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Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

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Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

Hi there,

We are travelling as two couples (in our mid-20's) to Sabah in September, mainly to dive Sipidan with Scuba Junkie - Based out of Mabul Island. We will be diving for 5 days and then have about 10 days to spare in Sabah- and would love some tips on how to fill in our time!

We are not all that interested in "touristy" sites and would much rather take it slow, see and eat how the locals do, snorkel secluded beaches, hike and view unspoilt wildlife. Our vague plan was to go from Mabul to Semporna, then to Danum Valley or Sepilok and possibly across to Lankayan Island. This is purely based on researching through TA and noting the highly rated accommodation options like Sepilok Nature Resort and Lankayan Island Dive resort!

We are happy with any sort of accommodation - budget or basic accommodation does not phase us!

Any tips or help with this itinerary would be greatly appreciated. Bonus points for restaurant/food suggestions as well ;)

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1. Re: Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

Do research outside of tripadvisor. You're certainly not avoiding touristy and being all local if you're heading to Sepilok. Do more research. Danum valley is the wilderness you might be after

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2. Re: Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

maddisonelisw,

The Semporna, Mabul part sounds okay. Have you worked out you flights to get there? Where do you land in Sabah? Scuba Junkie are mentioned here on TA so have a look at them.

"Danum Valley or Sepilok?"

The two sites are completely different.

Danum Valley is in the interior and access is expensive so check the prices. This is virgin dipterocarp hutan/jungle with opportunities to see wildlife dawn and dusk.

Sepilok is Rammed with noisy disrespectful tourists. So you will not dodge them they are everywhere. Sepilok's purpose is a rehabilitation centre of Orangutans under 3yrs, there is a rainforest discovery centre and Sun bears centre all close together.

Lankayan is just off shore from Sandakan but expensive again check prices.

Pulau Selingaan / turtle island is also just off shore from Sandakan you are allowed to stay overnight. Only one beach to swim from due to under currents on the rest of the island, still a pleasant experience.

Sandakan has a waterfront food "court" / area so local food is cheap and available.

Have a look via TA for rooms in Sandakan. The Sheraton has a infinity pool on 15th floor so worth staying there just for this and to suck in the sunset at 1700hrs.

Less crowed are the lodges around the Kinabatangan river, Sukau/Abai resorts their are more so check them out on TA to see the ones you like.

repost if your stuck.

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3. Re: Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

Thankyou so much!

We would be flying into Tawau, possibly through Kota Kinabalu, from Australia. From here we will head to Mabul as a base to dive Sipidan and surround for 5D/4N. We have used Scuba Junkie in Flores, Indonesia before and they were wonderful.

Your suggestions about inland Sabah were very helpful. It looks like Kinabatangan will suit us better than Sepilok. I have also read about areas such as Maliau Basin, Telupid Forest, Sarawak, Mulu and Imbak Canyon. Do you suggest any of these as "must sees"?

From here we would head to Sandakan (and enjoy that local food you mention!) & then onto Lankayan Island and Turtle Island.

We will fly out through Sandakan through KK (possibly spoiling ourselves for a night or two at Gaya Island on our way home).

We are spending most of our time in East Sabah - do you think this is okay?

Cheers!

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4. Re: Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

There appears to only be one accommodation option on Lankayan Island and its very expensive. So we might skip that. Any suggestions about similar places we can go for a few days to relax on the beach? We will have had 1.5 weeks of diving & hiking so want some R&R at the end!

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5. Re: Diving, with a little wildlife and avoiding the tourist trap

maddisonelisw,

As you would expect some of your ideas/places are not near to each other or easy to reach so some is not really practical with the time you have left after your diving. I will try to stich it together.

Aus flights? Are you leaving from Perth or Sydney? As they are the only two Aus cities to fly into KK. I am not so sure about the Sydney route whether it is up and running, check the web.

If not they will fly you up passed Borneo to the regional hub, KL / Singapore. Also a flight into Brunei maybe possible if so you will have to hop to KK /Sandakan/Tawau etc.

The arrival over to Tawau and your dive time sounds good.

Then drive/tour operator driver up to Kinabatangan Sengai to the lodge of your choice?

Or drive up to Sandakan then out to Turtle island back to Sandakan next morning?

Overnight it Sandakan? Next morning fly early to KK? Or leave Sandakan after Turtle island?

Arrive in KK check your flight leaving Sandakan and arriving in KK. VERY IMPORTANT if your going to Gaya (GIR) as the transfers from Jesselton Point stop at 1700hrs and it is very expensive to get them to collect you after this time. It is in fact cheaper to stay in KK rather than pay the £150 fare each.

"Must see's" you suggested.

From your choice to go to Kinabatangan and not Danum Valley I would rule all of the other you mention out as they nowhere near where you have planned/suggested to go. But; don't rule them out for your next visit.

Maliau Basin is deep in the interior and beyond the Danum Valley when travelling from Tawau. Sadly the lower route of the Sabah part of the trans Borneo highway runs south of it but still quite close.

Telupid is a Township above Maliau in the interior on the AH150 road simply put from KK to Ranau to Sandakan. There are several reserves here, there are no landing strips for tourist flights so you would have to drive in then out again to catch any flights. It would be a 300mile round trip from Sandakan.

Sarawak is a separate Malaysian state south of Sabah at least a 600mile drive one way. They are all interesting places but you cannot fit them in your time.

Spending time anywhere in Sabah is a good idea, you are fine out on the East coast for diving /snorkelling etc. If that is you reason for your visit stick with it. You can sleep on the plane and stay in the city when your holidays over.

If you skip the expensive accommodation, that can be a good thing , spend your money doing something els you may like. Out on the East coast the option I would choice is Turtle Island. It is normally a 1N stay, ask about a 2N stay? Or if it is cheaper book 2x 2D1N back to back? Just a thought.

Well I hope that helps aline your ideas.

As before, repost if you have more questions, don't sit worrying just ask.

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