Daisy* and I have just spent 5 lovely days with friends in Kota Kinabalu. We enjoyed it as it is a good base from which to see more. KK itself has a waterfront lined with restaurants from which you can see lovely sunsets, but it doesn’t smell too good. I like my friend’s tip: “Go there, (to the waterfront) take some photos; go somewhere else to eat!”
Our hotel was located 9 minutes’ drive from quite a few places (a mall, restaurants, the famous waterfront). One of our short drives took us down to the harbour. There, we got boat tickets for Manukan island- to relax and do some snorkelling.
Keen to make sure we didn’t miss the boat, we followed the guy that was to lead us to ours.
“Which one is it?” I asked him as my daughter kept asking excitedly “Is that our boat?” pointing at various boats moored in the harbour. He didn’t know which boat it was. It turned out he didn’t know much at all- he ended up dropping us off as the wrong island. How did that happen? We assumed we were all going to the same place and were told to get off the boat. Moreover, there was no sign saying where we were, until we had landed and the boat had gone; then we saw “ Welcome to Mantanani.” We didn’t have so much time, so we figured an island is an island and stayed on Mantanani Island.
There were lots of day-trippers there, but most were sitting at tables, keeping out of the sun. The waters were crystal clear and the sand was soft. A life jacket on and my daughter was in heaven! There wasn’t a snorkel mask to fit- next time I will take her goggles. It was fine, though- I snorkelled and pointed out the striped fish, the parrotfish, the blue fish and so on. Daisy loved it. . It was great until fish started nibbling my leg! What was going on? It gave me a bit of a fright and my daughter started to worry.
“They’re feeding the fish. Look! ”’said our friend. He was right- with a variety of things from crisps to corn! At least it wasn’t jellyfish season…
On the journey home our boat was nearly out of fuel. After stopping, speaking to another boat and doing some fiddling, we were on our way. All in all it was a nice day out.
Another place to visit from KK is the Upside Down House ( Rumah Terbalik) and the neighbouring 3D museum. You cannot take photos in the little house, but the 3D artwork is designed for it: we were lucky we were with friends or you miss half the fun.
If you like zoos, there’s “Lok Kawi Wildlife Park and Botanical Garden”. It has plenty of shade and is a fairly short drive from Kota Kinabalu. We saw a variety of animals from the famous Proboscis monkeys to otters and the Bornean elephant. If you want to see these in the wild, head to Sadankan. There is also the Labuk Bay Proboscis monkey Sanctuary and and the Sun Bear Conservation centre nearby. They are next on our to do list!
Lastly, my personal favourite: the Mari Mari cultural village. We were in two minds as it seemed expensive, but it was well worth it. We arrived ready for the 2:00 tour and shortly were told to gather with our group and our guide introduced himself.
“Oh, no. We’ve got to keep up with a group.” was my first thought. I was concerned we wouldn’t keep up with them, or that the guide wouldn’t have patience for my little one and me. Quite the opposite was the case! Our guide was patient, understanding and made an effort to include Daisy in things. She loved it and so did I. We learned a lot, tried a few things such as honey and sweet potato, as well as jumping on a trampoline style floor. “Again! Again!” requested Daisy.
The afternoon was rounded off by a dance show, followed by food. An action packed day and a very tired Daisy: cue sleep on the way home meaning she was bright and refreshed for dinner and our last evening in Kota Kinabalu.
From here we headed along the coast to Borneo Beach Villas. It had a beautiful, unspoilt coastline with beautiful sunsets. You can walk along for miles, but I wouldn’t recommend swimming with a little one unless the green flag is up: the waves were really strong. It didn’t matter, though, Daisy had fun chasing crabs and building sand castles.
A great way to end our visit to Sabah.
*Not her real name