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, who 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.

CELEBRATIONS

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!

It’s generally safe and easy to travel in Sabah. Most Sabahans are multilingual and are able to speak at least three languages – Bahasa Malaysia- the national language – English and their mother tongue. Chinese (Hakka) is also widely spoken. Most street signs are in Bahasa Malaysia. For ease of navigation, Jalan (Jln) means Street, Kampung (Kg) Village, and Bandar and Pekan means small towns. Sabahans are very friendly and if you need help getting around, just stop and ask someone and 99% of the time you will be greeted with a big smile. Self-drive holidays are also easy as the road systems to all major destinations are well maintained and road signs are very clear.

Some Helpful Tips:-

CLIMATE AND CLOTHING

Sabah has an equatorial climate. Temperatures rarely rise above 32 ° C (90 ° F) except on exceptionally hot days, and along the coastal areas rarely drop below 20 ° C (68 ° F) at night. Although in the interior and at higher altitudes it can get quite cold at night. The relative humidity is usually 85-95 percent.

Rainfall is common throughout the year and varies from about 150 cm (60 inches) to over 450 cm (180 inches) per year. In most parts of Sabah, the wetter period (or rainy season) occurs during the North-East Monsoon from October to February and the drier season during the South West Monsoon from March to September, but often there is no sharp division between the two. It is sufficient to say that overall, sunny blue skies are the norm but when it rains, the heavens open.

Living in a tropical climate, we dress very informally (e.g. lightweight linens & cottons, T-shirt, shorts, jeans). For dinners and nightspots, smart casual wear is the norm. Either safari suits or lounge suits are acceptable for business meetings. Topless or completely naked sunbathing is not allowed.

CURRENCY

Most hotels and establishments accept credit or charge cards such as VISA, American Express, Master Card and Diners Club.  Travellers’ cheques may be encashed at major hotels and are accepted by all banks, hotels & major department stores. There are money changer kiosks available at major shopping malls and the airport. Most major hotels charge a nominal fee for currency conversion. Withdrawals from ATMs are also available at banks.

One Malaysian Ringgit (RM 1) is made up of 100 sen. Currency notes are issued in denominations of RM 100, RM 50, RM 20, RM 10, RM 5 and RM 2. Coins are in denominations of 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 sen.

MAJOR CREDIT CARDS AND CHARGE CARDS

The MasterCard, VISA, Diners Club, American Express – These credit cards and charge cards are accepted in almost all departmental stores, petrol stations, restaurants and supermarkets.

LOCAL TIME

The standard Malaysian time is 8 hours ahead of GMT (GMT +8).

BANKING HOURS

Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 03:30 pm
Saturday: 09:30 am to 11:30 am (every 1st and 3rd Sat / month is a bank holiday)
Sunday: Closed
Public Holiday: Closed

BUSINESS HOURS

Government offices and most statutory bodies:
Monday to Thursday: 8:00 am to 12:45 pm, 2:00 pm to 04:15 pm
Friday: 8:00 am to 11:30 am
Saturday: 8:00 am to 12:45 pm (closed on 1st and 3rd Saturday every month)
Sunday: Closed
Public Holiday: Closed

SHOPPING

Shopping malls and supermarkets are generally open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Restaurants are open daily from as early as 8:30 am to 12 midnight. Mini markets open from 8 am to 10 pm.

ELECTRICITY AND WATER

Electricity and piped water are available in urban areas and outlying towns. Other remote areas rely on kerosene lamps for lighting and stream or well water for drinking and washing. Electric current is on a 240 Volts AC / 50-Cycle system using a square 3-pin plug. Visitors are advised against drinking unboiled water.

MEDICAL SERVICES

Government hospitals, clinics and pharmacies are available in all towns. However, those with specific and special needs are advised to have a good supply of their own medication. Those intending to visit remote areas are advised to take anti-malaria medication.

BARGAINING

Most prices of retail (except for departmental stores) items can be bargained. Try out your skills!

TIPPING

Food and beverages in restaurants, cafes and clubs as well as accommodations normally include a 6% service charge to the bill. Tipping is not obligatory in most places.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Country Code: (60). Outgoing international code: (00). IDD is available. Sabahoffers efficient modern telephone, telex, telegraph and airmail communications both internally and globally. International cables or telegrams may be sent from any post office in Sabah. Telephone service is dependable and quick. Public phones are scarcely available in most places as everyone can afford to purchase a sim-card pack from any mobile telecommunications store.

For wireless communications, Sabah’s international roaming for most wireless GSM and PCN phone systems. Private GSM phone systems are:

  • Celcom Mobile – offering the widest mobile coverage in Malaysia with a variety of products and services. Code (019 / 013) Statewide coverage (Prepaid and postpaid basis)
  • Maxis Mobile – operating a nationwide GSM900 mobile network, a domestic fixed network and an international gateway. Code (012 / 017) Major towns coverage (Prepaid and postpaid basis)
  • Digi 1800 – providing a comprehensive range of affordable, convenient and easy to use wireless services. Code (016 /014) Major towns coverage (Prepaid and postpaid basis)

Internet services are widely available throughout Sabah. Most lodges and budget hotels offer Wi-Fi or high-speed broadband internet access and all major hotels have excellent facilities. Or go around the block in KK and you will be able to find internet cafes that provide access to the net to check your emails and surf the net. In internet cafes, charges are as low as MYR2.50 per hour.

LANGUAGES

Bahasa Malaysia is the National language. English is widely spoken and understood. Other languages are Mandarin Chinese, Hakka, Cantonese and Kadazan.

TRANSPORTATION

Traffic drives on the left and signposting are easy to understand. Taxis are easily available at the airports and at hotels, as well as from many places downtown. Kota Kinabalu airport has a taxi service counter with fixed prices. Elsewhere, you are advised to fix the fare before getting into the taxi (in Sabah, taxis have no meter!). A number of local car rentals operate in Kota Kinabalu and are represented in most of the major hotels. Boats service the offshore islands. Malaysia Airlines has an extensive route network throughout Peninsular Malaysia & Sabah/Sarawak.

Do have a ready list of your passport, travel insurance policy and credit card numbers, emergency and other essential phone numbers. Make two photocopies of your travel documents, air tickets and travel insurance policy. Carry one copy with you at all times for identification purposes, whenever necessary. Make sure you have another photo ID besides your passport and keep it separately from your travel documents.

It is advisable to keep at least two recent colour passport-sized photographs handy to facilitate quick processing in case of lost travel documents in foreign countries.

SAFETY MEASURES

DO register with embassy of your home country or consulate upon arrival especially if you travel to an area where there has been civil war communal violence, kidnapping or terrorist attacks.

  1. DON’T take photographs of police stations, military installations, government buildings, airports, ports or train stations without first determining whether photography is allowed. If in doubt, ask uniformed personnel or security guards for permission before taking any photographs.
  2. DON’T discuss personal matters with strangers, including your itinerary, place of lodging or mode of transportation.
  3. DON’T take short cuts or go off well-traveled roads. Avoid walking alone at night.
  4. DO select your own taxi cabs at random or take those that are booked through the hotel. DON’T take a vehicle that is not clearly identified as a taxi. Compare the face of the driver with a photo on his or her displayed license. DO always keep small denominations of the local currency handy for various tips, bus tickets or taxi fares and phone calls.
  5. DON’T accept food or drink from strangers. Would-be criminals often try to drug their victims through food and drink. DO carry your own bottled water.
  6. DO ensure that your entire check-in luggage has your name and permanent home address on them. DO ensure the airline check-in staffs tags your bags correctly before you the check-in counter.