Even if hiking up Mount Kinabalu is not your thing, the city of Kota Kinabalu will charm you with its sights and activities
By Cheryl Chia
When one thinks of water activities, Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, is not the first place that springs to mind.
But there are many islands off Kota Kinabalu to have lots of watery fun.
A mere 15 to 20 minutes’ boat ride away from the jetty (RM100-RM135), various islands are within reach. Island-hopping packages (RM60-RM100) are available at the jetty counter. We went on a trip to Sapi Island – formerly known as Babi or Pig Island – and Manukan Island which boast beautifully clear waters where snorkelling, diving and sea-walking are encouraged.
If you aren’t a strong swimmer, don’t worry, life jackets will be provided. Simply strap the jacket on, put on the snorkel and get in the water (RM10 each for jacket and snorkel). Just stay within the buoys and you’re good to go. The sea just off the jetty has a large bed of corals, with tons of zebra and parrot fish. I saw a puffer fish too, though we kept our distance.
If you’ve never tried sea-walking (RM210-RM250), I highly recommend it. A boat takes you to a floating platform where you put on a special pair of rubber shoes.
Descending into the water is the scary part but the experienced guides are by your side, so don’t fret. As you descend, a pressurised ‘spaceman’ helmet is lowered over your head and, next thing you know, you’re watching fish swim right to your face.
You can even get up-close and personal with clown fish in the coral. Between Sapi and Manukan, the latter would be a quieter spot for these activities.
Kota Kinabalu is known for its seafood. Welcome Seafood Restaurant is a good place. Shrimp, fish and crabs are readily available and always fresh. The clams are also huge. If you are a fan of shellfish, this would definitely be the draw. At the end of the meal, try their coconut pudding – coconut curd in a large coconut shell for a few picture-worthy snaps.
If you like night markets, explore the one opposite Le Meridien Hotel. It sells a range of tourist items from conch shells to fresh fruit and vegetables, to hawker food.
The souvenir shop located at the Warisan Square shopping mall also sells chocolate-covered tropical fruit such as bananas, strawberries, guavas, mangosteen and even durian.
Low cost carrier AirAsia flies to Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur and many other regional cities. Your next weekend getaway could be to tranquil Kota Kinabalu.