Kota Kinabalu is located at the western region of Sabah and is the most important administrative center in the East Malaysian state. It is the capital of Sabah where it houses the main transportation gateway for domestic and international flights through the Kota Kinabalu International Airport. Kota Kinabalu is one of the most complete cities in Malaysia as it very well connected with islands located off the coast and Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Southeast Asia.
Formerly known as Jesseltown during British occupancy
Kota Kinabalu formerly known as Jesselton is the capital of Sabah state. Situated on the northwest coast of Borneo overlooking the South China Sea, it is considered as one of the largest urban city in Malaysia. Commonly known as KK, the city has become one of the main tourism destinations for local and also foreign tourists for its rich cultural heritage and beautiful sandy beaches. It is named after Mount Kinabalu due to its close proximity that lies approximately 90 kilometres east-northeast of the city.
Background of Kota Kinabalu
The establishment of Kota Kinabalu can be traced back to late 1800s when British North Borneo Company (BNBC) founded several colonies throughout Sabah (then known as North Borneo). BNBC founded a settlement in Gaya Island but was then burned down by Bajau residents led by Mat Salleh. Following the rebellion by Mat Salleh, BNBC decided to establish another settlement.
KK continues to grow
Only this time, the company has chosen the mainland opposite Gaya Island as it is much easier to guard. This new settlement is named Api-Api (taken from a small fishing village nearby). After modest development, it has expanded in size and the name was changed to Jesselton. Eventually, Jesselton has emerged as one of the main hub and trading post involved in rubber, rattan, honey and wax sector. After much struggle especially during Japanese invasion, the state finally managed to become part of Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Jesselton was renamed again to Kota Kinabalu in September 30, 1963 and granted city status from Malaysian government in 2000.
KK Town Center
Kota Kinabalu is a busy city throughout the day. This is mainly because thousands of tourists come into the city on a daily basis where it is the main stopover to travel to travel destinations like Sipadan Island known for its deep sea diving facilities, Kinabalu National Park where mountain climbers hike up the peak and many other attractions.
Activities in Kota Kinabalu
Throughout your holidays in KK, you’ll never short of activities as you can try exciting water sports such as water skiing and diving, shopping and also fishing. KK is popularly known as a divers’ paradise for the clear blue tropical waters around the island suitable for beginners and also experienced scuba divers who would like to try snorkeling. Get up-close and personal with the wonders of coral reefs in the underwater world.
See the best of the sea here
Thanks to Malaysian government untimely effort to protect and preserve the islands, you can now see the sea wonders and experience it first-hand after years watching it on television and National Geographic. So take your own sweet time to visit the greatest diving destinations in the world. Remember to visit several spectacular tropical islands namely:
- and Mamutik.
Only 33 kilometres south west of KK, you can check out another world class diving destination – Pulau Tiga Park that comprises three beautiful islands where you can find thousands of insects, reptiles, amphibians and the rare kegapode bird.
Now, grab your rod and get ready for some fishing activities by participating in the annual Sabah International Fishing Tournament. The waters around the island offer variety of fishes such as Sailfish, Snappers, Amberjacks, Barracudas, Bill fish and Groupers.
Educations Institutes and places for rent
There are several institutes of higher learning located around Kota Kinabalu city which bring about an increase in demand for rooms and places to stay particularly among students. The largest institute here is the Universiti Malaysia Sabah or UMS which has been operating for about 20 years now. The campus is located not far from the town center along the coast at Jalan UMS. The areas surrounding the campus here like Kampung Delima Melayu and Taman Indah Permai are popular choices among students who come from different states around the country.
Meanwhile, there are other private institutes here like:
- Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman
- AlmaCrest International College
- INTI College
- Informatics College,
- and the UiTM (Universiti Teknologi MARA) Kota Kinabalu branch
UiTM is located around Taman Indah Permai and residences around the area like Taman Putera Jaya, Kampung Keliangau and Taman Perindustrian Kota Kinabalu are popular choices among the students in the institute.
Attractions in Kota Kinabalu
There are a number of cultural, historical and leisure sites in Kota Kinabalu. Of course, it you would like to find out more on the state’s history and origin, you have to include Sabah Museum in your itinerary. Ideally located nearby the big building of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, travelers can easily spot the museum. If you happen to be around the vicinity, do not miss out the opportunity to visit the Art Gallery, Ethno Botanic Garden and Science and Technology Centre.
The Wisma Budaya Art Gallery located right at the city centre exhibits a lot of national and regional art masterpieces.
The rich cultural heritage in KK also displays the Hongkod Koisaan building that is the home to Kadazan-Dusun Cultural Organization (KDCA). To find out more information on Kadazan ethnic group, do not hesitate to stop by at Monsopiad Cultural Village as it displays the traditional way of life of Kadazan ethnic group. Ideally located within half an hour on south-east of town, the village also tells the heroic story of Kadazan warrior who killed about 42 men when they attacked the village.
Visitors can check out the 42 skulls in the Hall of Skulls. In addition to the above mentioned cultural destinations, KK also offers numerous historical sites such as The Atkinson Clock Tower, Double Six Monument and Petagas War Memorial. Atkinson Clock Tower was built around early 1900s by Mary Edith Atkinson. Located few minutes away from city centre, or more precisely nearby Bandaran Berjaya, it was once used as a navigation aid base for ships. It is best known as one of the pre World-War II buildings to survive the invasion of Japanese. Another historical site is the Double Six Monument which is located in Sembulan built in memory of the fatal crash that brought to the death of Tun Fuad Stephens.
Lastly, remember to include Petagas War Memorial in your trip itinerary. The place was a spot for Japanese to execute Kinabalu Guerillas team that fought against the Japanese during the 1942 invasion. Sabah State Mosque is a true architectural gem standing firm in KK designed with unique dove-grey walls and glittering majestic domes recognizable from afar.
Ideally situated along Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, the mosque can accommodate up to 5000 worshippers during prayers time. Incorporating Islamic architecture and contemporary design, the mosque has become a famous tourism spot for visitors around the world as it allows Muslim women to visit the mosque via a special balcony. Bear in mind that you need to follow the dress code on your trip to the mosque. Located nearby the mosque is the State’s Mausoleum.
Other famous tourism spot in KK include the Tun Mustapha Tower. Standing high from the grounds, this 30-storey and 122 metres high rise building was formerly known as Sabah Foundation Building. The magnificent tower is one of the world’s hanging structures with glass façade. In addition to that, the tower is also famously known as the only unique building in Asia with 72-sided polygon and column free floors.
Your trip is not complete without a tour down by the beautiful and sandy white glistening beach. Get a taste of paradise at Marine Park filled with exotic and breathtaking tropical islands. Located only minutes away from the city, Marine Park comprises five islands namely Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug. Get ready for some white glistening beaches, crystal clear water, and blue dotted skies with soothing sound of the waves, spectacular coral gardens and also the wonders of reefs in the sea water.
Monsopiad Cultural Village
For those who would like to find out more about Kadazan ethnic group, remember to stop by at the Monsopiad Cultural Village. The village exhibits the traditional lifestyle of Kadazan ethnic group. It also offers information on Kadazan heroic story whereby a warrior killed 42 men who attacked the village. Hall of Skulls displays 42 skulls from that particular incident.
The Atkinson Clock Tower
Another popular historical site in KK – The Atkinson Clock Tower was built during early 1900s and one of the pre World War II buildings that survived Japanese invasion. Remember to include Tun Mustapha Tower in your trip itinerary as this high rise 122 metres building is one and only unique building in Asia with 72-sided polygon with glass façade hanging structures.
And of course, your trip is not complete without paying a visit to nearby beautiful and picturesque Marine Park. It comprises five tropical islands – Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug. So get ready and head down to the tropical islands for some crystal clear blue water and wonders of reefs in the sea water.
Pulau Tiga Park
Lastly on your trip itinerary, drop by at a world class diving destination, Pulau Tiga Park that comprises three islands filled with various species of reptiles, thousands of insects, amphibians and also kegapode birds.
Wildlife Exprience in Kota Kinabalu
Wildlife, flora and fauna as well as cultural explorations are the main attractions for Kota Kinabalu aside from its scintillating beaches where you can have a fantastic day under the sun. Check out the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park which is south of Kota Kinabalu. A rich variety of orangutans, proboscis monkeys and gibbons can be found on this diverse wildlife park. You can also find Sumatran Rhinos, tigers, deer, elephants and a large variety of bird species that can be found in an aviary. You can take advantage of the tour service or car rentals of Sabah Oriental Hotel Kota Kinabalu as getting to the place is a bit of a struggle. However the amazing vision you will behold will surely melt all those transportation issues away.
For a cultural experience, check out the Monsopiad Cultural Village where you can see the traditional life of the Kadazan ethnic group. They tell the story of Monsapiad, a warrior who lived 300 years ago who killed 42 men who terrorized the village. The skulls of the 42 men can be seen at the Hall of Skulls.
Aside from these natural and cultural experiences, you can also get some active participation by trying out on Bike, Blade and Board, an extreme sports community in Kinabalu. You can also take a tour to meet other people through an Eco and Natural tour to see other amazing locations around the city. If you want to get more extreme and lose some pounds, learn some self defense skills at the Kota Kianabalu Mixed Martial Arts Gym.
Of course you can experience conventional touristy pleasures like shopping for souvenirs and of course, eating delectable local food. In Kota Kinabalu, you are in a melting pot of gastronomic varieties. Choose between Chinese, Malay, Filipino and even European delicacies or even a combination of some.