Northern Malaysia is a treasure trove of experiences. Often overlooked for the more well-known cities such as Johor, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Malacca and more, the state of Sabah has plenty of nature: think diving spots at Sipadan and Mabul islands, the country's 4,095m-tall Mount Kinabalu, pristine beaches, verdant rainforest, coral reefs and abundant wildlife, much of it within parks and reserves. The last time I spoke to the kind folks at Sabah Tourism Board, I was impressed at how hard they push for legislation preserving Sabah's forest cover and their passion for conservation.
With strong Singapore dollars, a trip to North Malaysia is more value for money than before. Consider these activities to impress your other half when in Sabah!
1. Klias River Fireflies Safari Cruise is a 2-hour tour which runs through a mangrove forest reserve. Spot the rare Proboscis Monkeys and fireflies in the tree as you sail down the river while enjoying a delicious dinner onboard.
2. Classified as a 5-star spa chain by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture Malaysia, Ulu Ulu Spa in Kota Kinabalu features a wide range of massages and will be a sure way to pamper your loved ones.
3. Head to Mataking on the East Coast for some island love! Apart from exploring the amazing aquatic life in the surrounding waters, go for a romantic walk from Mataking Besar to Mataking Kecil – the two islands connect through a sand strip that appears during low tide, allowing you two to stroll between them.
4. Active couples can spend their nights on the Night Glow Stand Up Paddle Experience, where one can paddle boarding during twilight with colourful lighting beneath the SUP board.
5. Wake up to the call of the gibbons and the steady rush of the river in Danum Valley. Experience luxury in the rainforests at the Borneo Rainforest Lodge – perfect for the outdoorsy couple looking to pamper themselves for that special occasion.
6. Declare your love from the mountain tops – literally! Put Mount Kinabalu on your list. The 2am ascent will be worth it when you witness the sunrise from Low’s Peak together. (Note: It’s a popular setting for many a marriage proposal).
7. The couple who eats together, stays together! Makan your way through Sabah – from local eats (coffee shop favourites include ngiu chap (beef noodles) and Sabah’s iconic Tuaran noodles) to more adventurous treats: sago grubs and fermented wild ginger, anyone?
8. Volunteer at the Borneo Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan – fall in love with the lovable furry residents (and each other!) as you do your bit for wildlife conservation.
9. For the culture vultures, dedicate some time to learn more about Sabah’s ethnic heritage at the Mari Mari Cultural Village where visitors can explore the various mock traditional houses of the Kadazan-Dusun, Bajau and Murut people (among many others) and even meet a ‘headhunter’ or two.
10. Battle the rapids together as you go white water rafting on Padas River. Your first time? The gentler waters of Kiulu is an ideal starting point.