While the west may have majestic Gunung Kinabalu, East Sabah is the destination of choice for animal encounters. Around former capital Sandakan alone, visitors can see orang-utans in Sepilok, proboscis monkeys at Labuk Bay – and there are no prizes for guessing the attraction at the Turtle Islands National Park.
Next stop on the itinerary is the Kinabatangan River, where lodges arrange longboat journeys to see pygmy elephants, orang-utans and more in the wild. Further into the interior, there is the option of visiting Danum Valley, a primary rainforest area with a majestic canopy walkway, or the equally appealing Tabin Wildlife Reserve.
Back on the coast, divers especially are pulled to Semporna, the jumping-off point for the myriad flora and fauna hidden in the waters surrounding Palau Sipadan, Palau Mabul and numerous other islands. Serious trekkers keen to explore the Maliau Basin, referred to by some as “Sabah’s Lost World”, set off by 4WD from the frontier boom town Tawau.