Sabah, the land below the wind, is a place blessed with some of the most unique flora and fauna species in the world. A vast land just waiting to be discovered and appreciated by the rest of the world. Many local communities who live in the rich natural surroundings have taken up tourism as their form of livelihood. Community-based tourism as it is commonly known is an initiative to promote sustainability and improve the livelihood of rural communities.
Sabah is home to 42 ethnic groups and a large majority of Sabahans are indigenous to the land. These different groups are distinct and unique in their cultures, traditions and customs – yet they all live together to form a homogenous community called Sabahans.
With tourism being among the main industries in Sabah, rural communities are able to leverage on CBT as their main or secondary source of income. If you’re planning a trip to Sabah, be sure consider one or more of these local experiences. Seeing Sabah through the lens of a native is a priceless opportunity to fully appreciate the state and its diversity. Best thing is that you’d be directly giving back to rural communities while having fun.
Here are some community-based tourism spots in Sabah that are a must-visit:
#1: Long Pasia (Sipitang)
Long Pasia is a small Lundayeh village blessed by the abundance of flora and fauna. Nature is not the only attraction that Long Pasia has, for the cultural experience is equally amazing. There are even remnants of the ancestral Lundayeh Upai Semaring which would certainly enrich the homestay experience.
Must-visit places within Long Pasia include the Maga Falls, Flower Garden and the caves. A native would guide visitors as they encounter various species of flora along the way. Long Pasia has no resort, instead they run a homestay programme where visitors would live with a host family and have a chance to sample traditional dishes of the Lundayeh community.
#2: Kiulu Farmstay (Kiulu)
The Kiulu Farmstay is a community-based eco-tourism initiative involving three communities — Kampung Mantob, Kampung Dumpiring and Kampung Pinagon Baru. Patrons are introduced to the unique experience of living with these communities.
Options are available for accommodation where patrons can choose between staying in the Fig Tree — a 2-bedroom, self-contained eco-lodge that comes equipped with a kitchen and toilet. The second option would be to camp outside, a great option for those who love the outdoors. Kiulu Farmstay also has activities like quad biking, buffalo riding, white water rafting and hiking.
Wishing for an immersive homestay experience? Book a spot here.
#3: Marais Center (Tenom)
Marais Center is located in the Marais village as a tourism initiative to promote sustainability and uplift the community’s livelihood. This Murut village is home to some stunning visuals of a mountainous backdrop and paddy fields as far as the eye can see, surrounded by rivers and creeks.
Apart from being a homestay, visitors can choose among the many activities offered in the village. Cycling around the paddy fields, jungle trekking and even basket-weaving are among the many activities that one can participate in to enrich their experience. The villagers would even don traditional Murut outfits and perform their traditional dance .
Prior booking is needed before paying them a visit so click here to sign up for this experience.
#4: Tagal Kampung Menserulung (Tambunan)
Tagal refers to a community-based system that aims at conserving native culture and natural resources and Kampung Menserulung is among the many villages that still practise this. Situated in Tambunan, the village utilizes this system to create a harmonious relationship between the community and their natural ecosystem. A part of the tagal system includes abstaining from fishing for a set period of time which in turn, allows the fishes to thrive in the river, uninterrupted,
Visitors can come over and experience its natural fish spa and also other activities like picnicking, camping, hiking and kayaking. For further information, interested visitors can contact Ms. Patricia at +60 19 821 8618 or read up for more info.
#5: Buntu Sunset Paradise (Sipitang)
Situated in Kampung Pelakat Skim, Buntu Sunset Paradise offers an alternative sunset viewing spot aside from Sipitang Esplanade. The place offers some peace and quiet to viewers as it is usually not crowded compared to the other beaches in Kota Kinabalu.
The community also has made an effort to beautify the spot and turned it into a visitor-friendly spot. The village is open to the public every day including on public holidays. There are other activities that are offered by the villagers like cooking and dancing. The combination of meaningful cultural activities paired with the serene view would definitely make this place a must-visit. Go on a self-drive adventure to Kampung Pelakat Skim.
#6: Maranjak Longhouse Homestay (Kudat)
A traditionally built Rungus longhouse consisting of split bamboos and nipah leaves, the Maranjak Longhouse was intentionally designed to showcase the traditional lifestyle of the community. This longhouse can accommodate up to 40 people at a time and visitors get to participate in various activities like river fishing, crab catching and jungle trekking.
On top of that, they offer visitors the chance to sample seven different locally brewed wines at night. Visitors are also presented with traditional Rungus dance accompanied by traditional musical instruments in the background.
For further inquiries, get more information here.
#7: Rundum Highlands (Tenom)
The Rundum Highlands, situated some 78 km from Tenom, was set up by the Murut Tagol’s community. A tourism committee was formed to turn their village into a community-based tourism destination. A nice, chilly atmosphere accompanied by a quaint sunset view, Rundum Highlands provides campers with an experience like no other.
Visitors can experience heritage trail walks, horse riding, hiking and cultural performances for a very affordable price. There are sleeping tents that are capable of accommodating one family but with limited availability, therefore, pre-booking is advised.
As there are no public transportation means to the interior village, 4WD transportation is available and can be arranged with the Rundum Highlands tourism community.
#8: Tambisan Island (Lahad Datu)
Tambisan Island is a hidden gem located in Lahad Datu that was transformed into a community-based tourism spot to empower the local community living there. The journey to Tambisan village takes about two hours overland and then another five minutes by boat to the island.
Crystal clear waters and beautiful corals greet visitors arriving on the island by boat.
Despite being in a remote location, visitors can immerse themselves in activities like jungle trekking, fishing, diving and even turtle sightings. The Tambisan Island Lodge has 28 rooms and they offer buffet meals where visitors can expect the freshest seafood.
Book a trip to the island today by reaching out to Ms. Alisia at +60 10 946 1146 or get more information here.