Of south-east Asia's outdoor destinations, Sabah could be the most exciting. It covers 73,000 square kilometres in Borneo's north, stretching from the South China Sea in the west to the Sulu sea in the east. Both bodies of water have an abundance of uninhabited islands, pristine coral reefs and marine life.
More than half the state is covered in rainforest, national parks, forest and wildlife reserves. It is home to rare mammals the Sumatran rhino and herds of Asian elephants. There is the famous orang-utan, proboscis monkey, gibbon, lemur, civet, Malaysian sun bear and others which can be seen on jungle treks. Keep your eyes open for a megapode or burung tambun. They look like a chicken with large feet and meow like a cat!
Mt Kinabalu, south-east Asia's tallest peak at 4095 metres, is wonderful to climb or trek. Sabah's 32 ethnic groups, 80 dialects, diversified cultures and traditions are fascinating.
Nestled on the shore of the South China Sea is the 155-hectare Sutera Harbour Resort & Spa. Sutera means 'silk' and that is certainly an appropriate word to describe this place.
Two wings make up the resort. The Pacific wing has 500 rooms and suites in its 14 storeys and has been designed for the corporate traveller.
The Magellan wing has 456 rooms over three storeys, all with balconies. Its resort-style has a holiday atmosphere. The vast lobby was designed in the traditional Borneo longhouse style. Longhouses are community dwellings built lengthways rather than high-rise.
The Pacific and Magellan have large, free-form pools. The Sutera Harbour Marina, Golf & Country Club has a free-form pool with children's slide and an Olympic-size lap pool in a lush, tropical setting. They all have poolside furniture and plenty of shade. Pool attendants and lifeguards ensure service and safety.
There are two main beaches, but by Australian standards they aren't overly-impressive. On a daytrip to Tunku Abdul Rahman Park you will find Borneo's best beaches. While there, you can snorkel, dive, fish, kayak, windsurf, parasail and enjoy a barbecue or picnic.
Mandara is a tropical spa with six suites, six treatment rooms and boutique. Their products are adapted from traditional recipes for healing and nourishing, using natural, indigenous ingredients. Little Magellan and Kiddies’ Club provide children’s day care with lots of educational and creative fun. They are for children from 3 to 12 years old.
An exciting thing to do is a countryside ride on the North Borneo Railway in a restored British Vulcan wood-burning steam locomotive. Staff is dressed in period costume and passengers are given a passport which is stamped at each town you pass through.
It was built in England in 1954, the last order from the Vulcan Foundry in Newton-le-Willows before they converted to diesel and electric construction. It is one of the world’s last functional wood-burners and represents the last fleet of steam engines which have worked so hard in Borneo since the late 1800s.
The six carriages are deep green and cream with carved brass logos and natural wood. Each carriage has a modern washroom. Each accommodates 36 passengers, with a bar and observation deck and comfortable lounge area. Windows remain open throughout the journey and cooling fans line the ceilings.
The train passes through villages and coastal towns, paddy fields, rainforests, mangroves, hectares of Nepa and screw palms, rubber and coffee plantations. It really is a journey through the heart of Borneo. It travels 58km between Kota Kinabalu, the state capital, and Papar, an agricultural town known as Sabah's rice bowl.
Whistle stops include Kinarut, a small kampong, famous for pre-war shop houses. There you see the pretty Tsim Shen Tsui temple, built in honour of mainland Chinese by the local community. It has 18 statues of Buddhist monks, a six metre giant smiling Buddha and lotus pond.
The train travels through a mountain tunnel and once through to the other side, the landscape changes from swampland to paddy fields, with villagers tending their plants, accompanied by water buffalo.
As you cross a bright yellow trestle bridge over the Papar River to Papar town, you see little blue, yellow and red fishing boats dotting the waters and selling the day's catch. A typical colonial lunch is served on board.