Sabah aiming to become vibrant sailing destination

Adventure remains a strong asset for Sabah, East Malaysia. Nautical tourism has recently been identified as a key asset for attracting visitors to Sabah.

According to Sabah State Tourism, Culture, and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Joniston, Sabah needs to capitalise on the prospects of recreational boating given its advantageous location and abundance of waterways.

Previous sailing events organised by Sail Malaysia could be a benchmark for the state to develop the potential of boating sector further and make Sabah a destination of choice for sailors, he said.

Sail Malaysia Managing Director Sazli Kamal Basha met Mr Bangkuai, who chairs Sabah Tourism Board, to discuss the Sail Malaysia Passage to the East 2023 Yacht Rally and Sabah’s potential as a sailing destination.

Boat culture to be strengthened

“I think we should develop Sabah into a vibrant boating culture because we have received many locals and foreigners participating in recreational boating activities. Sabah’s picturesque coastline, pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and stunning landscapes, combined with good marines for boat docking, provide a visually appealing sailing experience,” said Mr Bangkuai.

Considering the appeal of such niche interest, he said that Sabah could hold a sailing and boating exposition to draw boating enthusiasts and create revenue for local shops, restaurants, hotels, and other service industries.

“Hosting successful sailing and boating events can enhance Sabah’s reputation as a nautical tourism destination. Such events can generate temporary and permanent employment opportunities for the local community,” he said.

While bringing attention to environmental concerns and bolstering conservation efforts in Sabah, these events can also spur investment in local infrastructure like marinas, piers, and boating facilities.

Sabah offers stunning bays on par with other well-known sailing destinations for mooring boats or yachts, such as Marudu Bay, which is accessible to rural destinations where sailors can stay longer and explore the surrounding attractions as well as the local community.

According to statistics provided by Sail Malaysia, the Passage To The East yacht rally saw 386 participants between 2008 and 2022, including 24 repeat participants.

The participants were from Australia, Norway, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United States, France, Sweden, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland, among others.

Sazli mentioned that according to statistics, the average tourist stays for a week, but those participating in the Sail Malaysia programme typically stay for two weeks.

Sabah wildlife
Sabah spectacular wildlife with the iconic orang utan (Photo: screenshot video

A private jet for wildlife adventure

In another development, Sabah is also identified as an extraordinary destination for a wildlife adventure by private jet.

Through their programme – Wildlife of the World by Private Jet, a team of National Geographic wildlife experts and their guests made Sabah the first location in Asia to witness wildlife in the wild.

Sabah was chosen and put on the map as part of the luxury private jet trip because of its wildlife diversity and how much each area has to offer in terms of knowledge and wildlife sightings.

After a stop in Singapore, the experts flew into Sandakan for a three-day wildlife adventure. Visiting Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SOURC), Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) and spending two nights at Kinabatangan River.

“I am pleased that the National Geographic experts’ team with their VVIP guests were here to experience our amazing wildlife. I commend Sticky Rice Travel for their efficient planning and arrangement in guiding the Nat Geo group in Sabah.” said Noredah Othman, CEO of Sabah Tourism Board.

“We also had a private jet that came into Sabah in October this year, bringing in VVIP guests for wildlife tours. This private jet was brought in by Abercrombie & Kent with their ground handler Asia Top Team Travels. Sabah is a world-class nature and wildlife destination, we are also known for our conservation efforts,” Noredah said.

The trip is putting Sabah on the radar as one of the top wildlife destinations in South East Asia for tour operators. For Gennaro Nardone, Asia Top Team Travels Managing Director, “[tour operator] Abercrombie & Kent was able to sell off an additional departure private jet for February 2023 and another one for February 2024. Sabah has the potential to be the ‘In’ destination for the high-end market, allowing visitors to see wildlife in the wild and experience what it’s like to live in a pristine jungle.”

Sabah Tourism Board will be present at ITB Berlin 2023 together with Tourism Malaysia, Hall 26 | Stand 115.

Sabah Tourism
Authentic wildlife adventure in Sabah rainforest (Photo: screenshot video
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