Beyond the Mountains: Discovering Kota Kinabalu's Hidden Gems

November 24, 2014 Travel

Before this trip, the only reason I could think of to visit Kota Kinabalu again was to climb the mountain. After my mountain climbing accident in Benguet last year, it was scrapped off my list. However, I got invited to a press tour, and I couldn't resist the free vacation, so I signed up and found out that there is more to Kota Kinabalu than just the mountain.

AirAsia, which flies to Kota Kinabalu four times a week, and the Sabah Tourism Board organized the trip. I was there as AirAsia's PR consultant.

Our three-day itinerary included a visit to a cultural village, ziplining, seawalking, river cruising, and of course, shopping.

Mari Mari Cultural Village

Our first stop was Mari Mari Cultural Village.

We had a shopping trip scheduled at the Pinoy Market before this, but we decided to forego it because our hotel, the Grandis Hotel, was in the Suriah Shopping Mall Complex anyway.

Mari Mari has traditional houses of Sabahan ethnic communities, including the Bajaus, which have Filipino descent. The ticket, which costs about P 2,000 plus, included a tour of the village, a cultural dance show, and a buffet dinner.

Bajau House

Bajau House

We visited several houses, and our guide explained to us the traditional ways of each cultural group. Part of the tour also included some activities like fire making, wine sampling, and food tasting, which made the whole thing more fun.

Few interesting things about the cultural groups:

  1. Girls sleep on the loft, to protect them (which is not fun for PWDs).
  2. It is hard to make fire, even for those who do it for a living.
  3. A trampoline is a great addition to any house. Their ancestors knew.

Palau Sapi and Palau Gaya

The next day, we were off to the islands for some water adventure. Yipee!

Our first activity was ziplining.

The Coral Flyer, a 250-meter zip line, connects the islands of Palau Sapi and Palau Gaya.

It was my first zipline experience from one island to another.

It was an exhilarating ride, and after that, we had a calm sea walking activity.

I almost didn't do it because the organizers got worried about the underwater pressure and how it could affect my leg implants. I called my doctor, and when he said go, I immediately went to the briefing area.

It was my first time doing helmet diving, and I really enjoyed the activity. We basically donned this heavy helmet, which kept us from floating. There were also guide ropes to hold on to while we watched the guide and his mini-show.

Klias Wetlands

After our island adventures, we traveled two hours to the Klias Wetlands for a river cruise.

Klias Wetlands is located on the Klias Peninsula. It is a mangrove forest reserve popular for its bizarre-looking inhabitants, the proboscis monkeys. These tree-dwelling animals normally hunt for food in the evenings, so tours usually start late afternoon.

After snacks, we boarded a small motorboat to look for proboscis monkeys. The only problem was it rained, and we were forced to turn back.

We did see a few monkeys, though. It was still a fun trip despite the heavy downpour.

For details on AirAsia Zest’s latest promo and announcements, visit Facebook ( and Twitter ("

Other Good Travels