Many of you definitely had never heard of Sabah (formerly called North Borneo). But most people, especially those in the western hemisphere; when mentioning Southeast Asia will know Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia or the Philippines. Probably you all might have a vague idea where Malaysia is. In two-dimensions, the map of Sabah looks like a dog head with two pointed ears; almost like the head of a German Sheppard.

Sabah is located in the island of Borneo which is the third largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. Borneo itself is almost right in the middle of the sprawling South East Asia. Borneo is the home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Sharing the Borneo Island with Sabah are Brunei, Sarawak and Indonesian Kalimantan. In fact Indonesia calls the whole island Kalimantan. Sabah is in the north; that is why the British named her North Borneo.

Sunset viewed from Tanjung Aru Kota Kinabalu

Sunset viewed from Tanjung Aru Kota Kinabalu

Politically, Sabah and Sarawak are part of Malaysia while the small Sultanate of Brunei is an independent nation. Kalimantan in the south belongs to Indonesia. Separating Sabah and Sarawak from Peninsula Malaysia is the South China Sea. In the north, Sabah shared the Sulu Sea with the Philippines. While the Philippines was always pounded by the violent typhoon, Sabah, though close in proximity are spared from such fury. That is why Sabah is called Land Below the Wind.

It takes almost 6 hours for a plane to reach Sabah capital, Kota Kinabalu (formerly known as Jesselton) from Seoul (South Korea) or Tokyo (Japan). From Singapore, it takes slightly more than 2 hours while from Kuala Lumpur (used to be the capital of Malaysia) it takes almost 2 hours 30 minutes. Traveling from Manila (Philippines) will only take 1 hour 45 minutes while from Brunei it is only 40 minutes. Nowadays Kota Kinabalu is also accessible from Bangkok (Thailand), Ho Chi Ming City (Vietnam), Hong Kong and few other cities in China.

The earliest known human settlement in this island was 30,000 years ago. These Neolithic tribes looked like Australian aborigines. Between 5000 and 3000 BC, the Mongoloids from Indo-China began settling not only in Borneo but also in Philippines and Taiwan. Probably these newcomers pushed out the original inhabitants into the Pacific. Some of the aborigines might have inter-married with the newcomers.

Some American settlers tried to set up a colony in Kimanis in 1865 but the colony failed. But the British, who made their presence felt since 1846, after the island of Labuan was ceded to them by the Sultan of Brunei, shaped the history of Sabah until 1963.

The most interesting thing about Sabah and Borneo is its biodiversity. It has one of the most diverse and endemic species of flora and fauna in the world. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia standing at 13,435 feet above sea level. The second highest mountain in Borneo; Mount Trus Madi (8668 feet) is still quite inaccessible except for determined hikers and travelers. This mountain is the home to Pitcher’s Plant or Monkey Cup. Both of these mountains are also the home to Rafflesia. Many of the wild land animals in Borneo are pygmies. We have pygmy elephants, pygmy rhinos and even pygmy pythons. It means these animals are smaller in Borneo compared to the same species found outside Borneo.

Mount Kinabalu view from Desa Farm Kundasang

Mount Kinabalu viewed from Desa Farm Kundasang

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