If you’re a travel junkie or just someone looking for the next island getaway, you cannot miss out 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.
Kudat is a town located at the northern tip of Borneo, about 190 kilometres north of Kota Kinabalu. Communities in Kudat rely mainly on handicrafts, fishing, and farming of oil, rubber, rice, vegetables, trees, and plants to earn a living. Kudat boasts of natural attractions, biodiverse areas, and unique cultures that can be tapped for ecotourism development.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)