Kota Kinabalu sprawls between the South China Sea and the towering ramparts of the Crocker Range. The capital of Malaysia’s Sabah State in Northern Borneo, the town dates from 1963 and occupies the site of Jesselton, the old British colonial capital. (Jesselton was razed during World War II.)
More importantly, Kota Kinabalu is your gateway to the natural wonders of Northern Borneo. Offshore sit the five coral islands of Tunku Rahman National Park, a Mecca for hikers and divers. To the north is Mt. Kinabalu National Park, home to the highest mountain between New Guinea and the Himalaya. On a clear day, one can stand on its summit and look across the South China Sea to the Philippines.
The only remainder of the old colonial settlement is Atkinson Clock Tower, built in 1905 and named after the first British District Officer.
Though it’s only the third largest island in the world, Borneo is still considered huge.
If we can describe Borneo in one word, it would be “massive”. Though it’s only the third largest island in the world, Borneo is still considered huge. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that it has a mind-blowing ecosystem and incredible biodiversity!
Borneo is home to countless flora and fauna species, numerous ethnic tribes, and breathtaking landscapes. Also, did you know that the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo is the second busiest airport in Malaysia?
Being the largest island in all of Asia and the third largest in the world, it’s ironic that Borneo is home to some of the ‘smallest’ mammals in the world. The Bornean pygmy squirrel, for instance, is a tiny lil’ fella, growing up to 7.5cm and weighing up to only 20 grams! The average squirrel is normally 18cm in height and weighs 400-600 grams.
Besides that, Borneo is also home to the famous Bornean pygmy elephant and the Bornean sun bear, which are both the most miniature elephant and bear species in the world respectively.
“Ain’t no mountain high enough” but being one of South East Asia’s tallest and mightiest peaks is still an awe-inspiring quality. Standing at 4,095 m (13,435 feet above sea level), Mount Kinabalu is located in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, and has a few folklore about it, including one of a dragon that lives up in the mountain. Catching the sunrise from the peak of Mount Kinabalu is one of the greatest sunrise scenes anyone will ever experience.
Known for its size (and smell), the Rafflesia flower is one of the world’s largest flowers and is a parasitic flowering plant. The Rafflesia arnoldii species can weigh up to 22 pounds and grow to be 39 inches in diameter.
The rafflesia flower gives out an unpleasant odor like rotting flesh and its color of dark reddish-brown even looks like it, which is why it’s also infamously known as the ‘corpse flower’. It is the official state flower of Malaysia’s state, Sabah.
The tallest tropical tree in the world can be found in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and it was recently discovered by scientists in early 2019 at Danum Valley. The yellow meranti tree (Shorea faguetiana), which stands tall and proud at 330.7 feet (100.8 meters) is an exceptional giant which has been given the name “Menara”, meaning tower in the Malay language. More giants in Borneo are waiting to be discovered every year!
Borneo’s Rainforests are about 140 million years old, compared to the Amazon rainforest which is only 55 million years old, making them one of the oldest forests in the world- That’s unbelievably old! This definitely answers why the island is an astounding mega-biodiverse area where new species keep getting discovered from time to time. Travelers can experience the lush rainforests of Borneo in locations such as Danum Valley, Deramakot, Crocker Range, and Tabin.
The nations that make up Borneo have numerous ethnic groups, heritage, and cultures, making it a truly colorful cultural destination to experience. In Sabah, Malaysia itself, there are a total of 33 indigenous groups and over 200 sub-ethnic groups. The largest ethnic group in Sabah is the Kadazan-Dusun tribe, which makes up 30% of Sabah’s population. In Sarawak, Malaysia on the other hand, there are about 30 ethnic groups altogether, which is still considered a large number.