Borneo is the largest island in Asia and the third largest in the world. The island is divided between the countries of Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia. The southern part of the island is a part of Indonesia, whereas Brunei takes up a small section in the northern part of the island with the majority belonging to Malaysia. In the Malaysia side of Borneo is a hidden gem of a region, Sabah. There are lots of things to do in Sabah, such as trekking, canoeing, rafting, exploring Rafflesia and more.
In the month of June, I had an opportunity to visit Sabah to attend a conference for a week. The conference ended a day before my scheduled departure, so I had a day left to explore Sabah. I realised that there was so much to do on this island and maybe a day won’t really be enough. But since that was all the time I had, I wanted to ensure that I have a day well spent at Sabah.
Day Tours and Trek to Mount Kinabalu
I decided to do my own research and found a couple of good websites offering a variety of tours on this island. From Scuba Diving to Rainforests Treks, there are lots of activities that you can do based on your comfort and interest. For diving related activities, Asia Dive Holidays had plenty of options as their offerings. In case you are looking for Adventure type activities such as mountain biking, trekking or if you want to explore the local culture of Borneo, I would recommend the guys at Tour Borneo.
The highest mountain in Malaysia, Mount Kinabalu is actually located in the Sabah region and that is what piqued my interest. You actually need at least 2 days to hike till the summit and come back. Considering I only had a day here at Sabah, I decided to spend my day with a visit to Mount Kinabalu National Park and then cool off at the hot springs in Poring, Sabah. For this, I chose the guys at Sipandan Tours to show me around.
The day started off at 8 AM with a pickup from my hotel at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Traffic can become quite heavy during morning hours so it’s best to start early. Its a 2 hour drive through mountainous roads and a picturesque backdrop of Mount Kinabalu. We took a halt at a local market near Mount Kinabalu, from where we got an amazing view of the mountain.
Next, we headed straight for Mount Kinabalu Park which is Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. Mount Kinabalu is also Malaysia’s first national park having been set up in 1964 and is home to more than 4500 species of flora and fauna. Borneo is also known as the orchid island of the world since it is home to more than 10% of all the orchids found in the world. Even if you do not have the time to do a trek of Mount Kinabalu, you can still do a small tour of the biodiversity garden and nursery inside the park. Our tour operator did a complete guided tour of the garden and told us about the various species of flora that was present in the garden.
The biggest flower in the world, Rafflesia!
After this, we headed to another city called Poring, where we could enjoy the hot springs. On our way there, we made a very interesting pit stop to see blooming of Rafflesia Flowers. Rafflesia is one of the rarest and the biggest flower in the world and only blooms for 6 days every 5 years and I was lucky enough to see it in full bloom! This personally felt like a bucket list moment and I was thanking my stars for having taken this trip.
After the mesmerizing view of the Rafflesia, we headed towards our intended destination. We stopped by for a local lunch near the Hot Springs. Borneo is also the second oldest rainforest in the world and I was dying to try out cuisines prepared using local ingredients. Just as I thought the food was excellent and completely pampered my taste buds.
Hot Springs and more
Next, we finally headed towards the hot springs, where next to it was a canopy walk in between some of the world’s tallest and oldest trees. It didn’t feel scary at first but when you are actually walking on the bridge, you feel quite an adrenaline rush. There were 6 bridges in total and they kept getting longer and narrower as we moved from bridge to bridge.
After a tiring day full of walking around, we were super excited to have a relaxing time at the hot springs. The poring hot springs have both open air and private cabin baths. Here you can completely relax and soothe their aching muscles and bodies. Photography is not allowed here since people are taking baths. This also was the last part of our journey and we winded up after this to head back to our hotel.
In case you just have a day in Sabah, I would highly recommend doing this tour. It is one of the best tours to experience the interior beauty of the Borneo Islands.