Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of Sabah state in Malaysia. Located on the northwest coast of Borneo facing the South China Sea, it has plenty of charming highlights. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park lies on one side; and Mount Kinabalu, which gave the city its name, is nearby. Overall Kota Kinabalu, or better known among locals as KK, is a major tourist destination and a popular gateway for travelers visiting other parts of Sabah and Borneo.
There are many leisure spots and conservation areas around Kota Kinabalu. Anjung Samudra (or KK Waterfront), is a waterfront entertainment spot in the city center, which features restaurants, cafes, pubs and a nightclub. The Royal Sabah Turf Club in Tanjung Aru hosts weekly horse racing events. The North Borneo Railway, which starts from Tanjung Aru station, offers a scenic tour of the countryside in the West Coast Division and the Interior Division. The railway journey ends in Tenom town. Sutera Harbour Golf & Country Club near Kota Kinabalu was built on reclaimed land; and features a golf and country club, a marina and two hotels.
About six kilometers from the city center is the enchanting Tanjung Aru beach (in Sabah's west coast), which was named after the casuarina trees (locally know as aru trees) found along the shoreline. Stretching over two kilometers, the beach has a number of food and drink stalls, restaurants, and nightclubs. Within the Tanjung Aru vicinity lie the Kinabalu Golf Club, Prince Philip Botanical Park, KK Yacht Club and Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Beach Resort, where it offers spectacular views of sunset.
Within the Likas Bay area, the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary, covering 24 acres, is the only remaining mangrove forest located along the coastal region of Kota Kinabalu. It was designated in September 1996 by the state government to assist and foster a better understanding and awareness of the wetlands' value. The newly opened Sabah Zoological and Botanical Park (Lok Kawi Wildlife Park) in Lok Kawi, about 20 kilometers south of Kota Kinabalu, is the first zoo in Sabah. The 280-acre compound is arguably the largest zoo in Malaysia.
The Tunku Abdul Rahman Park is a national park consisting of the Sapi, Mamutik, Manukan, Sulug and Gaya islands, which are popular for snorkeling. The park is a 15- to 30-minute boat ride from Kota Kinabalu's ferry terminal. The Babagon River in Penampang and Kiansom Falls near Inanam are also popular spots for picnics and leisure bathing.
Outside Kota Kinabalu, the Crocker Range National Park, located about 70 kilometers from the city near Keningau, is a popular spot for jungle trekking and camping. Kota Kinabalu is also the gateway to one of the most popular national parks in Malaysia - the Kinabalu National Park, which is a two-hour drive from the city, and contains Mount Kinabalu - the third highest peak in Southeast Asia, and the highest in Malaysia.
The Rafflesia Forest Reserve near Tambunan, 30 kilometers from Kota Kinabalu, is also within the Crocker Range National Park boundary. The world's largest flower species, the Rafflesia, can be found here. Nearby here is the Gunung Emas Highland Resort, another spot popular for its scenery and cool climate. The Tuaran Crocodile Farm, about 30 kilometers north of the city, has around 1,000 crocodiles in its enclosure, making it the largest of its kind in Sabah.
-- Tan Hee Hui/Contributor