April 16, 2024
10 min read

A Practical Guide to Sabah Travel Tips: Planning Your Trip

A Practical Guide to Sabah Travel Tips: Planning Your Trip
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Nasalis Larvatus Tours
July 17, 2024

If you're planning a trip to Sabah, here are the key sabah travel tips to ensure a smooth and enriching experience. Sabah, a treasure trove of biodiversity, offers everything from climbing Mount Kinabalu, diving in the turquoise waters of Sipadan, to wildlife safaris along the Kinabatangan River. It's a paradise for adventurers and nature lovers alike.

  • Ensure you get vaccinated before your trip.
  • Carry anti-malarial medication and insect repellent to protect against malaria and dengue fever.
  • Drink only bottled water and avoid bushmeat.
  • Respect local customs and dress modestly.
  • Opt for comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical evacuation.

Planning a journey to Sabah, Malaysia, requires attention to health, safety, and local customs. This introduction will guide you through essential tips, from vaccinations to travel insurance, ensuring your visit is both enjoyable and safe. Sabah's natural wonders await, but it's vital to prepare adequately for this adventure of a lifetime.

Infographic detailing quick Sabah travel tips including health precautions, safety advice, and respecting local customs. - sabah travel tips infographic pillar-4-steps

Planning Your Sabah Itinerary


To fully experience the wonders of Sabah, allocate at least one to two weeks for your visit. This allows ample time to explore diverse attractions, from rainforests and mountains to vibrant cities and cultural festivals. Shorter trips can focus on specific areas, but a longer stay offers a broader experience of Sabah's natural and cultural richness.


Sabah is a treasure trove of natural wonders and cultural experiences. Key attractions include:

  • Mount Kinabalu: A must-visit for adventurers. Climbing this majestic mountain offers breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Sipadan Island: Recognized as one of the world's top dive sites, it's a paradise for underwater enthusiasts.
  • Danum Valley: Explore one of the world's oldest rainforests, teeming with Borneo wildlife.
  • Kota Kinabalu (KK): The city is not just a gateway but a vibrant hub of culture, cuisine, and coastal beauty.

Each of these destinations embodies the essence of Sabah, offering unique experiences from adventurous treks and dives to cultural immersion and relaxation.

Nature Lodge Kinabatangan

For an immersive experience in Sabah's wildlife, the Nature Lodge Kinabatangan (NLK) is an exceptional choice. Situated along the Kinabatangan River, this lodge provides a perfect base for exploring the surrounding biodiversity, including river cruises and wildlife safaris where you can spot orangutans, pygmy elephants, and exotic birds in their natural habitat.

  • Day 1: Start with an evening river cruise to witness the vibrant wildlife along the Kinabatangan River.
  • Day 2: Embark on a morning river cruise followed by a jungle trek or a visit to the Ox-Bow Lake. An evening cruise offers another chance to explore different areas of the river.
  • Day 3: Enjoy one last river cruise in the early morning fog before saying goodbye to the lodge staff.

Planning Tips

  1. Start Early: Book flights and accommodations well in advance, especially if traveling during peak seasons (Nov-Jan and Jun-Aug).
  2. Local Events: Consider aligning your visit with cultural events like the Kaamatan Celebration or the Lepa-Lepa Water Festival for a richer experience.
  3. Stay Flexible: Weather and unexpected events can affect travel plans. Keep some flexibility in your itinerary for such instances.
  4. Health Precautions: Follow recommended health and safety tips, including vaccinations and malaria prevention measures.

In planning your Sabah itinerary, balance your time between adventure, cultural experiences, and relaxation. Whether scaling Mount Kinabalu, diving in Sipadan, or unwinding at Nature Lodge Kinabatangan, Sabah offers a journey into the heart of Borneo's unparalleled natural beauty and cultural tapestry. Prepare to be captivated by the land below the wind, where every day brings a new adventure and a deeper appreciation for this magnificent corner of the world.

Best Time to Visit Sabah

Sabah is a year-round destination, each season offering its own unique experiences. However, knowing the best time to visit can enhance your experience, especially if you're planning specific activities like diving or turtle nesting. Let's break it down:

Dry Season (March to September)

  • Ideal for Outdoor Adventures: The dry season is perfect for exploring Sabah's rich landscapes. Whether you're climbing Mount Kinabalu or trekking through Danum Valley, less rainfall means trails are more accessible and views are clearer.
  • Beach Time: This is also a great time for beach lovers to soak up the sun on Sabah's pristine beaches or visit islands like Sipadan for world-class snorkeling and diving.

Wet Season (November to January)

  • Rich Greenery: The wet season brings rain, which nourishes the rainforests, making them lush and vibrant. It's a fantastic time for photographers and nature lovers to witness Sabah's jungles in their full glory.
  • Waterfalls: This is the best time to see Sabah's waterfalls at their most powerful. Just be prepared for occasional rain showers during your adventures.

Diving (April to June)

  • Sipadan Island: Considered one of the world's top diving sites, the best visibility and calmest waters around Sipadan are typically from April to June. This period is ideal for encountering a diverse range of marine life in crystal clear waters.

Turtle Nesting (July to August)

  • Unique Wildlife Experience: For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, visit during turtle nesting season. Places like Selingan Turtle Island offer the opportunity to witness turtles laying eggs and baby turtles hatching and making their way to the sea.

Stargazing (April to September)

  • Clear Skies: The dry season's clear skies provide perfect conditions for stargazing. Sabah's remote areas, free from light pollution, offer breathtaking views of the Milky Way and other celestial wonders.

Pro Tip: While anytime is a good time to visit Sabah, consider what you want to do most. For diving and beach activities, aim for the dry season. If you're into lush landscapes and don't mind a bit of rain, the wet season could be ideal. Sabah's weather can be unpredictable, so always be prepared for a change in plans.

In summary, Sabah's diverse climates cater to a wide range of activities and experiences throughout the year. Whether you're planning to dive into the deep blue, trek through ancient rainforests, or simply relax at Nature Lodge Kinabatangan, choosing the right season can make your trip even more memorable. Keep these tips in mind as you plan your journey to this enchanting part of Borneo. Next, we'll explore how to get around in Sabah to make the most of your visit.

Getting Around in Sabah

Navigating Sabah is an adventure in itself, offering various modes of transport that cater to every traveler's needs. Whether you're hopping on a plane to witness the majestic Mount Kinabalu or boarding a boat to explore the serene islands, each mode of transport provides a unique way to see Sabah. Here's how you can get around:

Air Transit

Sabah is well-connected by air, especially through the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), which is the second busiest in Malaysia. It serves as a gateway to many domestic and international destinations. For those looking to explore the eastern parts of Sabah or to visit the Nature Lodge Kinabatangan, domestic flights are convenient and save a lot of travel time. Airlines like Air Asia and MASwings offer frequent flights to major towns and cities within Sabah.


Buses in Sabah are a cost-effective way to travel between cities and towns. They offer a closer look at the local life and scenic views along the way. While the comfort level may vary, the experience is genuinely local. For longer distances, consider booking with reputable bus companies to ensure a safer and more comfortable journey.


Taxis are readily available, especially in urban areas like Kota Kinabalu. They're a convenient option for short distances or if you're traveling with luggage. However, it's always a good idea to agree on the fare before starting your journey or insist on using the meter to avoid overcharging.


Sabah's islands are among its most enchanting attractions, and boats are the primary mode of transport to these remote paradises. Regular boat services are available to popular destinations like the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park and Selingan Turtle Island. For an authentic experience, consider a river cruise along the Kinabatangan River, where you can spot wildlife in their natural habitat from the comfort of your boat.


The Sabah State Railway provides a unique travel experience, offering a glimpse into the heart of Borneo with its scenic train rides. The train connects Kota Kinabalu to the southern parts of Sabah, including stops like Beaufort and Tenom. It's a slower mode of transport but offers a different perspective of Sabah's lush landscapes and rural settings.

Getting around Sabah offers a mix of modern convenience and adventurous exploration. Whether you're soaring in the skies or cruising along rivers, each mode of transport presents a new facet of Sabah's beauty. Planning and local knowledge can enhance your travel experience, so don't hesitate to ask for advice or tips from locals or your hosts at Nature Lodge Kinabatangan. Next, we'll dive into the must-visit destinations that make Sabah a jewel in Malaysia's crown.

Must-Visit Destinations in Sabah

Sabah is a treasure trove of natural wonders, cultural experiences, and unforgettable adventures. Here, we highlight the must-visit destinations that showcase the best of what Sabah has to offer. From towering mountains to enchanting underwater worlds, each site promises a unique journey.

Kinabalu Park

Revered as the crown jewel of Sabah, Kinabalu Park is a World Heritage Site that is home to the majestic Mount Kinabalu. Standing at 4095 meters, it's not just a challenge for climbers but a sanctuary for a diverse range of flora and fauna. The park offers various trails that cater to all fitness levels, allowing everyone to enjoy its breathtaking landscapes and cool climate. The climb requires planning and booking in advance, as spots fill up quickly.

Sipadan Island

For diving enthusiasts, Sipadan Island is a paradise. Known as one of the world's top diving spots, its crystal-clear waters are teeming with vibrant marine life, colorful coral gardens, and intriguing underwater landscapes. Due to conservation efforts, daily diving slots are limited, so ensure you book your spot early to experience this underwater wonder.

Danum Valley

Danum Valley is a pristine rainforest, untouched by human development, offering an authentic jungle experience. It's a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, where you can spot Bornean pygmy elephants, orangutans, and clouded leopards in their natural habitat. The conservation area provides guided tours and night safaris, enhancing your chances of wildlife sightings and learning about the rainforest's ecological importance.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

Just a short boat ride from Kota Kinabalu, Tunku Abdul Rahman Park comprises five islands offering a quick escape to sun, sea, and sand. It's perfect for day trips where you can snorkel in clear waters, relax on white sandy beaches, or explore forest trails. Each island has its charm, from the bustling activities of Manukan Island to the tranquility of Sulug Island.

Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

A visit to Sabah wouldn't be complete without meeting its most famous inhabitants – the orangutans. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre provides a rare opportunity to see these magnificent creatures up close. The center cares for orphaned and injured orangutans before releasing them back into the wild. Witnessing the feeding time is a heartwarming experience and offers great insight into the conservation efforts in Sabah.

Each of these destinations offers a glimpse into the natural beauty and biodiversity of Sabah. Whether you're scaling the heights of Kinabalu Park, diving into the depths of Sipadan, or trekking through ancient rainforests in Danum Valley, Sabah promises an adventure of a lifetime. Don't forget to respect the natural environment and local customs as you explore these wonders. Your journey through Sabah's must-visit destinations will leave you with memories to cherish and stories to tell.

Remember that Sabah is not just a place to visit but a world to discover. Let's ensure we tread lightly and appreciate the beauty and culture of this magnificent part of the world.

Cultural Insights and Etiquette in Sabah

Sabah is a melting pot of cultures, with a rich tapestry of traditions and practices. Understanding and respecting local customs and etiquette can greatly enhance your travel experience. Here are some essential cultural insights and etiquette tips to help you navigate through Sabah with ease and respect.

Dress Code

  • Modesty Matters: When visiting places of worship like mosques or temples, it's important to dress modestly. For women, this means covering your hair and wearing long skirts or pants to cover legs. Men should wear long pants and avoid sleeveless tops.
  • Beachwear: While Sabah is home to stunning beaches, save your swimsuits for the beach. Walking around town or visiting other sites in beachwear is not appropriate.

Local Customs

  • Shoes Off: It's a common practice to remove your shoes before entering someone's home, and sometimes even in certain shops and offices. Look out for shoes at the entrance as a clue to do the same.
  • Greetings: A gentle handshake is common, but wait for a woman to extend her hand first if you're a man. In some cases, a nod or smile is a respectful way to greet.
  • Eating Etiquette: When dining, it's polite to wait for the host to invite you to start eating. Also, using your right hand for eating and passing items is considered proper manners.

Religious Sensitivity

  • Respect Holy Places: When visiting religious sites, behave solemnly and follow any posted signs or instructions. Taking photos may be restricted, so look for signs or ask permission.
  • Ramadan: During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, be mindful that many Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. Eating, drinking, or smoking in public during daylight hours might be frowned upon.
  • Offering Food: Be aware that Muslims do not consume pork and Hindus typically avoid beef. Offering such items to someone of these faiths can be considered disrespectful.

Remembering these simple guidelines can go a long way in showing your respect for the local culture and traditions in Sabah. Your efforts to adapt and embrace these practices will not only enrich your travel experience but also help foster a sense of mutual respect and understanding. As you continue your journey through Sabah, carry these insights with you, and you'll find that the warmth and hospitality of the locals will make your adventure even more memorable.

Moving on, let's focus on some health and safety tips to keep in mind while exploring the natural beauty and diverse cultures of Sabah.

Health and Safety Tips for Travelers

When you're planning an adventure to Sabah, it's crucial to keep health and safety at the forefront of your preparations. Here's a straightforward guide to help you stay safe and healthy during your travels.


Before you pack your bags, a visit to your travel clinic is a must. Get vaccinated at least six to eight weeks before your trip. This timeline allows you to complete any series of shots you might need. Common recommendations include Typhoid, Hepatitis A and B, and routine vaccinations like measles/mumps/rubella and tetanus. And don't forget about COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters.

Malaria and Dengue Fever

Sabah's natural beauty comes with a catch - malaria and dengue fever. These diseases are spread by mosquitoes, so bringing along anti-malarial medication is wise. Also, use insect repellent and wear long sleeves and trousers, especially at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Tap Water

In Sabah, tap water is not safe to drink. Stick to bottled water or bring water purification tablets. Also, be cautious with ice in drinks and avoid unpeeled fruits and vegetables to prevent any stomach upsets.

Altitude Sickness

If climbing Mount Kinabalu is on your list, be aware of altitude sickness. The quick ascent over a short period can catch many off-guard. Watch out for symptoms like headache, nausea, and dizziness. Take it slow and give your body time to adjust.


Exploring the lowland jungles? You might meet some leeches. While they're more of a nuisance than a danger, wearing leech socks and tucking your trousers into your socks or boots can keep them at bay.

Heat and Hydration

Sabah's climate is hot and humid. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and don't forget to apply sunscreen to protect against sunburn. Heatstroke is a real risk, so take it easy during the hottest parts of the day.

A Few More Tips...

  • First Aid Kit: Always carry a basic first aid kit, especially if you're heading into remote areas. Include medication for sickness and diarrhea.
  • Travel Insurance: Make sure your travel insurance covers medical evacuation. If you're planning on diving, hiking, or engaging in other adventurous activities, check that these are covered too.
  • Air Pollution: Be aware of air pollution caused by forest fires, especially if you have respiratory problems. Check the air quality and consider wearing a mask in affected areas.

Preparation is key to enjoying your travels without unnecessary interruptions. By following these health and safety tips, you're setting yourself up for a fantastic and worry-free adventure in Sabah.

As we continue our journey through this guide, let's explore some of the must-visit destinations in Sabah that promise unforgettable experiences.


We've journeyed through the essentials of planning a trip to Sabah, from the best times to visit to navigating the local customs and ensuring your health and safety. Now, let's wrap up with a spotlight on a gem that embodies the spirit of Sabah's wild heart: Nature Lodge Kinabatangan.

Nestled in the lush landscapes of Sabah, Nature Lodge Kinabatangan offers an immersive experience into the heart of Borneo's incredible biodiversity. It's not just a place to stay; it's your gateway to adventure, wildlife sightings, and the rich tapestry of nature that Sabah is celebrated for. Whether you're a solo explorer, a family, or a group of friends, the lodge caters to all with its cozy dormitories and private chalets, ensuring a comfortable base amidst the wild.

Why Choose Nature Lodge Kinabatangan?

  • Wildlife Excursions: Embark on river cruises down the Kinabatangan River, where you can spot proboscis monkeys, orangutans, pygmy elephants, and a myriad of bird species in their natural habitat. These excursions are a testament to the lodge's commitment to offering authentic wildlife experiences.
  • Eco-Friendly Practices: Staying true to the essence of ecotourism, the lodge operates with sustainability in mind, ensuring that your visit contributes positively to the conservation efforts and the well-being of local communities.
  • Expert Guides: Our guides are not just knowledgeable; they're passionate about sharing the wonders of Sabah with you. They'll lead you on treks and tours, offering insights into the biodiversity and cultural heritage of the region.
  • Accessibility: Located close to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Rainforest Discovery Center, the lodge serves as an ideal base for exploring the broader wonders of Sabah.

For those looking to dive deeper into the heart of Sabah's wilderness, consider extending your adventure to the Tabin Wildlife Reserve. This unique destination offers even more opportunities to witness Borneo's wildlife up close, from night safaris to treks through virgin rainforests.

Embarking on Your Sabah Adventure

As we conclude this guide, Sabah is a land of extraordinary beauty and diversity. Planning your trip with these tips in mind will ensure a journey filled with awe-inspiring moments and deep connections with nature. And at the heart of this adventure, Nature Lodge Kinabatangan stands ready to welcome you, offering a sanctuary where you can unwind, explore, and immerse yourself in the enchanting wilderness of Borneo.

Whether you're drawn to the call of the wild, the allure of pristine landscapes, or the warmth of Sabahan hospitality, your adventure awaits. Let's make it unforgettable.

Explore more and book your stay with us for an unparalleled Sabah experience. Your adventure into the wild heart of Borneo starts here.

Safe travels, and see you in Sabah!

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