13.1 Introduction
13.2 Tourism in the Data Dictionary
13.2.1 Visitors’ Statistics
13.2.2 Tourist Attractions
13.2.3 Tourist Accommodation
13.2.4 Shortcomings of the Visitor Statistics
13.2.5 Shortcomings of the Tourist Accommodation Data
13.2.6 Omissions
13.3 Data and Analysis
13.3.1 Visitors Trend
13.3.2 Tourist Attractions
13.3.3 Tourist Accommodation
13.4 Issues Relating to Information
13.5 Development Issues

Previous ChapterContentsNext


13.1  Introduction

Gross receipts from tourists in 1996 constituted roughly 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The small contribution from tourism is expected, since the industry is relatively new. Sabah has however, identified tourism as having strong potential for economic diversification. Tourism receipts has grown from RM 103.2 millions in 1990 to RM 228.1 millions in 1996. This represented an annual growth rate of around 14 %. Sabah has abundant tourist assets, especially natural endowment, which can be promoted for tourism. Due to its great potential, the Sabah Tourism Master Plan92 envisions that the contribution of the tourism industry to the state’s GDP will in time grow in importance.

Since the various regions of Sabah have distinct tourist assets that can be developed, there are ample opportunities for regional developments. If developed properly, each region able to take advantages of its resource strengths, the tourist industry should be able to generate widespread regional benefits. In this context the Sabah Tourism Master Plan has identified the West Coast for the development of coastal tourism; the East Coast for nature tourism and the interior of adventure tourism.

Tourism is being developed in Sabah to realise the following objectives: 1) Considerable growth in GDP and foreign exchange earnings; 2) Generate substantial employment; 3) Distribute income and employment to the rural areas; and 4) Foster nature conservation and cultural preservation.

13.2  Tourism in the Data Dictionary

Figure 55: Tourism in the Data Dictionary

Task Force 4 has established three main categories for information related to the tourism sector, for which information profiles have been outlined as required for ICZM at the project state resolution level. These areas cover visitor statistics, descriptions of existing and potential attractions and facilities to support the visitors during their stay in Sabah. Information required for visitors defines mode of transport to Sabah, the overall purpose of the visit and the points of entry. A distinction between foreign and domestic visitors has been made. Furthermore, it has been considered necessary for development management to look at in-state transport, at pattern of movement in Sabah, at the specific purposes of activities and at a categorisation of the visitors according to visiting purpose rather than origin of visitors. Attractions need listing both in terms of their location, type and management jurisdiction and a recording of their "attractive efficiency" in terms of visits is required. Finally accommodation facilities to service the visitors must be specified. The indexes in the data dictionary are presented in Figure 55.

13.2.1  Visitors’ Statistics

Visitor arrival statistics for the state of Sabah exist in times-series. These are desegregated into international (foreign) and domestic arrivals, mode of transport, and main purpose. The source of the statistics are based on returns of immigration cards and compiled by the Department of Statistic. The data can inform on the numbers of visitors’ arrival but it does not give indications on the nature of visitors’ distribution in Sabah. Nevertheless this can be estimated from various sources as the Sabah Tourism Master Plan has done.

13.2.2  Tourist Attractions

Tourist attractions are based on classifications of natural, social and man-made attributes found in Sabah. These are detailed in the relevant section below.

13.2.3  Tourist Accommodation

Visitors’ accommodation includes hotels, resorts, chalets, dormitories, Bed and Breakfast outlets, privatised government rest houses, camping and homes of friend and relatives. A summart of different types of accomodation available to tourists in Sabah is in Table 84. As at August 1998, the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism Malaysia has further categorised hotels into the "star" rating system. In order for hotels to qualify under this system, certain requirements or criteria would have to be met.

The Sabah Development Bank has been conducting surveys annually on the performance of hotels found in major towns in Sabah. The objectives of the survey are to determine the occupancy rates, the extent of room sharing, the average length of stay of hotel guests and the room rates of hotels. These information could be obtained from the Bank’s quarterly and yearly publication Review respectively. The Institute of Development Studies, Sabah, has also generated data on the number of hotels and rooms in relation to tourism manpower.

However this is not on a continuous basis and therefore its usefulness is limited. Data on chalets, dormitory and camping type accommodation can be obtained from the Sabah Parks, since most of the accommodation in this category is under its jurisdiction. Other privately run chalets and hostels also keep these kinds of records.

Table 84: Types of Accommodation for Tourists in Sabah

Accommodation Category Target Group "Star" Category
1. Hotel    
1.1. Upmarket (resort) High income group 4-5 star
1.2. Mid-range Middle income group 3-4 star
1.3. Lower end Low income group 2-3 star
2. Chalet High to middle income group Not Applicable
3. Dormitory Low income group Not Applicable
4. Camping Low income group Not Applicable
5. Homes of Friends and relatives Not Applicable Not Applicable

13.2.4  Shortcomings of the Visitor Statistics

Prior to the 10th of August 1982 visitors’ statistics cover arrivals from Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak (domestic inter-state arrivals) and other countries (international arrivals). As from the date mentioned above, domestic inter-state visitors’ arrivals were no longer collected. Since August 1996 head counts on domestic interstate visitors were introduced. However, this method of data collection only gives volumetric information, but lose the details of information that were collected in earlier statistics.

In mid 1984 international visitors arriving from Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia were no longer included in the statistics. From the 1st of August 1986 international visitors’ arrivals to Wilayah Per

sekutuan Labuan are processed by the Kuala Lumpur Office and would no longer be reflected in the Sabah statistics. Statistics on visitors from within the state of Sabah (intra-state) are not available.

13.2.5  Shortcomings of the Tourist Accommodation Data

There is no comprehensive information on accommodation available. Useful information on hotels is available from the Sabah Development Bank’s semi-annual and annual Survey. The Malaysian Tourism Promotional Board also provides similar information. Information on the other accommodation categories are not available but can be obtained from the records of each accommodation unit.

The "star" categorisation is the system used in Malaysia and may not be comparable with the grading system in other countries. However in Sabah the grading system only gives indications on hotel facilities. The statistics on hotel accommodation in the Sabah Development Bank Survey is based on hotel sizes.

13.2.6  Omissions

Data of visitors by gender, profession, age groups and tourist spending although relevant for planning purposes have not been included due to current lack of information sources.

13.3  Data and Analysis

13.3.1  Visitors Trend

The trend of foreign visitor steadily increased by roughly 10% annually from 1987 to 1996 (Figure 56); except in 1993 where the figure fell by 14% over the previous year. Recent trends (1994-1997) register lower annual rate of growth of around 3% as compared to trends in 1987 to 1992 (10%).

Figure 56: Arrival of Visitors to Sabah 1987-1996


Figure 57: Foreign and Domestic Visitors to Sabah 1993-1996

Recent trend shows that domestic arrivals are increasing by around 5% per annum as compared to the 3% increment of international arrivals over the same time. However in 1996 domestic arrivals declined by 8% over the previous year figure. Overall the domestic volume is consistently more than doubled that of the international arrivals (Figure 57).

Main Entry Point of International Visitors

Figure 58: Main Entrance Point for International Visitors to Sabah

Figure 58 shows that most of the international visitors entered Sabah through Kota Kinabalu. Lesser people entered from other entry points. Most of the visitors using the latter were from nearby countries particularly Indonesians entering from Tawau.

Main Purpose of International Visit

As shown in Figure 59 by far the majority of international visitors came to Sabah for social or holiday purposes. The other reasons are for Business, Transit, and Conference/Convention and Exhibition.

Figure 59: International Visitors to Sabah by Purpose 1996

13.3.2  Tourist Attractions

Type of Attractions

The Sabah Tourism Master Plan has identified the strengths of Sabah’s tourism attractions are mainly centred on natural and activity based attractions. Cultural and other forms of attractions exist but are relatively weak in its present form.

The Sabah Tourism Master Plan categorises the tourist attractions according to the elements summarised in Table 85. Details from the Mater Plan on location, access, owner, pricing and visitors patronage are given in Table 90 .

Tourist Attractions and Visitors

Using the records from the establishments managing for the main tourist attractions, the Sabah Master Plan has indicated the volume of visitors (international and local) to the various natural attractions in the tables provided above. The general pattern for the year 1994 is shown in Figure 60.

By far the majority of tourists take advantage of the attractions in the interior, whereas the East Coast and West Coast draw considerable less tourists. Most of the international visitors were making day trips and stayed their nights in Kota Kinabalu. Kota Kinabalu is therefore a gateway to the attractions in Sabah.

Table 85: Tourist Attraction Categories in Sabah

Main Tourist Attraction Sub-grouping
1) Nature-based attractions Coastal attractions
Wildlife viewing
Kinabalu Park
Nature based events
2) Activity based attractions Scuba diving
Sailing, boating, fishing
River rafting and river activities
Trekking, Horse riding and mountain biking
Mount Kinabalu Summit climb
Activity based events
3) Cultural attractions Museum and cultural centres
Historical sites
Local markets
Long houses, village visits and local people
Cultural events
4) Other attractions Shopping
Eating and food

Source: Sabah Tourism Master Plan (1996)

Figure 60: Nature and Island Tourism by Overall Region in Sabah, 1994.

Natural attractions were the major motivation for the visits. Figure 61 shows the volume of visitors attracted by particular features of natural attractions. The Kinabalu region (Mountain and hot springs in Poring) is the main attraction capturing 82% of the total recorded visitors. This accounted for 99% of all trips to the interior.

10% of the visitors were attracted to islands. 99% of those attracted to islands were found in the West Coast, most in the islands around Kota Kinabalu.

Wildlife sightseeing and experiences of nature accounted for 8% of all recorded visitors. 92% of this type of visitor went to the West Coast. 70% of them went to observe wildlife, while 22% were related with forest recreation. The rest visited the Raflessia Centre in Tambunan (interior).

The details of the visitors to the various natural attractions are provided in the Table 86. The lack of details for the other types of attractions makes it difficult to relate tourists’ flow to those attractions. However prima facie observations suggest that those that were attracted by natural attractions were also associated with cultural and other attractions.

Figure 61: Visitors by Natural Attraction 1994

Table 86: Visitors to Tourist Attraction (1997)

Attraction Region Name/Location Numbers Total
Islands West Coast Manukan}Tunku Abdul 132691
Gaya} Rahman Park 131980
Tiga (overnight) 711
East Coast Selingan 7657 7657
Wildlife East Coast Sepilok 58845 69894
Sukau/Kinabatangan 2467
Tabin 983
Gomantong 7599
Flora East Coast Danum Valley 4917
Tawau Hills Park (overnight) 600
Nature Interior Kinabalu 218733 239878
Poring (Overnight) 15628
Grand Total: 450120 450120

Source: Sabah Parks/Wildlife Department (1997).

13.3.3  Tourist Accommodation

Accommodation Used by International Visitors

The major proportion of the international visitors stayed in hotels (Figure 62). Almost a quarter stayed in the homes of friends and relatives. Few stayed in other types of accommodation. Due to the lack of data it is not possible to relate international visitors to the other types of accommodation. However this is not important since the scale of visitors using that particular accommodation is small. Analysis on accommodation used by domestic and local visitors is not possible because of the lack if data.

Figure 62: Visitors to Sabah by Type of Accommodation, 1994

Number of Hotels and Rooms by Location In Sabah

Table 87 shows the location of hotels in Sabah and their room numbers. Approximately 55% were located in the West Coast, 36% in the East Coast and the rest (9%) in the interior. Of the hotels in the West Coast the main proportion was found in Kota Kinabalu (85%), 10% in Tuaran and the rest were thinly distributed throughout the West Coast. In the East Coast Sandakan and Tawau respectively has 41% and 31% of the total number of hotels in that area. There are few hotels in the other regions of the East Coast. In the Interior Ranau and Keningau have five hotels each and Tenom has 2.

Reflecting the number of hotels, the chart showing the distribution of hotel rooms indicate that the West Coast has most rooms with 69% of the total rooms available in Sabah. The East has 36% and the interior has 1%. Most of the rooms available in the West Coast were in Kota Kinabalu (86%). 10% were found in Tuaran. The rest were thinly spread in the other parts of the West Coast. In the East Coast, Sandakan and Tawau were the main contributors of hotel rooms with 43% and 36% respectively. Lahad Datu’s share was 18%. The rest of the hotel rooms were thinly spread in the East Coast. In the Interior, 75% of the total number of hotel rooms in the region were in Keningau. 48% were in Ranau and 25% were in Tenom.

Hotel Occupancy

Table 88 showing hotel occupancy by hotel size and number of rooms, indicate that all categories of hotels were consistently under filled. Therefore there are additional room capacities in the hotels in Sabah. However few hotels, especially in Kota Kinabalu, have experienced room shortages during the holiday season (between November and January. This reflected that the hotel room demand for some hotels was seasonal.

Table 87: Number and Location of Hotels in Sabah (1997)

Location Hotels Rooms
West Coast

Kota Kinabalu

66 3932


3 67





3 444


5 75
East Coast


21 774


16 641


1 10

Lahad Datu

11 318


1 27

Pulau Mabul

1 21


5 226


2 75


5 145

West Coast

78 4558

East Coast

51 1791


12 446
Total Sabah: 141 6795

Source: Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board.

Table 88: Hotel Occupancy Rate in % in Sabah by Hotel Size and Number of Rooms

Year 10-19 20-49 50-99 100 & Above Average
1987 76 66 42 49 51
1988 72 64 51 59 59
1989 73 66 56 67 67
1990 77 75 58 71 70
1991 70 61 51 71 67
1992 61 52 51 70 65
1993 57 56 48 76 69
1994 61 79 51 62 62
1995 62 40 51 74 64
1996 67 55 42 70 65
1997 66 52 44 57 55

Source: Sabah Development Bank.

Length of Stay of Hotel Guest

The pattern in the average length of stay of hotel guests in Sabah (Table 89) shows that their stays have consistently been of short duration. This is true for all categories of hotels in all regions of Sabah. Although the difference is not substantial, the average lengths of stays in larger hotels were slightly better than the smaller hotels.

Table 89: Average Length of Stay of Hotel Guests in Sabah by Age Group, 1987-1997

Year 10-19 20-49 50-99 100 & Above Average
1987 1.6 2.1 2.1 2.2 2.0
1988 1.6 2.1 1.9 2.4 2.0
1989 1.6 2 1.8 2.1 2.0
1990 1.8 2.2 2.1 1.2 1.4
1991 1.6 2.3 1.5 1.4 2.2
1992 1.6 2 1.4 2.6 2.3
1993 1.5 1.9 1.5 2.4 2.2
1994 1.5 1.7 1.5 2.5 2.2
1995 1.6 2.9 1.8 2.4 2.3
1996 1.4 1.3 1.7 2.1 1.9
1997 1.6 1.5 1.7 2.2 2.0

Source: Sabah Development Bank

13.4  Issues Relating to Information

Compendium of Tourist Information: At present data on tourism has to be collected from various sources such as the Sabah Parks, Tourism Malaysia Promotion Board, the Sabah Tourism Promotion Corporation and others. Great effort is needed to collect information for analysis and decision-making. It would be very helpful if a periodic (possibly annual) compendium of tourist information can be prepared to facilitate rapid analysis for decision making. The Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Development can initiate the collation of available tourist information.

Statistics on Domestic Tourism: At present data on domestic visitors are enumerated by head counts at entry points. However it would be useful if other details provided as in the case of the international tourists are included. These are the domestic visitors’ mode of transportation, main purpose of visit and entry points.

Statistics on Visitors and Tourist Attractions: Visitor statistics to tourist attractions (viz. Kinabalu, Poring, Manukan Island etc.) are recorded by months and years at present. It would be useful for planning if visitors could be desegregated by their place of origins (e.g. International, domestic [i.e. other parts of Malaysia] and local visitors [from Sabah]). Information on visitors to the other attractions, not within the jurisdiction of the Sabah Parks, is also difficult to obtain. Tourists’ length of stays (e.g. in chalets and camping grounds) and activities, and occupancy rates of accommodation are also important. These details could be included in the compendium of tourist information suggested above.

Accommodation Used by Domestic and Local Visitors: Data is lacking. Since this information is important for planning analysis, it is of great value if it could be provided.

Hotels Facilities: The "star" system of grading hotels and linkages to facilities and services has been established by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism Malaysia.It explains the type of facilities and standards of services that are available in hotels. Hotels classified by the "star" rating system has also been undertaken by the Institute of Development Studies in 1996 but this was a one off analysis. The generation of this type of data needs to be continuous. Grading of chalets, hostels and the other types of tourist accommodation is also useful.

Tourism Database: For planning purposes a good tourism database covering the important aspects of tourism is essential. It would be of particular interest to the Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Development to build this kind of database since it is the main policy-making organisation.

13.5  Development Issues

Impacts assessment: The state is aiming for sustainable tourism development. To facilitate for this aim the state should be able to assess the main economic, social and environmental impacts resulting from tourist activities and developments. At present information on tourism impacts is lacking. Steps should be taken to assess the important tourism impacts periodically.

Monitoring and enforcement: Several large tourist projects are being implemented in Sabah at present. There is strong concern that tourism developments, such as the Sutra Harbour, is damaging the marine habitats located in the adjacent Tunku Abdul Rahman Park, especially corals. The destruction of the corals has wide implications for other marine life, since it is an important habitat for them. In the long run there are strong risks for ecological losses. The estuarial development in Kinarut is said to affect the natural water flow and would affect water quality further inland in the long run. The coastal areas particularly along the West Coast are very attractive for developments including tourism. Observation suggests that there is increasing tendency for vulnerable ecosystems such as the mangrove swamps and wet lands to be taken over by tourism developments, at the expense of the loss important marine and terrestrial breeding grounds. It is evident that the existing tourist accommodation sector is resorting to throwing their rubbish in nearby mangrove swamps and vacant lands. Rubbish thrown by visitors at tourist attractions can be seen accumulating in several areas in Sabah. If these persist, pollution of the environment would become serious. The present tourism developments often lack good sewerage and refuse disposal systems. With this development trend the rapid concentration of large resorts near beaches, would eventually lead to pollution of the sea. In the long run pollution of the sea would affect the quality of beaches such as evidenced in the Tanjung Aru Beach. Pollution of tourist attractions would degrade the natural qualities (clean sea and beaches, attractive vistas) that sustain tourism in the first place. Pollution arising from tourist developments and activities would in time affect the health of people. So there are potential health risks. Erosion caused by developments, such as that found near the Perkasa Hotel in Kundasang, leads to slope problems. If widespread it may cause sedimentation and silting problems on estuaries and along the coast. There is an urgent need to monitor tourist activities and development projects, and to undertake enforcement actions if indication of adverse impacts are found. This would help to arrest the problem from the initial stage.

Development Pressures: The coastal zone is very attractive for tourism and other uses such as housing, commercial, industrial and social uses. Being subjected to competitive and multiple uses; there are strong potentials for incompatible and conflicting development interests and land-uses to emerge. Ad hoc developments would promote problems associated to such a scenario. There is a need to rationalise the land potentials in development pressure areas with the aim of applying available land to their most appropriate uses.

Table 90: Tourist Attractions in Sabah, 1994

Grouping Name of Attractions Description Location Access Owner Markets Comment
Nature Based Attractions Pulau Manukan The second largest Island of the Park, equipped with over 20 chalets, trails, swimming pool and marine equipment. 5 km from Kota Kinabalu Speed boats from Kota Kinabalu town & STAR marina Sabah Parks 80% Malaysian Most popular TARP island
Pulau Gaya The largest island of TARP inhabited in the east, protected forest in the west. Few facilities except trails and Ranger Station. 3 km from Kota Kinabalu Speed boats from Kota Kinabalu town & STAR marina Sabah Parks Predominantly foreigners Good jungle trekking potential
Pulau Sapi Small island adjacent to Pulau Gaya. Forested with fine beach, visitor facilities and good snorkelling. 5km from Kota Kinabalu Speed boats from Kota Kinabalu town & STAR marina Sabah Parks Local and equal Malaysian and Western Popular beach for day visits. Diving lessons, snorkelling and STAR barbecues
Pulau Mamutik The smallest of the five islands of the TARP 6 km from Kota Kinabalu Speed boats from down town Kota Kinabalu & STAR marina Sabah Parks Local and equal Asian and Western Good clean beach
Pulau Sulug Farthest away and relatively undeveloped. Changing rooms, toilet, picnic shelters & tables are provided. 7 km from Kota Kinabalu Speed boats from Kota Kinabalu town & STAR marina Sabah Parks Malaysian Undeveloped
Pulau Tiga Three islands with a wide range of wildlife and sport fishing. Famed for being the breeding place of snakes. South-west of Kota Kinabalu Boats from Kuala Penyu Sabah Parks 85% Local Remote island site
Selingan Island Park Comprises three low lying island with a total land area of 7,137 hectares. Sabah Park maintains three chalets with a capacity of 20 persons. Turtle breeding facilities. 40 km north-east of Sandakan and close to the border between Malaysia and Philippines By boat, 1.5 – 2 hrs trip Sabah Parks Predominantly Western Very popular tourism attraction. Booking problem
Libaran Island A low, rocky shoal, which has accumulation of coral shingle and sand – inhabited by local fisherman. Recently some tourism accommodation has been developed. Situated to the north of Sandakan – near Pulau Selingan By boat Federal Territory Western Backpackers Currently developed by Uncle Tan and other operators
Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre A sanctuary where orang utan are rehabilitated Located about 18 km from Sandakan town By road/car Forestry Department/ Department of Wildlife All Sabah markets The most popular natural orang utan viewing site in Asia
Kinabatangan Wildlife Reserve-Sukau Located in the lower part of the Kinabatangan River. Proboscis and other wildlife can be found in a trip through mangrove and rainforest. Surrounded by agriculture lands. 108 km from Sandakan town 25 km by a rough track from the Public Road off Sandakan/Lahad Datu Highway. Alternative is by boat from Sandakan Wildlife Department Western Top quality wildlife viewing under threat from surrounding development
Uncle’s Tan Jungle Camp Basic accommodation facilities built with jungle materials – basic amenities are provided. Located on the bank of the Kinabatangan River at Batu Putih By car Encik Sulaiman Tan @Tan Su Lim Western Backpackers  
Tabin Wildlife Reserve Low lying Rainforest over 120,000 hectares with wide range of wildlife e.g. Rhino, orang utan 41 km from Lahad Datu town centre By car Department of Wildlife Domestic Western and Pre-booked Nature tourism development planned
Kinabalu Park Headquarters With several kilometres of easy, graded trails in an area of 754 Sg. Km. The main attractions are climatic, scenic, floral and fauna. 88 km from Kota Kinabalu By car/public transport Sabah Parks All markets but predominantly local and Western Keystone popular attraction suffering from overcrowding
Poring Hot Spring Mineral pools situated on the eastern edge of Mt. Kinabalu Park, Rainforest canopy walk and accommodation. East of Ranau Public transport Sabah Parks All markets Popular add on for visitors to Kinabalu
Borneo Rainforest Lodge Danum Valley Situated in 438 sg. km. tract of primary lowland rainforest in the Danum Valley Conservative Area. The largest remaining area of virgin lowland forest in Sabah established 1994. Located 85 km west of Lahad Datu By car/tour operators Jungle Lodges Domestics some Japanese mainly Western Excellent interpretation
Tawau Hills Park A 28,000 hectares reserve of lowland rainforest forming an import catchment area for the town. This Park has a small waterfall with several pools suitable for swimming a small hot spring and a number of trails through the forest. Located about 18 km from Tawau town It can be reached from roads that run through BAL estates Sabah Parks Only domestics A popular day trip for locals
Gomantong Caves A limestone forest reserve that has good bird watching and swiftlet/bat ecology. About 1 hrs drive from Sandakan near Sukau Road from Sandakan Wildlife Department Western Requires better management
Rafflesia Centre A showcase centre for Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower. Comprising in total perhaps of 16 species, only three of these are known in Sabah. Displays and guiding available. The centre is situated on the Tambunan side of the Crocker Range, 58 km from Kota Kinabalu By car Sabah Forestry Department Domestic Asians Westerns More interpretation and better guiding services could be developed
Activity Based Attractions Scuba Diving – Tunku Abdul Rahman Park The islands of TARP have good beaches clear waters, corals and interesting fauna and flora. Offshore island Kinabalu town By speed boats Sabah Parks Western Pre-booked ASEAN Pre-booked Good beginners area
Layang-Layang Layang-Layang Atoll was formerly known as the Swallow Reef. It is about 7 km long and 5 km wide and the surrounding reefs form a lagoon with relatively calm waters. Primarily a scuba dive resort. Located at approximately 170 nautical miles north-west of Kota Kinabalu in the South China Sea By boats and helicopter Malaysian Government Pre-booked dive market ? New dive resort – limited potential for other markets Problem with fish bombing reef damage
Pulau Sipadan The only oceanic island in Malaysia. Sipadan rises 600 metres from the ocean floor. The marine life is very rich. Sipadan is regarded as one of the top dive spots in the world. Located 30 km from Semporna in the Sulawesi Sea about 1 hour by boat By boat, air (helicopter) Under discussion ? Pre-booked ASEAN Pre-booked Western Expats Malaysians Urgent need to control & manage current operations
Sailing and Cruising – Mata Hari Mata Hari provides sunset cruises, sunset dinner cruises and charters. Tanjung Aru By car Private ? Predominantly Pre-booked ASEAN Pre-booked Western Expats Malaysians  
Outward Bound School Papar International outdoor activities centre Kinarut, 20 km south of Kota Kinabalu Bus/Car Outward Bound School ? Sabahans Malaysian Bruneian Hong Kong  
Rafting Padas River Padas Gorge borders the southern and of the Crocker Range. (One and half hour rafting trip) Located between Tenom and Beaufort. 2 hours from Kota Kinabalu Car/Bus, Train Private rafting companies Pre-booked ASEAN Asian European Fir expats Good by Asian stands. Train access sometimes closed
Papar River Small river near Kota Kinabalu – often floods It is located approximately 45 minutes driving time from Kota Kinabalu By car Private rafting compares As above  
Kiulu River Small River near Kota Kinabalu variable water level   By car Private rafting companies As above As above
Jungle Trekking-Pulau Gaya Good trekking on an island near Kota Kinabalu. A 12 km trail leading from the Police Beach to the Park HQ exists. Many birds and butterflies are often seen. Western tip of Pulau Gaya By boats 15 minutes from Kota Kinabalu Sabah Parks Predominantly Westerners Nice tropical rainforest. Excellent nature tourism opportunities
Crocker Range National Park This national park has an area of 139,919 hectares. The Crocker Range (1250-1875m) is a continuous range of mountains running parallel to the West Coast. The range has extensive montane oak forest. Stretching from Tenom to the mid of the Tenompok Forest Reserve By car and land – within hour drive Kota Kinabalu Sabah Parks N/A Good trekking. Some logging. Excellent trekking opportunities – chance to involve locals
Jungle Trekking Danum Valley One of Sabah’s last strongholds of undisturbed lowland forest – 438 sg. km. It is located 85 km west of Lahad Datu – a truly remote setting 4x4 wheel drive Yayasan Sabah Mostly Western but growing Asian Good trekking, excellent canopy walkway, high concentration of wildlife
Forest Reserves Sabah’s tropical rain forest and its thousands of species of flowering plants, shrubs, orchids, herbs and ferns are an important state asset. Spread throughout the state often within hrs of city drive Usually by road Forestry Department N/A Often excellent. Forest recreation opportunities. Requires market research
Mt. Kinabalu Summit Climb The highest mountain in South East Asia outside the Himalaya, very popular climb on a well-known mountain. 4101 metres in height and Kinabalu Park is 90 km from Kota Kinabalu town. 2 hours by car By car Sabah Parks Malaysians Asians ASEANs European FITS Currently facilities under stress
Golfing There are over 10 golf courses in the state. The Sabah Golf and Country Club is of international standard. There are two golf courses in Kota Kinabalu while Sandakan, Tawau, Keningau, Kudat, Ranau and Kundasang have 9 holes Golf Course. By car By individual Club Members Local demand Currently lack of facilities for local use
Sporting Events: Triathlon Sabah International Triathlon annual event consists of swimming, cycling and running. Each participant swims 1.5 km, cycles 40 km and runs 10 km. Likas Bay Kota Kinabalu By car Organised by STPC Asian Express Sponsored by Malaysian Airlines
Mt. Kinabalu International Climbathon A challenging mountain race which runs over 21 km of the tough mountain terrain. Race starts at an elevation of 1,800 metres and rises to 4,101 metres. Kinabalu Park By car Organised by Malaysian Airlines, STPC, MTED, Tourism Malaysian & Sabah Parks ? Local Asia/ Pacific participants  
International Fishing Event Sabah International Fishing Event held during the annual Sabah Fest celebrations. This event is opened to both locals and international participants. Prizes are awarded to winners. Offshore Kota Kinabalu By boat Organised by STPC Regional Quality of fishing varies
Recreational Amenities Likas Sport Complex Facilities include Tennis, Badminton, Squash and Basketball Courts, Soccer field and swimming pool. 1 km from Kota Kinabalu town centre By car Kota Kinabalu City Council Local - Possibly suitable for international events (held World Karate Championships in 1994 there)
Cultural Attractions Sabah Museum Consists of four main buildings with architectural features inspired from traditional and cultural motifs. 3 km from Kota Kinabalu town By bus and taxi Sabah State Government All visitors to Sabah and locals Excellent potential to be the centre of Sabah culture and heritage
KK Clock Tower Built in 1905, the tower was one of the three historical structures that survived bombing during World War Two. Located at the bottom of Signal Hill By car/walking Kota Kinabalu Municipal Council All Requires renovation. Requires interpretation into historical walk
Kundasang War Memorial Park A fort like structure built to commemorate the allied prisoners of war who perished in the infamous "Death March" from Sandakan to Ranau during World War Two. Sited on a low hill just behind Kundasang town By car Ranau District Office Specific historical market Requires maintenance
Sandakan Agnes Keith House Wooden bungalow on the hill above Sandakan – important early writer. 8 km from Sandakan Town – along Jalan Bukit Merah By car Sandakan Municipal Council Specific historical market Renovation planned in 1996
House of Skulls Human skulls are exhibited in the living room of a Kadazan family in the Penampang area near Kota Kinabalu. The house is open to visitors daily Located at Kg. Ramayah approximately 10 km from Kota Kinabalu By car/tour company Warrior Monsopiad descendants Pre-booked Markets FITS Provides good interpretation
Gaya Street Urban version of the famous tamu or weekly market held in other towns and Villages in Sabah. Every Sunday morning a collection of stalls selling a wide variety of goods. Jalan Gaya, Kota Kinabalu By car Kota Kinabalu Municipal Council Sabahans. All Sabah markets Develop information for tourist. More souvenirs for tourist
Kota Belud Tamu The tamu is a spontaneous gaiety of activities as the tribal people gather to buy, sell and barter their native farm products, handicrafts ware, cultural instruments, local drinks and foodstuffs. Kota Belud is located approximately 77 km away from Kota Kinabalu By car Kota Belud District Council Pre-booked Westerns Asians ASEANs Fits Develop information for tourist
Tamparuli Tamu Every Wednesday the local tribes from the highlands and the gathered at this village. Marketing activities buy, sell or barter their farm products, including handicrafts and traditional ware. 38 km from Kota Kinabalu By car Tamparuli District Council As above Develop information for tourist
Handicrafts Handicraft production is active in many areas of Sabah, each area specialises a distinctive pattern. Kudat regions, Kota Belud district, Papar district, Semporna district etc. By car Private All visitors Excellent marketing opportunities
Kg. Bavanggzao The Rungus traditionally live in longhouses made of nipah leaves, bamboo, bark, and other local construction. With assistance from STPC, the locals have built a longhouse to accommodate visitors. Along Kudat -Kota Marudu Highway 3 hours from Kota Kinabalu By car JKKK of the kg. Bavanggzao Foreign visitors from Singapore, Europe and America Excellent opportunities to expand market
Pesta Kaamatan In celebration of the Rice Spirit – giving thanks for another bountiful year. The rites and customs are a tribal practice of the Kadazan-Dusun and Murut people. Held in the month of May. State level celebration in Kota Kinabalu, and various districts in West Coast also hold celebration By car Organised by KDCA Predominantly Sabahans Requires repositioning for tourism
Chinese New Year Celebrated in the first month of the Lunar year (January or February). Lasts until Chap Goh Mei, fifteen days later. Major Urban Centres in the State especially in the Chinese communities N/A N/A Local Sabahans Local interest. Celebrations reflected in surrounding area
Dragon Boat Festival Celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar year (June-July). Along the Likas Bay – seafront leading to Yayasan Sabah Headquarters Kota Kinabalu N/A Organised by MTED & STPC Local Sabahans  
Hari Raya Aidilfitri A celebration fulfilling a month of fasting and abstinence. A special occasion for Muslims where special prayers called Terawih are recited. The date is ascertained by the sighting of the moon by religious leaders in the late evening in the countryside. Muslims communities and kampungs Statewide N/A N/A Local  
Lipa-Lipa Regatta An annual State involving a unique colourful traditional Bajau boats of Semporna. Highlight of the events includes Lipa-Lipa Beauty Queen and miniature Lipa-Lipa design contest. STPC and District office of Semporna organised the event. Semporna town seafront By car and air   Foreign visitors and locals Opportunity to integrate regatta into tourism packages
Other Attractions Shopping There are a variety of interesting handicrafts to take back as souvenirs, some imported. Foods and fish are packaged for visitors. Major shopping complexes in Kota Kinabalu town centre. By car Predominantly private sector Predominantly Sabahan. Foreign visitors complain there is not enough to buy  
Entertainment Nightlife in Sabah includes Pubs and Music Lounges featuring local as well as international entertainers. Discotheques are also popular in the major towns for the young and young- at-heart. Major urban town centre Easy Usually by Individuals Predominantly locals. Unsophisticated.
Eating & Food Sabah is gifted with an abundance of fish, wild plants, Herbs and Luscious fruits. Wide range of eating outlets. Throughout the state. Easy Usually by Individuals excepts some hotels. Excellent value for money Should be promoted as a major selling point. Possibly develop for festivals.
Products Under Development Turtles Island International Park A proposed international marine Park linking six turtles island of Malaysia and The Philippines, Including Pulau Selingan. Off Sandakan on border with Philippines. By boat from Sandakan Malaysian and Philippines Governments Big potential for all markets. Under discussion. Excellent potential to expand turtle viewing and solve security problems.
Semporna Marine Park Sabah parks has proposed to gazette a marine park with the objective of protecting and conserving the flora and fauna especially the marine life in Semporna. This will be consist of 6 islands off Semporna. 45 minutes by speed boat from Semporna town jetty. By boat Sabah parks Domestic ASEAN Asian western. Has the potential to be an important new area for Sabah Marine activities. Need to control fist bombing.
Maliau Basin A remote basin (Diameter of some 25 km) Surrounded by a granite cliff rising to 1,200 meters and running for 32 km lengthwise. Potential the ultimate " Lost World " wilderness expedition. Located in the interior heartland of Sabah and about 35 km east of Sapulut. By helicopter, or 4 days trek. Yayasan Sabah Western. Excellent potential for specialist high yields wildness trekking. Possibly threatened by mining proposals.
Tenom Agriculture Park 1,000 Hectare agriculture research farm being developed into tourism agriculture theme park expending the current orchid centre. Could be named Garden of Eden. Near Tenom Road – 4 hours from Kota Kinabalu. Ministry of Agriculture. Targeting all markets. Currently 5,000 visitors per annum. RM 40 million development planned.
Murut Cultural Centre A complex set up as a visitors centre for Murut culture. Facilities available include accommodation, mini museum, Performances, Admin, Building, Main lobby, Cafeteria, and handicraft retail outlets. Near Tenom By Car State Government / Local Community Targeting all markets.  
Products Under Development Mesilau Plateau The development of park accommodation, golf course and trails. Aims at diverting visitors from park HQ to spread visitor load Kundasang Road currently 4x4 access Sabah Parks All Sabah Markets Accommodation will be suitable for local markets. The Mesilau Trail will provide excellent new route onto the mountain.
Products Under Development Crocker Range Park The development of Park visitor facilities in the Crocker range include building at Park Headquarters and an Information Centre. Mid way on the Kimanis to Keningau road. 3 hours from Kota Kinabalu. Car Sabah Park Sabahan Malaysian FITS Appropriate low key park facilities planned.
Products Under Development Tabin Wildlife Reserve The development of Visitor Centre and visitor accommodation and Park Headquarters. 1.5 hour drive from Lahad Datu. Road ( Partially unsealed ) Wildlife Department Western pre-booked FITS Has the potential to provide facilities for excellent wildlife viewing – good guiding is required.
Products Under Development Agnes Keith’ s House The renovation of a key historical building at Sandakan. Sandakan Walk or Car Sabah Museum All markets to Sabah. Opportunities for historical interpretation.

Source: Sabah Tourism Master Plan, 1994. Institute of Development Studies (IDS) – Sabah.

Previous ChapterContentsNext

92The Sabah Tourism Master Plan was available in its final edition in 1996. The Document has been prepared by Institute of Development Studies, Sabah (IDS). Substantial material in the present chapter has been extracted from the Master Plan.