4 Must-travel spots and activities to relish at the tip of Borneo


If you’re a travel junkie or just someone looking for the next island getaway, you cannot miss going on a trip in the Kudat district of Sabah. Why? Besides indigenous culture and breathtaking views, Kudat offers the peace and quiet you rarely find in crowded islands.

The view from Limbuak Bay in Banggi Island (Photo by Lim Sheng Haw/RETA 7813)

Kudat is a town located at the northern tip of Borneo, about 190 kilometres north of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia. Communities in Kudat rely mainly on handicrafts, fishing, and farming of oil, rubber, rice, vegetables, trees, and plants to earn a living.

Pandan bracelet weaver, Ms. Nafsah Idani of Maliangin Besar village proudly shows her products to visitors (Photo by Lim Sheng Haw/RETA 7813).
A fisherman casts his net in Tajau Laut (Photo by Lim Sheng Haw/RETA 7813)

It also boasts of natural attractions, biodiverse areas, and unique cultures that can be tapped for ecotourism development.

The river cruise boatman, Mr. Saidi Bin Awang Bulat, ferries visitors to the thick mangroves of Tajau Laut (Photo by Lim Sheng Haw/RETA 7813). 

It takes at least three hours to reach Kudat from Kota Kinabalu by land travel. You can opt to take either a bus or avail car rentals to reach it. If you’re in a hurry to enjoy the Kudat experience, you can also choose to book a plane trip. A plane ride will take you to Kudat from Kota Kinabalu in less than an hour (if you want more details on how to get to Kudat, here’s a travel guide by Rome2Rio).

CTI-Southeast Asia, a project funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Global Environment Fund, is investing in leveling up Kudat’s ecotourism efforts through a community-based ecotourism (CBET) venture. This will support Kudat in making it a top-notch ecotourism destination in Sabah. The “authentic Kudat experience” will be the perfect travel escape for backpackers, ecotourists, cultural explorers, or travelers just wanting to uncover all there is to see in Sabah.

Tourists can wear traditional Rungus costume when they visit Loro Kecil (Photo by Lim Sheng Haw/RETA 7813).

We listed below four places and activities that will help you make the most out of your Kudat trip. The four villages involved in CBET all have something unique to offer. The villages of Bavang Jamal, Loro Kecil, Inukiran, and Banggi Island offer ecotourism products that will not just benefit tourists but also the villages through increased livelihood and promotion of local culture.

  1. Watch the spectacular sunset in Bavang Jamal and Loro Kecil

    Bavang Jamal and Loro kecil are located  in northern Sabah and it is perfect for those who love fine sand beaches and crystal-clear waters where visitors can watch magnificent sunsets. A stay at the traditional longhouse at Bavang Jamal could offer you a typical village experience where you can also engage with the local community.

    A PANORAMIC SIGHT. Beach lovers will definitely love going for a swim or walk along Bavang Jamal village. Bars and a ‘secret’ cafe are also located here, and hungry backpackers can buy snacks from these shops (Photo by Rosalie Corpuz/RETA 7813)
  2. Make handicrafts with a craft collective at Inukiran

    Villagers of Inukiran make a living through farming of rubber, palm oil, fruit trees, and crafting local materials. Tourists can visit a craft collective known as “Monungkus” and they can either observe or get hands-on experience on weaving, beadwork, and basketry. The thrill in the experience is being part of the craft production process. You can experience the planting, harvesting and processing of cotton ‘Gapas Sulanda’ and indigo, Indigofera tinctoria. Revenues from the community-based ecotourism will support the growth of the local cottage industry and the empowerment of women.

    MAKING HANDICRAFTS OUT OF PLANTS. Rungus cloths are made up of yarn, and the yarn is made from cotton and natural plant dyes. Rungus cloth usually comes in three colors: Black, Red, and Yellow. The color Black is taken from Tahum plants, Red from Tanggar/Tungguk bark harvested from a mangrove species, and Yellow from turmeric root or Kunyit (Photo by Rosalie Corpuz/RETA 7813).
  3. Witness the works of a beadwork master in Loro Kecil

    In Loro Kecil, you can visit Nenek Pika, the 80-year old beadwork expert, as she creates colorful bracelets, necklaces and purses. Tourists can also head to Loro Bay afterwards to watch glorious sunsets which are said to be more beautiful from April to June. The bay forms a teardrop shape with an entrance from the South China Sea. With help from the CTI-SEA project, residents are now planning to put up beach huts in order to provide basic lodging facilities for visitors.

    FAMED BEADING EXPERT. Nenek Pika belongs to a family famed for living long. She makes a living through her beading products and passes on her skills to younger girls in the village of Loro Kecil. (Photo by Dr. Norasma Dacho/RETA 7813).
  4. Go for a multi-coloured Bungga waterfall trek in Banggi forest reserve

Although Banggi island is known for its clear aquamarine waters at the Maliangin islands, tucked away in the northwest corner of the island is Banggi forest reserve. Banggi forest reserve is home to the Bungga Waterfall and Mount Senambung.  These sites can be reached via a scenic route that intertwines through the picturesque Bonggi and Molboc villages of Padang, Maliyu, Damaran, Kalangkaman and Kapitangan.

COLORFUL BOULDERS. The main waterfall trail starts at Kalangkaman on the Bungga River through a rainforest strewn with large boulders of red, green and black. Tired feet will be rewarded at the black, red and/or white sand beaches just moments away from the Bungga River. (Photo by Lim Sheng Haw/RETA 7813)

Scenic spots and picture-worthy views make an ecotourism experience truly  memorable. But what makes it meaningful is when you are able to experience authentic culture, enjoy the company of hospitable villagers, and learn new skills and lessons you can pass on to friends and loved ones. The authentic Kudat experience can give you both the memorable and the meaningful. So go explore this rising island paradise now to see what awaits!


Written by Christian Rieza with inputs from Dr. Norasma Dacho, Project Management Coordinator, Lourdes Margarita Caballero, Communications and Public Awareness Specialist, and Rosalie Corpuz, Ecotourism Development Assistant, of the Coral Triangle Initiative – Southeast Asia (RETA 7813)


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