Top Water Sports Activities You Can Enjoy in Sabah

Borneo is the world’s third largest island, and there’s nowhere better to use as your base than Sabah. It may only be a small region, but the island can introduce you to all the best things to do in Borneo. Think trekking on Mount Kinabalu and discovering the biodiversity of the rainforests. And that’s before we’ve even got to the water sports. 

In this post, we’ll introduce you to some of the top water sports activities in Sabah. Whether you want to see tropical fish in the South China Sea or go rafting inland, this post will make it easier to plan your Sabah adventures. 

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

Stand Up Paddling (SUP) - Sabah
SUP Watersport in Sabah Borneo

Let’s kick off our list of the best water activities to do in Sabah with the fastest growing board sport in the world – stand up paddle boarding. One of the best places to do this is the island of Sapi, just a 10-minute ride from Kota Kinabalu City. If you’ve not tried it before, SUP is a great way to explore the calm waters just off shore and see the tropical fish living underneath whilst working on your core. After a few days, you might feel brave enough to tackle some bigger waves too!

Desperately want to take your own SUP to Sabah? An inflatable board is easy to transport and you can find a selection here at GILI Sports Stand Up Paddle Boards.

Scuba Diving

One of the most stunning parts of Sabah isn’t on land. The Semporna Archipelago is in the south east of the province, away from Kota Kinabalu. A group of eight islands, diving here is one of the best spots in Borneo.

Diving at Pulau Sipadan Semporna
Sipadan Island diving

Get ready to admire eagle rays gracefully gliding across the sand, barracuda whipping up a tornado, and if you’re really lucky the biggest fish in the world – the gentle giant that is the whale shark. Tun Sakaran Marine Park has eight dive sites, but these are not the only places you can scuba dive in Sabah. You could also try Tunku Abdul Rahman Park on the west coast (great for beginner divers) and Mabul Island, which is perfect for underwater photographers!

For those who are completely new to diving, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many diving schools which offer PADI affiliated dive courses. There’s nowhere better to take your first steps into scuba diving.

Sea Walking
One of the more unusual water activities on offer in Sabah is nevertheless exciting! While not everyone will feel comfortable scuba diving, you don’t need any prior experience for sea walking. But what is it? Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like!

No-one wants to miss out on seeing the colourful tropical fish, rays, and coral reefs of Sabah, so take a walk along the seabed with the aid of a 35kg helmet to realise your dream. This is a totally unforgettable experience that you won’t want to miss out on when you travel to Sabah.

If you’re not a strong swimmer, that’s not a problem either. As you walk along the sea bed, you’ll be able to hold on to a rope which will keep you secure.

White Water Rafting

White water rafting at Padas River
White Water Rafting at Padas River

Not all of the amazing water sports activities in Sabah happen in the sea. And this one will really get the adrenaline flowing! Head inland to the Kiulu, Kedamaian, or Padas River and get ready for some white water rafting. Another water activity where you don’t have to be a swimmer (though at times it does help).

The rivers of Sabah are suitable for most levels of rafters. While beginners can enjoy easy rides with a few bumps in the river to get the heart rate racing, the most experienced rafters will be delighted that there are level 6 rapids here… That’s right, the most difficult ones to tackle!

Rafting can be combined with camping and it’s a great way to see Sabah’s jungles.

Jet Boat Ride

Back to the sea for another of the best activities you can do in Sabah. A jet boat is a thrilling (yet short) zip across the ocean where you’ll catch some serious air… and get very very wet! It will definitely get your pulse racing.

Jet boat ride Sabah
Jet boat ride in Sabah Borneo

A 15-minute journey on a jet boat will see you skim across the water at high speed with a few 360 spins in there. Though it sounds nerve-wracking, jet boats are completely safe and a good tour will always make sure you have the safety essentials so that you can make the most of this exhilarating ride.

Take a Cruise
Okay, we get it. This one is not strictly a water sports activity. However, after you’ve packed in SUPing, scuba diving, rafting, and all the other awesome activities above, you’ll probably need a bit of a rest. A cruise around the northern tip of Borneo is the perfect way to enjoy the water and chill out at the same time!

Final Thoughts on the Top Water Sports Activities you can do in Sabah
No matter if you’re new to water sports or you’ve been doing them for years, Sabah is a great place to indulge in your passions without breaking the bank. For more information on what to do and where to go in Sabah, check out Sabah Tourism. Here, you’ll find all the best tips and tricks on visiting this stunning corner of Malaysia!

Last reviewed: July 30, 2020

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