You can reach Kota Belud from KK in just a little over an hour. Before you arrive in Kota Belud you will drive through Tuaran, home of the Lotud community and an intriguing little rural town travellers to Sabah often don’t even really notice. Yet it is home to a vibrant Sunday ‘tamu’ and a variety of local restaurants offering mouth-watering specilities such as the famous ‘Tuaran Noodles’! There are also a a few local pottery factories which are well worth a visit. Do also drop by at the Rothman’s Batik ‘factory’ just outside of Tuaran and experience how traditional batik is manufactured.

Nearby is the famous Mengkabong water village to which some operators offer excursions. The wide estuary of the Mengkabong River is still rich in Mangroves, and ideal for crab-catching and river cruises. Along the way into Tuaran, you will see water buffaloes everywhere, and you must drive carefully (especially at night) as they often tend to feel the road is their use and not yours. Some 5-star resorts such as the Nexus Karambunai Resort, the Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort and the Sabandar Bay are located along the Tuaran and Karambunai Beaches. A number of smaller but equally interesting tourism centres such as the Borneo Kelly’s Bay and the Tanjung Badak Resort are also located here.

Kota Belud is a quaint rural town full of life, and renowned for its people, the Bajau “cowboys” who are Sabah’s only horsemen and famed for their rearing and handling of horses (see also under above ‘Tamu’ icon). Kota Belud is also home to one of Sabah’s most famous and colourful weekly ‘tamu’. The word ‘tamu’ actually means “meeting place”, and even today it is as much a market as a local gathering where traders from the surrounding areas come together to discuss the latest events. Visitors will find many of Sabah’s handicrafts here, muddled up with betel nut stalls, exotic fruits, vegetables, dried and fresh fish, sarongs, pots and pans and even electrical items from Taiwan.

Once a year, Kota Belud hosts the Tamu Besar – an annual event where people flock to this quaint district to join in the festivities. It is a time when traders come out in full force with their best goods and the local residents highlight the colourful cultures of Kota Belud.

Local typical handicraft: richly carved parangs (machetes); colourful food-covers, mats and bags made from screw pine leaves and rattan/bamboo carrier baskets and mats as well as some beadwork (usually sold by the Rungus from Kudat).


  • Tamu (Sundays)
  • Colorful Horse Riders
  • Cultural potpourri


  • Shop for souvenirs at the Tamu
  • Grab some mouth-watering local delights