost packed to the brink all year round. Bookings these days have to be done almost six months in advance. Famous for its many species of flora and fauna, many scientists have come here to do research as well as exploration. Newly discovered species of flora and fauna are still on going these days. For the average people the place offers relaxation, quiet atmosphere and enjoyment of the cold weather. Poring located on the south eastern side of Kinabalu Park is also popular for its natural hot spring and the canopy walkway high above the trees. The biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia, although seasonal, is also found in the Poring areas.
2. Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Kota Kinabalu is a city that is blessed with as many as five islands just off its coast. The five islands are gazetted by Sabah Park as Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The largest island is Gaya Island, it has accommodation facilities at Gayana Resort and Bunga Raya Resort. Gaya island also has one of the best beaches of the park at Police Bay. Manukan and Sapi islands are the most visited. The beaches, shallow sea and great corals are what pulling in the crowds. Mamutik island although the smallest, yet its small white sandy beaches and calm water are enough to get the visitors’ attention. Sulug island is still wild and undeveloped, however it is the only island where one can visit without paying a park fee. If white sandy beaches, crystal clear water, corals and fishes, are what you are looking for as a holiday destination, these islands at the Tunku Abdul Rahman marine park are sure going to make you happy.
3. Kota Kinabalu City
The best way to get to know a city is by exploring its streets. Kota Kinablau is a small city, it has a length of about 2 km, and the widest section is only about 600 meters. The average width is about 300 meters, so it can be easily tackled by foot. The older part of the city is in Gaya Street and Beach Street. These areas were rebuilt after the Second World War. Important landmarks here are the Atkinson Clock Tower, Malaysia Memorial, and the Sabah Tourism Board which used to be the old post office. One can join a guided walk tour or explore the city on your own. Tun Fuad Stephen Street is the High Street for KK today, this 1.8 km street has all the modern facilities like shopping centres, eateries and markets. Warisan Square, Suria Sabah, Central Markets, and KK Waterfront are the main visitors’ areas.
4. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park
Located at an old rubber plantation, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park is a great addition to attract tourists, especially for those who are in Sabah for a short visit. Orang utan, proboscis monkey, Borneo pygmy elephant, and banteng (cow) are animals only found in Borneo Island, and these animals are housed in Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. Smaller creatures, like the slow loris, are also on exhibit. Birds are another major species found at the park. Check out the Aviary. Hornbills, which are unique to Borneo, are found flying gracefully here. Reptiles on show include snakes, lizards and crocodiles. Visitors are most welcome to have a picnic at the Botanic Garden to enjoy calm and cooler environment and shades provided under many of the tall trees. Explore the many trails here to experience what tropical rainforest is about. One can also gain some plants knowledge by visiting some of the gardens, which include herbs, gingers and nepenthes.
5. Mantanani Island
Located on the north-western point of the West Coast Division, Mantanani Island consists of a group of three islands namely, Mantanani Besar, Mantanani Kecil and the Lungisan island. This is one of the most remote places in the West Coast area. The Mantanani Besar (7 X 3 Kilometers) has no roads for cars. Until about a decade ago, it is hardly visited by locals let alone tourists. Visibility underwater is among the best in the West Coast, making the sea water here very ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving. Although rare today, these islands sea grass used to be the feeding ground for dugongs (sea cows). The coral reefs here are about twenty times the size of a football field, if not bigger. Reef fishes are abundant here. One might even rendezvous with a sea turtle while snorkelling. While few and far between, turtles still come to lay their eggs at the beaches here. The only accommodation at the island is Mari Mari Backpack Lodge, where guests can enjoy life between yourself and the big blue sea.
6. The Green Connection
This is a must for any visitors, especially so for children. With global warming a thread to the world that we live in, Green Connection is like a school where we can educate ourselves and learn ways to protect our environments. The centre has models that displayed nature environments which are found in the state of Sabah. Not only is Green Connection educational, it is a place where one can interact with creatures like corals, reptiles, as well as baby sharks. The coral tank is the highlight of the visit. The largest tank in Borneo, gives visitors a close encounter with marine creatures such as eels, sharks, ray fish, turtles, as well as many other ocean fishes. The science galleries on top of the two domes at Green Connection, allow children to experience and play with their five senses, touch, smell, visual, taste, and sound. The closest thing we have in Sabah that resembles a science museum.
The Green Connection
7. Mari Mari Culture Village
Mari Mari Culture Village is like a time travel machine back in time. Located at the rain forest hilly region at Inanam, this culture village offers visitors a good time while learning the art of life by Sabah native people. The five largest ethnic groups of Dusun, Bajau, Murut, Rungus, and Lundayeh are exhibited here. Model houses, including the longhouse, traditional cooking, rice wine, native weapons, costumes, ceremonies and dances can be learned, experienced and well participated by the visitors.
8. Kipandi Butterfly Park
Sabah is located at the northern part of Borneo Island, which is separated from the mainland of Asia. Through many million years of evolution many animals, birds, and insects found in Sabah are very different from those found in the mainland. Kipandi Butterfly Park is dedicated to the insects found in Sabah, especially so for butterfly. The Kipandi Butterfly Park consists of three sections: the butterfly enclosure, the flora garden and the insectarium. As many as 40 species of butterflies are found in the butterfly enclosure, which also includes the rare Rajah Brooke Butterfly. Ever heard of stick insect? Well one can find this unique insect which looks excatly like a stick in the forest here. Kipandi Butterfly Park is located on a hilly region of the Crocker Range, and only about 30 minutes away from the city. Best time to visit the park is in the morning.
Kipandi Butterfly Park
9. Orchid De Villa
The island of Borneo has around 10% of the world’s orchids. From the lowland forest to the highland of Kinabalu, wild orchids are abundant in the forests of Sabah, which has roughly 1,200 species of native orchids. Orchid De Villa is a half commercial and half exhibit area for orchids. Special Orchids found here are the rare and endangered slipper orchid, the giant elephant ear orchid, and the delicate Bulbophyllum lobbii found only on Mount Kinabalu. A small hill garden at Orchid De Villa housed as many as 300 species of orchids, many of them have flowers as small as a pin head. The commercial orchid cultivation covers four acres of hybrid orchids. Located at a Dusun village called Kampung Kawakaan at Inanam, Orchid De Villa is only 20 km from Kota Kinabalu.
Orchid De Villa
10. Sabah Museum
This is the place to learn about the history of Sabah. Although Sabah, formerly known as North Borneo, does not have a long history, one can get many interesting things and events that are well documented by the Sabah Museum. The British colonial times, Mat Salleh the warrior, the independent of Sabah, the forming of Malaysia are some of the articles on display. Early 1900s pictures of Jesselton, Sandakan and North Borneo by G.C. Woolley, a prime collection in glass negative, are also a showcase here. Jesselton is the former name of Kota Kinabalu. Old artifacts like china, porcelain and bronze ware are on permanent exhibit. A big part of Sabah is its many native people. At the Heritage Village, the model houses of the Dusun, Bajau, Rungus, Lundayeh, Murut and Rungus are displayed. A stroll into these houses will give one a good understanding of Sabah’s native people way of life.