Google ‘Sabah’ and the first few images that appear are probably its exotic islands and the majestic Mount Kinabalu. Occupying an area of 73,904 sq km at the Northern part of Borneo Island, the Land below the Wind is packed with experiences that are beyond the usual tourist offerings.
Whether it is culture, nature, or wildlife that you are seeking, these are what you will experience on your next #CutiCutiMalaysia trip to Sabah.
A glimpse into the five tribes of Sabah at Mari Mari Cultural Village
The Land Below the Wind is home to 32 different indigenous groups settling on its plains, hills, islands and shores. While getting to know each tribe would take a long time, learning about the five main indigenous groups is not impossible. It is something that you can do, within half a day at Mari Mari Cultural Village!
Situated deep within the forest setting of Kionsom, Inanam, Mari Mari, which means ‘come come’ in Malay, the cultural village lets visitors mingle with the local people and experience first-hand Sabah’s age-old cultures. It recreates scenes from the past, helping visitors make sense of their way of life through distinctive customs, traditional costumes, dialect, delicacies and architecture of each tribe.
The tribes featured in this village are the Kadazandusun rice farmers, the communal Rungus, the Lundayeh hunters and fishermen, the Bajau sea gypsies and the fearsome Murut headhunters.
Here, you’ll find yourself having a sip of the Kadazandusun’s version of rice wine, lihing; witnessing fire-making demonstration from bamboo shreds at the Rungus longhouse and how the Lundayeh folks produce handmade wooden vests out of tree bark, soap and water. Striking a pose at the extravagant, colourful Bajau wedding altar located inside their high stilt house is also not to be missed. At the end of the tour, you’ll get to participate in the Anggalang and Magunatip dance with the Murut people. Watch your step because the bamboos clink according to the tempo of the music, and the clinking becomes faster with time.
So, mari mari!
Note: Mari-Mari Cultural Village opens on Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday. There are three tours available: 10am Morning tour, 2pm Afternoon tour, and 6pm Evening tour (only open if bookings reach 30 pax and above). Each tour lasts for a duration of 3 hours. More info on marimariculturalvillage.com
Get your feet kissed by Pelian fish at Tagal Tinopikon Park
No, they’re not vicious meat-eating fish. They’re toothless, loving fish called Pelian. And they are the stars of Tagal Tinopikon Park, located in the authentic Kadazandusun village, Kampung Notoruss in Penampang, 45 minutes drive away from Kota Kinabalu.
Tagal translates as ‘prohibition’ in the Kadazandusun dialect. Tagal system is part of the local community’s efforts in conserving the river’s ecosystem while earning side income for the village folks. In short, this means that Moyog River is a ‘no fishing zone’. Thanks to the implementation of this Tagal system, a school of large Pelian fish is able to swim freely in this river, which is where the fish greet visitors with their harmless ‘kiss’.
You might be intimidated to want to dip your feet in at first, considering how big these fish are. And you might let out a couple of screams after feeling that ‘kiss’ on your feet. But after a while, you will get the hang of this therapeutic ‘massage’, and might not even want to get your feet out of the water!
Red mahkota dewa
There’s more to Tagal Tinopikon Park than just hanging out with Pelian fish. Visitors will discover the natural wonders of the village during a short trek, where one will stumble upon bright red mahkota dewa fruit, stingless bee log hive (kelulut) and have a chance at rubber taping. Other cultural activities to take part in include batik painting (which you’ll get to bring home as a memorabilia) and learning how to dance the sumazau traditional dance. The best part is eating Kadazandusun-style firewood cooked lunch. Yum!
With so many activities offered at this Park, it’s best to be here bright and early, arriving by 8.30am to avoid the hot scorching afternoon sun that will absorb your energy later.
Look out for shy primates onboard the Klias Wildlife Safari River Cruise
Sabah is also home to an unusual looking monkey that is known for its outlandish nose: the Proboscis Monkey. And one of the best ways to get a good glimpse of this primate is none other than by going on a wildlife safari river cruise at Klias Wetlands, situated between Beaufort and Kuala Penyu, approximately 112km away from Kota Kinabalu.
Found only in the jungles of Borneo, the proboscis monkeys are arboreal species, which means they’ve adapted to living in and around trees. They live their entire lives near water sources such as coastal mangroves, swamps and island rivers; and would only venture onto land occasionally in search of food. These primates are often shy, so it will be a bit of a challenge to spot them from a boat as proboscis monkeys usually stay hidden up in the trees, away from their main predator: the crocodile.
So bring your telephoto zoom lens and a pair of binoculars so you can get a closer look at what these monkeys are up to… perhaps they’re munching on some fruits or leaves?
Expect sightings of other animals such as the Long Tailed Macaque, Silver Langur or a Monitor Lizard as you enjoy the sounds of nature on the pristine Klias River. At sundown, relish a sumptuous local dinner at the lodge before you embark on your last cruise back to the mangrove swamps. Only this time, you’ll be seeking faint glows of fireflies.
Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.
Note: You’ll want to depart from the capital Kota Kinabalu by 2pm to be able to make it before the cruise starts at approximately 5pm. Tour includes traditional refreshments, served upon arrival and Malay buffet dinner at the jetty. Tour ends at 7.30pm. More info on kliasrivercruise.com