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Malaysian Borneo: Sabah Highlights

Diving, climbing, eating, wildlife and getting to know the wonderful people in Sabah

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Welcome to Malaysia, Craig David Parsons

Wow, it's a month already since I left freezing Melbourne for the tropical jungle of Malaysian Borneo.
First stop was Kota Kinabalu, and it was pretty fast paced for the next 4 weeks from there: exploring, diving, climbing, eating wonderful food, getting a little bit sick and meeting terrific people.
In KK I stayed at Masada Backpackers - if you go to KK I recommend it!
Facilities are the bees knees, it's super clean and the food is divine!
On my first day I decided to book an action packed itinerary - whitewater rafting, diving, Mt Kinabalu climb, etc.
When I told the booking agent my name, she asked "Craig? Like Craig David?" .....even in Malaysia!!! proper bo

Here are my highlights from Borneo

Kota Kinabalu

The "capital" of Sabah. A really nice place to visit - lovely people and a lot of diversity: Christian and Buddhist Chinese, Muslim Malays and Hindu Indians. Lots of lovely food - everywhere!

Padas River Whitewater Rafting

The train ride through the mountains is nearly as exciting as the rafting itself, weaving through the jungle mountains on a rickety old train.
Exciting.
The Padas river has level 3 and 4 rapids, which means pretty fast and busy.
The experience itself was wonderful, my group didn't capsize, but came close a couple of times as we steered through the rapids!
Where the water was deep, we were allowed to swim through, but floating on our backs, with feet up/forward. Lots of fun, but lots of water up the nose.
For the last rapid, I hung from the front of the boat, which was very gnarly indeed!
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Mantanani Island

This is the tropical island that you see on ads. Crystal clear blue water, white sandy beaches, (literally) no-one around.
I took a speedboat over with new pals from the hotel, Darren and Xui and we stayed at Mari Mari resort.
Basically 6 elevated huts and a mess/hall restaurant - r i g h t o n t h e b e a c h!

The dive centre servicing the areas, is a huge facility built on stilts out in the ocean. Absolutely fantastic
Did 3 dives at various sites, with visibility of (and I'm not kidding) 40 metres plus.
Saw turtles, barracuda, black tip sharks, nudie brands, everything. Super duper!
Mantanani.jpg

Mt Kinabalu

This was H A R D yakka!
Xui and I were driving to the Mountain by the owner of Masada where we met our guide for the journey!
The first part of the trek is 6 kilometers of pretty grueling trekking on (at times) very steep gradient)
The scenery was so very lush and nice, though it can be hard to focus on such beauty as you dig deep to press on.
I have to say the vibe amongst trekkers was really positive and fun, which helped a lot!
On the way up, you meet hikers on their way down, giving very mixed accounts of what to expect!
At the 6km point we reached our stopping point for food, shower, and rest - before the big part.

There is no hot water at the lodge, and with temps down to about 16 degrees, the cold shower was tough, but invigorating.
My trainer at home reckons cold water is just as good, if not better for the muscles to recover - and indeed it helped.
A quick dinner (nice food) and then straight to bed (a little narc'd on altitude too - whoop).

At 1:50am we rose again for a quick brekkie and straight on to conquering the peak of Mt Kinabalu.
The last 2.5kms of the trek are the toughest.
Much of the finale requires you to pull yourself up via ropes, and it you are at all squeamish about heights, then it may be a bit scary.

In the final 200 metres, you start humming to Rocky soundtrack (doo-doo dooooooo!) and get to the peak. Amazing!!!!
So cold (-1 Celsius), but so worth it.
As dawn breaks over the mountain, you become in total awe of nature - it's enormity, beauty and power.
Definitely a life highlight.

At the top:
Kinabalu_top.jpg

On the way down:
Kinabalu_morning.jpg

Climbing down was definitely harder than going up - the legs are exhausted and you kinda slump your way down.
AT the end my calves were pretty destroyed, though proud of themselves too :-)

Kinabatangan River

This is the Borneo that you hear about: wild oran-utans playing on the banks of the river (we saw plenty), promiscus monkeys, playing in the tree tops, bats, giant lizards, etc.
I stayed at Billit Kinabangan - and was the only guest - so I got a private boat tour, and night explore/hike. Was truly spectacular!
Froggy having some chill time:
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Dramatic Kinabatangan at dawn:
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Diving: Mabul, Sipadan, Kapali

This also falls into the 'life highlight" category!!
I had to take the bus down to Semporna (Lonely Planet describes this town as "no great shakes" - a total understatement), and then meet my group for the speedboat across to Seaventures Dive Resort; a converted oil rig which is like divers heaven - right in the middle of some of the best dives sites in the world (and Jacques Cousteu's absolute favourite).
I stayed for 3 nights, where we did 3 dives at Sipadan, 2 at Mabul and 1 and Kapali. All sites are amazing in their own right, but Sipadan takes the cake. Malaysian Government mandates the folks need a permit for Sipadan, and rations are low. This means that it isn't crowded when you are lucky enough to get in.
Truly spectacular.
The food, organisation, accommodation and service on Seaventures is outstanding too. I'll never forget the experience!

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Photos
Feel free to check out all my photos from Sabah.
(Note: they are Facebook links, however you don't need to have a Facebook account or be my FB friend to access)

Sabah Gallery 1
Sabah Gallery 2

Posted by SkinnyFists 05:08 Archived in Malaysia Tagged food diving wildlife jungles mountain_climbing oran_utans

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