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Safety in Sabah

Lonely Planet and our Ministry of Foreign Affairs is telling us to avoid the East coast of Sabah.
12 years ago, June 15th 2008 No: 1 Msg: #38648  
lonely planet and our ministry of foreign affairs telling us to avoid the east coast of Sabah where people have been kidnapped by terrorist groups, since this is not what we've planned, we wonder if it's really that bad... we're going in august this summer.

Thank you,
Roel and Ank. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 15th 2008 No: 2 Msg: #38679  
I was in Sabah in 2007 - so I'm very surprised by these warnings...which country are you from...often the foreign affairs sites of western countries are not very accurate...although I would expect better of Lonely Planet Reply to this

12 years ago, June 15th 2008 No: 3 Msg: #38681  
I've just noticed this warning in the British Foreign Office website.

There is a general threat from terrorism in Malaysia. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. For further information see Terrorism Abroad.

In neighbouring Indonesia, Westerners were killed and injured following the terrorist attacks in Bali (October 2002 and October 2005) and Jakarta (August 2003 and September 2004).

We believe that terrorists and criminal elements are continuing with plans to kidnap foreign tourists from the islands and coastal areas of Eastern Sabah. Boats travelling to and from offshore islands and dive sites are possible targets. If you wish to visit resorts on, and islands off, Eastern Sabah (from Kudat eastwards to Tawau), you should exercise extreme caution. Foreign nationals were kidnapped from the Malaysian island of Sidapan in 2000, and from a resort near Lahad Datu in 2003. On 12 April 2004, a Malaysian vessel was hijacked and three crew members taken hostage just outside Malaysian waters off the eastern coastline of Sabah. In 2001, kidnappers took hostages (including two foreigners) from the Philippines island of Palawan, close to the Philippine/Malaysian border. One of the hostages was later killed and the other rescued.

Frankly I consider the British FO website to always exaggerate the risks of the visit to anywhere - it doesn't mention any incidents after I was in the country. So, what I want to know is - has anything happened since I was there, or is there any reason for the statement that someone is planning to kidnap foreigners? Apart from the sort of scaremongering I am used to from the the British government? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 4 Msg: #38685  
I was in Sabah August 2007 as well and I didn't feel like I was in danger at all. The only place I felt remotely uncomfortable in was Semporna when I was diving in Sipadan. It is a very small muslim town and I didn't feel safe walking around at night. I felt fine around the diving area. I also went to Kota Kinabalu, hiked Mt. Kinabalu, and went to the Kinanabatangan River. I felt safe at all these places. I didn't even know there was a travel warning on Sabah before I went...guess I should have checked that before I went! If you decide to go have fun. It is incredible! Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 5 Msg: #38713  
I suppose that since some foreigners were kidnapped, the embassies feel they have to warn of this otherwise they will be blamed if it happens again ....If it does happen again they can say "Well, we did warn you! "

Given that the Philippine islands are so close to that area of Sabah, and that it has happened, I myself, think about it and wonder whether I would go to Semporna . Having said that, I go into Sabah often and have never felt nervous about being over by Sandakan at least.

Going online to the Borneo or Sabah Times may give some info about whether anything has happened recently ...though I haven't heard of anything .

Radio Australia at the time said three Indonesians were taken off a boat by Phillipine pirates possibly from the Abu Sayaf rebel group (Phillipine)

This is from CNN online in 2005 when Australia updated their warning..

."The warning noted that in April 2000, international and local hostages were taken from the Malaysian island of Sipadan, a popular dive site off the south-eastern coast of Sabah near the border between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

A group of 28 alleged kidnappers linked to the Abu Sayyaf terror group based in the Philippines have since gone on trial in Manila for that attack, in which 21 people were held hostage until ransoms were paid.

Further kidnappings occurred in September 2000 from Pandanan Island, in October 2003 near Lahad Datu on the eastern Sabah mainland, and in April 2004 at sea off Sabah's east coast. "

A diver's (CDNN )site tells of a kidnapping off Mataking island in March2005

There is an article in the Sabah Times 12 June 2008 about a journalist being kidnapped - but from Jolo island...again - not far from Sabah....

Perhaps security has been tightened and this is the reason for no more (news of) problems in Sabah. I believe also,that a number of islands that used to have overnight accom no longer have it - said to be for ecological reasons, but.....

Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 6 Msg: #38753  
Thank you all!
have a good one,
Reply to this

12 years ago, June 16th 2008 No: 7 Msg: #38847  
B Posts: 5,195
I've been out to Sipadan (and Semporna) in July 2006 and March/April 2007.

The Malaysian government has taken security on the islands seriously - each of the little islands has a small military base. They don't want the damage that the hostage taking does to their tourism industry, or the islands to be taken over by pirates - one time I was there the minister of defence was on the island filming a promotional piece about security - he was very well protected - see the photo.

I think the chances of being involved in any incident are extremely small - one in hundreds of thousands - but - I would call your travel insurance company and make sure you are covered for travel in that region despite the warning. (It's one way they try to wriggle out of claims)

I'll be going back for sure - it's one of the most amazing places I've ever been 😊

Reply to this

12 years ago, June 17th 2008 No: 8 Msg: #38991  
I can echo what Ali says about security. I was there in 2006 (see blog) went to sipadan - you cant actually stay there anymore (just visit for the diving on the day and return for accomodation on another island like Mabul), but there is a military presence on the islands and security. I also visited the turtle islands (near border of the phillipines) - it felt like the governement were doing plenty to prevent any trouble for tourism and I felt safe. There are armed security guards patrolling.

I only felt a little unsafe in Sandakan - a town on the east coast mainland- went here before transferring to the orangutan centre at sepilok - but there is no risk of kidnap there - probably just pick pocketing

I would reccomend it - the diving was amazing and the turtle islands felt quite remote and we got to release baby turtles back into the sea - I will be going back. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 18th 2008 No: 9 Msg: #39018  
Good to know about the military being there - maybe we will make it out to the islands one day Reply to this

12 years ago, June 18th 2008 No: 10 Msg: #39037  
B Posts: 135
Helllo Brugle;;;

just go ahead men,, i was there during 2005 and i felt so safe .. As ali said ,, the guards are around and u will feel 100% safe .. i agree with Neil & Vik that Sandakan were not really safe. I dont know i just felt that.

there is only one guest house for backpackers ( I cant really remmber the name; I gues the Family gues house,, not sure) and it will cost you 50 RM (not sure if it's increased) per night including a delecious buffet. They are so friendlly and lovely. I will advise to take the snorkelling trip package before you will go off to the Island.

Good luck and have fun. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 19th 2008 No: 11 Msg: #39171  
B Posts: 1
I travelled the entire east coast last month, no hint of problems from Semporna to Kinabangatan to Kota Kinabalu. You have a much better chance of getting hit by a bus than getting kidnapped. Uncle Tan's jungle tour and diving at Sipadan are completely worth the trip. KK is a fun city too. Reply to this

12 years ago, June 20th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #39309  
I think you have to take most of these warnings with a pinch of salt. I live in nearby Brunei and have done so for five years. The Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel warning out for Brunei and parts of Malaysia shortly before I came. It has been in force the whole time. Sometimes I think they are playing the game of "If anything happens you won't be able to complain we didn't warn you."

Nothing is being said locally about E Sabah. Among the pictures I posted on this site during the last few days are two of the police post on Sipidan. You should note the parrot on a perch, and the hammock. I didn't quite dare photograph the hammock while there was a soldier sleeping in it - it looked like that was where he spent most of his time. I think the soliders enjoy their beach camp posting.

Make your journey, enjoy yourself, but don't wander off too far alone like I did. 😉 Reply to this

12 years ago, June 29th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #40247  
Kidnapping and piracy has taken place at the east coast for many years.
I went to Sarawak 12 years ago and read in the newspaper about a raid during the night that had taken place in Sabah (east coast).
Tourists staying at some resorts had also been kidnapped.
It’s terrorists from Philippine who attack the area.
Visiting this part of Sabah is a risk. Of course the place is visited by many tourists every day and it’s not every day this happens. But the wrong timing is always fatal.
There are many places to stay in Sabah so why not choose a more secure place?
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12 years ago, June 30th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #40328  
B Posts: 74
The Malaysian Government has always been taking extreme measures to ensure the safety of everyone. So for those planning a vacation to Sabah, you can travel with a peaceful state of mind. Speaking not only as a local Sabahan but also from my network of friends (local & international) who resides and travels around Sabah extensively, it is perfectly fine. With all due respect, some medias may have overly-fabricated matters pertaining to the safety of this state. However, the Government are doing its best in safe guarding the peace and life of all, with plenty help from us locals as well.

Terima Kasih / Thank You 😊 Reply to this

12 years ago, June 30th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #40330  
I will go there soon, but I'll stay away from east coast.
Is there some great places for birdwathcing near Kota Kinabalu? Reply to this

12 years ago, June 30th 2008 No: 16 Msg: #40332  
B Posts: 74
Hi steenh,

The only place I would vouch for bird watching in Kota Kinabalu is the Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre in Likas, just about two kilometers from Kota Kinabalu City. However, if you suddenly have a change of heart for extreme wildlife adventure, heading over to Sukau, Kinabatangan in Sandakan will be the right choice. What more better way / place to catch the wildlife or do bird watching if not in their natural habitat?


Terima Kasih! 😊
Reply to this

12 years ago, June 30th 2008 No: 17 Msg: #40364  
Steenh, you should contact Robert Chong near Sandarkan. Robert is a local man who runs various eco-tourist ventures, including a jungle camp up the Kinabatangan River. He may still run a guest house near Sandarkan too. He is himself a keen birder and does specialised birdwatching trips. He can give advice and maybe put you in touch with birders in the West. His number: 089 532288. Reply to this

12 years ago, July 2nd 2008 No: 18 Msg: #40627  
N Posts: 7
No worry, Sabah is an amazing place where you will never regret spending your days there!! 😊 Reply to this

12 years ago, July 2nd 2008 No: 19 Msg: #40702  
I moved this to the Travel News and Discussion forum.

Mel Reply to this

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