Why Kota Kinabalu should be in your 2012 travel list
The modern city of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, the Malaysian Borneo, offers travellers a wide variety of landscapes from beaches and virgin coral reefs to lush tropical rainforests. Here are five reasons why the city should be in your travel list this year:
1. Mount Kinabalu
Southeast Asia’s highest peak and the 20th most prominent mountain in the world, Mount Kinabalu, is located only 30 minutes away by bus from the city center. The mountain stands 4,095 meters or 13,435 feet in the middle of Kinabalu National Park, the first Malaysian Unesco World Heritage Site. Kinabalu National Park is one of the most popular ecotourist destinations in the region and is considered an important biodiversity site with over 4,500 species.
Mount Kinabalu offers climbers a challenging trek or a relaxing hike for those who prefer a more leisurely pace. It is the venue for ‘the world’s toughest mountain race’, the Mount Kinabalu International Marathon, which will be held this year on Oct. 14.
2. Exotic wildlife
Developed by the Sabah Wildlife and Forestry Department, the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Kota Kinabalu has devoted 70 hectares to the preservation of the endangered animals of Borneo, as well as the education of the public on the importance of wildlife rehabilitation and conservation. It has a “primate zone” which features exotic wildlife including orangutans and proboscis monkeys (named so for their prominent bulbous noses). The park also houses an aviary where a variety of endemic bird species has called it their home.
For birdwatchers, the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Center, located just a mile away from the city center, has recorded sightings of more than 80 species of birds.
Only 15 minutes away from the city via speedboat, the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park is composed of five small islands and undamaged coral reefs and is popular among tourists and locals alike for snorkelling, diving and relaxation. Lying in shallow waters with gentle currents, the reefs are ideal for novice divers, and the rare marine creatures that inhabit them will interest even the most experienced divers and underwater photographers. Among the marine life that have been spotted here include the scorpion fish, blue-spotted rays, cuttlefish, mantis shrimps, green or hawksbill turtle, and sometimes the exotic harlequin ghost pipefish and mandarin fish.
4. Rich local culture
The Mari-Mari Cultural Village features the traditional homes of the Sabahan ethnic communities: Bajau, Lundayeh, Murut, Rungus and Dusun. The ingenious and unique architecture of the houses and ritualistic ceremonies that are regularly performed by the villagers let visitors get acquainted with the rich culture of ancient Borneo. Travellers can also witness tribesmen demonstrating the art of blowpipe-making, fire-starting using bamboo, and tattoo-making, as well as learn about the mystical symbolisms attached to them. The village is located in the remote Kionsam, Inanam, about 25 minutes away from the city.
First-time travellers must try the lat zi hai (crab in hot and spicy sauce), butter prawns, kam heong la la (stir-fried fragrant clams) and sayur manis or fern cooked with belacan (prawn paste) at a floating seafood restaurant located only 10 minutes away from the city center.
At other restaurants, guests have the option to choose their crabs, shellfish, lobsters and fish from the tank to be served directly on their table.
South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) is offering roundtrip flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 15:05-17:05 for Clark-Kota Kinabalu and 17:35-19:35 for Kota Kinabalu-Clark. To book flights, passengers can log on to www.FlySeair.com or www.tigerairways.com.