Location: Sabah is the second largest state in Malaysia, situated at the north of Borneo Island. Sabah has a heavily indented coastline of approximately 800 to 900 miles and is washed by the South China Sea in the west and north, the Sulu Sea in the northeast and the Celebes Sea in the east. Mount Kinabalu is the feature of Sabah as the tallest mountain in South East Asia standing at 4093 meters.
People: Sabah is a unique land, a melting pot of many indigenous and immigrant groups. The population comprises over 30 different races and over 80 different dialects, each group having its own colourful culture, tradition, festival and customs. The indigenous group include the Kadazan/Dusun, Bajau, Murut, Rungus, Lotud, Brunei, Orang Sungei, Kadayan, Bisaya and many other subgroups. The Chinese form the largest non-indigenous group.
Population: 2.52 million.
Capital: Kota Kinabalu City, the gateway to the rest of Sabah, is also the State Capital. Kota Kinabalu or K.K. as it is usually called, is relatively new as the original town was destroyed during the Second World War.
Language: Bahasa Melayu (Malay) is the official language, English is widely spoken, especially in business and tourism circles. Other languages include Chinese dialects, kadazan and several indigenous and dialects.
Religion: Malaysia’s official religion is Sunni Islam, but freedom of worship is respected. In Sabah, major religions are Christianity (29%), Islam (26%) and Buddhism-Taoism (17%).
Government: Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique system of rotation of Kings, chosen every 5 years among nine state hereditary rulers (Sultans). Parliament is elected every 5 years by universal suffrage and is headed by the Prime Minister. Borneo, as every other state, has an elected parliament headed by a Chief Minister.
Climate: Typical Equatorial Climate, daily temperatures range between 23 c and 32 c throughout the year in the lowlands. Rainfall is spread throughout the year, the wettest months (Landas season) being from November to February. Depending on the areas, rainfall averages between 2600 mm. and 4000 mm./year.
Flora & Fauna: About half of all living species are found in south-east Asia’s jungles, the Planet’s oldest. Borneo is still largely covered by primary jungles, many under National Park Status. Famous species include the Rafflesia Flower, Pitcher Plants, the Hornbill bird, the Orang Utan Ape and the Proboscis monkey, all protected.
Economy: Commodity based economy, Sabah being a major exporter of timber and agricultural products. Manufacturing is rapidly increasing the emphasis being on processing of commodities and for the future, electronics, information technology and bio-technology. Tourism is in a rising economy and main focus by the government.
Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM), very stable and fully convertible, no restrictions on import or export. Best to exchange at licensed money changers or banks, traveler cheques and major credit cards widely accepted. USD 1.00 = RM 2.50 (Approx.)
Working Hours: Government : 08:00 a.m. to 04:15 p.m., Private Sector : 09:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m., Mondays to Fridays, Saturday half day. All shops would be open between 10:30 a.m. and 05:00 p.m., Monday to Saturday, but many open earlier and close later and are open on Sunday. Shopping complexes close at 09:00 p.m.
Entry Regulations: Visa free entry for holiday purposes (14 days to 3 months) is given to most nationalities. Best to check with Malaysian Diplomatic Missions for current situation. Passports must have 6 months validity.
Health Regulations: No vaccinations required, unless coming form Africa or South America (Yellow Fever). Most Tropical diseases eradicated, anti-malaria treatment not indispensable, malaria cases very rare in Borneo (most occur in logging camps and very remote areas).
Water: Safe to drink from the tap in towns. Hotels and restaurants provide boiled water. Bottled mineral water widely available.
Electric Current: 220 V/50 cycles, in areas not connected to the grid, generators are often used. Three pin plugs (not American plugs).
Dress Code & Clothing: Casual dress is the norm, light cotton clothing is recommended.
Shopping: Items such as films, batteries, torch lights, raincoats, slippers, etc. are available in all towns. Indigenous handicrafts and textiles, potteries, antiques, etc. are good bargains.
Safety: Borneo is probably one of the safest places on earth, crime rate is low, there are few dangerous animals in the jungles, general health is good, there are no earthquakes, volcanoes or cyclones and there is political stability, racial harmony and tolerance, no terrorism and no internal strife. Fortunately, Sabah does not experience any natural disaster or calamities. In fact it is under the typhoon belt (thus the name "Land Below The Wind") and is free from any climatic disturbances.