MUMBAI: For those who love a holiday in Malaysia offers a magical experience at two of its must-visit destinations – Sabah and Sarawak. Soak up the fun in these places, with their rich biodiversity, warm and hospitable culture, beautiful beaches, fabulous cuisine, and adventure around every bend. Situated on the beautiful island of Borneo, Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia. This is the place for never-before experiences, for here you’ll find the world’s largest flower – the Rafflesia, one of the highest mountains in South East Asia – Mount Kinabalu, and one of the world’s top diving sites – Sipadan Island. Mount Kinabalu – Kinabalu Park: This majestic mountain and extensive park is Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. The highest mountain in South-East Asia, Mount Kinabalu has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world’s highest Via Ferrata – a most thrilling mountain climbing experience.
A first-of-its-kind in Asia, Via Ferrata is a mountain route equipped with fixed cables, ladders, etc., which ensure the climb is safe for almost anyone. The avid mountain climber would truly appreciate the spectacular vistas and challenging trails at Mount Kinabalu. Kinabalu Park – a wonderland of ecological treasures – covers 754 sq km, and stands 1,585m above sea level. The eco-traveller would be amazed with the diversity of natural life here; over 5000 types of plants, 100 species of animals and 326 species of birds make this their home. A visit to the Poring Hot Springs, a natural health spa offering open-air Japanese-style baths, is highly recommended. The annual Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon draws participants from around the world. Sipadan Island: Jacques Cousteau, the world-renowned oceanographer, described Sipadan as ‘an untouched piece of art’. Divers across the globe have voted it as one of the top five dive sites in the world. Malaysia’s only oceanic island, it takes just 25 minutes to circle Sipadan on foot, and on the way, you’ll meet up with amazing crustaceans like the coconut crab.
Located at the heart of the Indo-Pacific Basin, it is one of the richest marine habitats in the world. Expert divers can enjoy fascinating sights of turtles, reef sharks and a thrilling 600m drop-off. There’s a large variety of tropical birds here, including sea eagles, kingfishers, sunbirds, starlings and wood pigeons. Tunku Abdul Rahman Park: Travel 20 minutes by speedboat from Kota Kinabalu, and you’re ready for a grand splash at this marine park. Made up of five islands, it’s a paradise for swimming, diving, snorkelling and parasailing. These idyllic islands – Manukan, Mamutik, Sulug, Gaya and Sapi – are blessed with soft white sands, rich underwater life and fabulous coral reefs. One of the things you must do here is to go ‘seawalking’ among fishes of every colour of the rainbow. On Gaya and Sapi, you can hike across intriguing jungle trails, where you may see the Megapode or Burung Tambun, a chicken lookalike with large feet which meows like a cat.
Pulau Tiga Marine Park: Pulau Tiga Island has been dubbed ‘Survivor Island’ as it is the main location for the popular TV programme ‘Survivor’. Small mud volcanoes are found here, spewing cool, mineral-rich mud. As it is reputed to be good for your skin, mud-bathing is a must-do activity. Nature-lovers will be fascinated with all this Park has to offer – from lush unspoiled jungles to scenic landscapes, powder-like sands and crystal clear waters. Among the coral reefs, you’ll find innumerable species of fish and other marine life. Above water, you can enjoy diving, non-motorised water sports, trekking and bird-watching. Turtle Island Park: This Park lies in the Sulu Sea off the east coast of Sabah and comprises three small islands, Selingan, Gulisan and Bakungan Kechil. Selingan – the largest – houses the Park’s headquarters, a turtle hatchery and tourist accommodation. The other two are mainly for conservation activities. Green and Hawksbill turtles are the main attractions and you get to watch the turtle landings after dusk.