FROM scaling South-East Asia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, to white water rafting, Sabah, the Land Below the Wind, is the perfect back-to-nature holiday destination.
Survival of the fittest
Ever heard of the Kiulu 4M Challenge? This exciting annual event will be held on Dec 7 in Kiulu, a small town situated in the Tamparuli district, some 90 minutes from Kota Kinabalu. It attracts participants from all over the world.
In the Kadazandusun language, the four Ms stand for manangkus, mamangkar, manampatau, and mamarampanau – four of the indigenous sports-cum-survival skills of the natives.
Manangkus means running. In this event, participants have to run 5km before arriving at the Kiulu Rafting Point; mamangkar is bamboo rafting, not easy, especially the rough areas of the Kiulu River; manampatau requires participants to drift downriver with the help of a length of bamboo; and mamarampanau is walking a certain distance on bamboo stilts.
Fifteen winners from each of the nine age categories, which include Junior Boys (15 years and below), Women's Open (16 years and above), and Mixed Open (one man, one woman, over 16 years old), will receive cash prizes.
Participants can choose to either compete as a team or win the race single-handedly. To take part, download the entry form at www.geocities.com/k4mc/index.html and submit it before the closing date, Dec 2.
A trip to Sabah is not complete without doing some hiking, and Sabah has three of the highest mountains in Malaysia, including Mount Trusmadi and Mount Tamboyukon.
Mount Kinabalu, the highest and most impressive at 4,095m, is also the most accessible. Every year, thousands endure the arduous two-day climb to the summit to witness the spectacular sunrise on Low’s Peak. On a clear day you can see as far as the coastline and the second highest mountain, Mount Trusmadi, in the distance.
There are two trails to the summit of Kinabalu that takes you through a changing landscape of mossy forest and dwarf trees stunted by high winds sweeping across the mountain to the barren granite summit plateau.
Every climber needs to register. Malaysian children aged below 18 will be required to pay a fee of RM12 per climber and those above 18 will be charged RM30 per person.
As the holiday season is usually its peak season, you will need to book at least three weeks in advance. Only a limited number of hikers are allowed to climb the mountain everyday, with native guides. (Note: the peak has limited legroom).
Upon reaching the peak, you can look forward to receiving a Certificate of Completion. Cuti-cuti Malaysia offers a number of packages, such as 3D/2N Mount Kinabalu Summit from RM775 per person (minimum four persons). For booking and reservations, call 03-3343 2884 or fax 03-3344 8087. Alternatively, you can check out www.cuticuti.com.myfor other exciting packages.
Sabah Tea Plantation
Nestled in the lush tropical wilderness of Malaysia’s first ever World Heritage Site, the Sabah Tea Plantation is spread over 2,480ha at 690m above sea level. It is surrounded by the world’s oldest rainforest of about 130 million years.
Situated in Ranau, nearby the Kinabalu National Park and Poring Hot Springs, the plantation is the largest single commercial tea plantation in Borneo.
A special educational tour of the plantation promises an enlightening experience for students, teachers and parents.
For reservations or enquiries, call 088-440882, fax 088-440883/ 423448 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Borneo adventure sports
The Night Carlota's Borneo Adventure Sports is a special 4D/3N package custom-made for students.
Main attractions include trekking, canoeing, rafting, and actually making the bamboo raft. To find out more, call Malaysian Travel Business at 03-2163 0162, fax 03-2162 9439 or e-mail: email@example.com
White water rafting
Padas and Kiulu are the two most popular rivers for white water rafting. To get to Padas, you have to travel part of your journey on the only public railway, which is still in service in the whole island of Borneo. Enjoy this journey that takes you through the rugged countryside of south-eastern Sabah, then embark on a roller-coaster ride through rapids with names such as Headhunter, Adrenaline Flow, Merry-Go-Round.
Kiulu is a gentler river with some pretty good rapids and great scenery. Ideal for beginners and perfect for a half-day trip.
The Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary is one of Sabah's finest attractions. There are only four centres of its kind in the world, home to endangered primates in their natural habitat.
Upon arrival at Sandakan, take the Sepilok Batu 14 bus service from the central mini-bus terminal in front of Nak Hotel. You will be heading 25km northeast to the sanctuary where you can watch the orang utan playing or being fed. You can also enjoy a walk through lush tropical jungle.
This well conserved 10,000ha tropical lowland rainforest sanctuary where scores of the primate roam and mate freely has been visited by world figures like Prince Philip and former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The best times to watch them at close range are at 10am and 2.30pm, when at least a dozen of them emerge for the twice-daily feeding of milk and bananas.
About an hour's road trip from Sandakan lies another primate centre in the middle of a mangrove swamp – the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary.
Visitors can see the monkeys leaping from the treetops to a platform when they come for their meals and hang around for a good 30 minutes or so before disappearing into the forest again.
For enquiries on student packages at the Sepilok Centre, call 089-531180, fax: 089-531189 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
For Labuk Bay, call 089-230708 (sanctuary), 089-672133 (office), fax 089-672136 or e-mail email@example.com
Poring Hot Springs
The Poring hot springs are a welcome respite after a day's trekking. It is part of the vast Kinabalu National Park, about 40km from the park headquarters in Kundasang. First developed by the Japanese during World War II, the spring's sulphuric hot water is piped into open-air Japanese-style baths.
While you're there, check out the Canopy Walkway – a 140m suspension bridge, anchored by three giant trees high above the forest floor. The walkway offers a unique glimpse of the flora and fauna of the lowland rainforest.
There are also trails for more serious trekking, such as the Langanan Waterfall trail which passes by bat caves. If you take this often steep trail, do let the park rangers know.
Poring offers pleasant chalets with cooking facilities, and some hostels for budget travellers.
To get to Poring, Tuaran United Transport runs a daily bus service between Kota Kinabalu and Ranau, stopping at the park headquarters. It departs from the Kota Kinabalu bus station at 7.30am and the journey takes two hours. The fare is RM8.50 each way.
National parks are plentiful throughout Sabah and each is unique in its own way.
One of the Survivor series was filmed in Pulau Tiga National Park. There's plenty to see and do there, including fishing and visiting mud volcanoes.
Sabah’s parks are national treasures, with some of the world's oldest rainforests.
The Regatta Lepa has been celebrated every year in December since 1994 to commemorate the Bajau tradition of building splendid boats (lepa) from red seraya wood.
The lepa is believed to have originated from the fishing community on Bum Bum Island and was used by the Pa’alau people along the Semporna coast.
Semporna comes to life as the colourful sails take to the sea to compete for the prize of the most beautiful lepa. Judging is based on the boat's decoration, as well as ethnic music and dances performed on board.
Other attractions at the regatta include sea sports such as rowing, sailing and kelleh-kelleh (small dugout boat) competitions, lepa tug-of-war, swimming and duck catching contests.
Monsopiad Cultural Village
The Monsopiad Cultural Village is located about 13km from Kota Kinabalu in the Penampang district. It commemorates the legendary exploits of Monsopiad, a great warrior of the Kadazandusun people, who lived 250 years ago.
For RM25, you get a guided tour of the 1.2ha village in which everything has a story to it. You can also meet the direct descendants of Monsopiad and hear for yourself some of the stories and legends.
Don't miss the House of Skulls, which displays 42 of Monsopiad's many “trophies”, taken from pirates, plunderers and tribal warriors. And stop by at the Spirit Tree and the burial ground of Latana, a famous Kadazan priestess.
This month, the cultural village will hold a beads exhibition. Replicas of ancient beadworks will be on sale, as well as modern and fashionable beaded jewellery.
From Dec 6 to 27, catch re-enactments of a traditional Kadazan wedding every weekend.
Other attractions within the village are the Moyog River hanging bridge, Monsopiad Museum, traditional Kadazan rice barn, padi farming and a souvenir shop. Jungle trek to Ceremonial Hill where the Monsopiad and Bobohizans (pagan priestesses) used to perform ritual ceremonies.
For more information on tours and packages, call Borneo Legends Myths and Tours at 088-761336, fax 088-761680 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Island excursions take you to some of the most beautiful islands and beaches off the coast of Sabah where you can do absolutely nothing but enjoy the sunshine and sea breeze, or go swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving. Water sports are popular and equipment is available for rent on most islands.
The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, about 3km off Kota Kinabalu, comprises five islands surrounded by coral reefs. They are Pulau Gaya, Pulau Manukan, Pulau Mamutik, Pulau Sapi and Pulau Sulug.
If you enjoy turtle watching, head to Turtle Islands Park, comprising Pulau Selingan, Pulau Bakkungan Kecil and Pulau Gulisan. The park is famous for its Green and Hawksbill turtles, which lay their eggs on the beaches of the islands throughout the year.
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