Last November, I (Elizabeth) took a trip to Sabah, Malaysia on the island of Borneo.
Remember how excited I was?
Well, having spent seven glorious days exploring Sabah's white sand beaches, turquoise waters, luxurious beachfront resorts and lush rainforests, I can confirm that it would make an awesome honeymoon destination!
Today I'm sharing a few of my personal highlights and photos from my time in Sabah in the hopes that they'll inspire you to consider a honeymoon in Sabah, Borneo too.
Truth be told, before I boarded Royal Brunei's aptly named Dreamliner flight en route to Sabah, I wasn't 100% sure what to expect – other than orangutans. I mean, when you think of Borneo you can't help but think of those playful, bright orange, fluffy and flexible apes, right?
(gorgeous photo via The Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort)
And, as it turned out, high up on my trip highlights was seeing these cheeky little fellas hanging out (quite literally) in their natural habitat.
I saw them at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, in Sandakan, where the staff there are doing all they can to protect and nurture this endangered species (there are only approximately 50,000 left in Borneo). I got another glimpse of these fascinating creatures at the nature reserve at The Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort, who care for a small number of orangutans as part of their conservation efforts in collaboration with the State Wildlife Department.
Aren't they adorable?!!
(Also, on a side note, I thought my photos were alright until I shared that professional close up of the orangutans. And further down I've featured a couple more professional photos that put mine to shame too. It just goes to show the HUGE difference between an amature with a decent camera and a pro photographer!)
An Abundance Of Exotic Wildlife
Sabah is a nature lover's dream.
The tropical rainforests, seas and freshwater ecosystems of Malaysia support a rich and diverse array of flora and fauna. There are species in Borneo that you might not even know existed (I certainly didn't) from the critically endangered Pygmy Elephants (which were upstream when we there!) to the Proboscis monkeys with their abnormally large noses. And from the smallest bears in the world, Sun Bears, to the world's largest flower, Rafflesia (which wouldn't look out of place in the Little Shop Of Horrors!)
Cruising Along The Kinabatangan River
We had the opportunity to stay in the heart of the rainforest at the Sukau eco lodge which is nestled on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. Guests are able to go on day, dusk and night safaris out on the river and the night safari was another highlight for me.
I love boats, so slipping through the quiet darkness under a sky full of stars in search of nocturnal animals was quite a thrill. We saw a baby crocodile (it was so tiny and skinny we almost missed it!) as well as numerous brightly coloured birds, frogs and a monitor lizard lounging on a branch.
If we had time, I would have loved to hike up Mount Kinabalu despite the fact that our guide, Mike, freaked us all out on the tour bus telling us tales of lost spirits hiding in the blanket of mist that covers the mountain range.
You may be wondering why mist is on my list? (Honestly I tried every which way to avoid that rhyme but I couldn't so just go with it ok. Pretend I'm Dr Seuss for a minute.) The place where the ‘clouds' met the rainforest was absolutely magnificent. I managed to get a couple of shots but photos just don't do it justice, part of the beauty was the stillness and calm we all felt watching it descend and disperse across the mountains and tree tops.
The Night Markets
Sabah is not just for nature lovers and adventure seekers, many people go for the beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters, not to mention the delicious food, rich culture and Malaysian hospitality.
And a trip to Sabah is not complete without a visit to the bustling night markets where you'll find row upon row of colourful fruit and vegetables, fresh fish grilled to order and ….. Join the locals as they haggle for the best prices and enjoy family meals. And if you happen to purchase an infamous dragon fruit, beware of the awful smell when you cut into it!
A Perfect Day At Gaya Island Resort
We spent the most perfect day at Gaya Island Resort starting with a visit to their stunning spa village, set amidst lush mangroves with a view of Mount Kinabalu in the distance. We sipped on a refreshing welcome drink of mango and chilli juice as we perused the treatment menu. I choose a traditional massage which was nothing short of heavenly. I walked out as if on a cloud.
This was followed by an authentic Malaysian meal prepared for us on a tranquil secluded beach a short 5 minute boat ride from the main resort area. We enjoyed an array of delicious dishes, including prawn laksa, spicy soup and chicken satay followed by sticky coconut rice with sesame seed dusted mango for dessert. All washed down with fresh coconut water. Yum.
We then spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun, swimming in the turquoise waters and paddleboarding (well, attempting to at least).
Every dusk without fail, the sky would come alive in a cacophony of colour, from the brightest oranges and blood reds to the deepest pinks and sometimes, when we were further in the rainforest, it took on a hazy, purple hue. I've been to some incredible places over the past year and a half and watched my fair share of sunsets but Sabah's are up there with the best of them!
(iphone photo courtesy of Abi of Inside The Travel Lab)
That's me, enjoying one of my last Sabah sunsets (whilst wearing a floaty dress that just begged to be swished!)
Hanging out with orangutans, swimming in turquoise waters, going on a rainforest river safari, sampling fresh fish at the night markets…is it any wonder why I fell in love with Sabah? Next time, I'm taking Zee with me!
For those of you considering Sabah for your honeymoon or destination wedding, I'll share a little more about the wonderful resorts we stayed at in a follow up post in a couple of weeks.
More Malaysian Musings
In the meantime, here is some further reading on Sabah from some of my lovely travel companions:
– Orangutan Island: Falling In Love With The Animals of Borneo on Live Share Travel – this post is for all you animal lovers, it even features fabulous video footage of the orangutans and sun bears in their element!
– Walking Off Into The Sunset: Beautiful Places In Sabah on Inside The Travel Lab – a post filled with Sabah sunsets, what's not to love?
– The Beauty Of Sabah, Borneo on Global Grasshopper – Becky shares gorgeous full width photos documenting our trip. Makes me want to hop on the next flight back!
– A Postcard From Sabah, Malaysian Borneo on Eat Like A Girl – Niamh shares some fantastic photos of the catch of the day from our meal at the fish market, Ikan Bakar Mama Resepi Bandar Ketat in Sandakan.
This post was brought to you as a result of the #LoveSabah blog trip, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. But, as always, I'm writing from the heart and only sharing the things I think you'll love as much as I did.