Sabah, or the Land Below the Wind, has many beautiful tourism destinations worth visiting. One such place is Beaufort, capital of the Beaufort District. Beaufort Sabah is located about 90km south of Kota Kinabalu. Its population consists mainly of Bisayas, Brunei Malays, Kadazan-Dusuns, Lun Bawang/Lun Dayeh, Muruts and Hakka Chinese.
Beaufort Town has a long and colourful history. It was founded on uninhabited land which was developed to set up a train station near Brunei Bay. The spot was chosen by William Clark Cowie, an officer of the British North Borneo Chartered Company who was also the company’s managing director in January 1898.
The town was developed along the Padas River. As such, it was divided into two parts – each with its own train station, government officers’ residences and shop lots. The western part of Beaufort handled the train station servicing Bukau and Weston, while the eastern part handled the one with trains going towards Kota Kinabalu and Tenom.
History of Economic Activities in Beaufort
Agriculture is the main economic activity for the people of Beaufort. The cultivation of sago was actively practiced by locals as well as European entrepreneurs until the early 20th century when sago cultivation was set aside by rubber plantations such as the Woodford Estate, as the focus in cultivating rubber proved lucrative for the owners. The rubber industry contributed so much to the development of Beaufort that it was known as the Rubber City.
The people of Beaufort used to utilise the river, with the two most important rivers of the time being the Padas River and Klias River. All produce from local plantations were carried in boats to be sent to town. Thus, the rivers were strategic because they connected a few districts together, with the example of Sungai Padas connecting the districts of Tenom, Sipitang and Weston while Klias River connected Menumbok, and facilitated efforts to transport goods to these districts. Completion of railway lines in 1900, built by the Chartered Company, further facilitated the transportation of goods.
In 1945, much of the railway infrastructure was damaged from World War II. Consequently, the lines between Tenom and Melalap, and from Beaufort to Bukau, were closed.
How to get to Beaufort Sabah
You can get to Beaufort via three ways – by car, bus or train. The town is on the main highway linking the city and the Sabah-Sarawak border at Sindumin, 75km further south. In the old days, the road was unpaved but it is now in much better condition, with a good sealed road going all the way down to Sipitang and onwards to Sindumin. You can also get to Kuala Penyu and Menumbok using this road, with the turnoff just outside Beaufort on the road to Kota Kinabalu.
You can opt for minivans for connections between Beaufort and neighbouring towns, even as far as to Kota Kinabalu or Lawas, Sarawak, or you can go for the more comfortable long distance express buses.
The minivans travel frequently between Beaufort and Kota Kinabalu, serving Papar, Kimanis and Bongawan along the way. They also run frequently between Beaufort and Lawas in the morning, with Sipitang Express running one bus daily between both places. All buses continue on to Kota Kinabalu.
- To/From Kota Kinabalu: Sipitang Express Bus Sdn Bhd runs express buses between Kota Kinabalu and Beaufort. Departures from Kota Kinabalu are at 07:30 (going all the way to Lawas), 08:30, 12:00 and 16:30, and all buses continue to Sipitang. From Beaufort, buses depart at 09:00, 13:00, 14:30 and 17:30. Journey time takes about one hour 45 minutes and the fare is RM9 one way.
- To/From Lawas: Sipitang Express runs one bus from Beaufort to Lawas daily, departing Beaufort at 09:15. If you are just heading to Sipitang, there are also departures at 10:15, 13:45 and 18:15. In the other direction, buses leave Lawas for Beaufort and Kota Kinabalu at 12:30, arriving at Beaufort at about 14:30. From Sipitang, buses for Beaufort leave at 08:00, 12:00, 13:30 and 16:30. All buses continue to Kota Kinabalu. Fares between Beaufort and Lawas is RM11 (only up to Sipitang is RM4.50 and up to Sindumin on the Sabah-Sarawak border is RM6.50).
If you prefer to take the scenic route, you can ride the train which operates between Beaufort and Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu, which also travels along the beautiful Padas River gorge to Tenom. There are about four trains operating daily between Beaufort and Kota Kinabalu.
However, the train is the only viable option between Beaufort and Tenom, as the road would require a long detour via Papar. There are two trains daily, and the track snakes along the Padas River with diesel engines and railcars operating along this stretch. The train stops at many stations along the way during the two-hour journey, some of which are just a simple wooden platform in the middle of thick bush. It’s mostly used by people going whitewater rafting on the Padas River.
What to eat and where to stay
Once in Beaufort, an array of local dishes are available for you to enjoy. Beaufort Sabah is best known for ambuyat, which is made of sago flour and eaten with a special sauce. Other popular local foods include tapai manis, jelurut, bingka, rojak, soto, nasi ayam special, cendol pulut, mamak cuisine and Beaufort Mee, a Chinese noodle dish served either dry or with soup. It is also famous for Beaufort oranges, featured in three large sculptures at the town centre.
As for accommodations, you can enjoy a stay at the Borneo Proboscis River Lodge, which has different types of accommodations to suit your needs. It is also strategically located nearby to several attractions, so you will have no difficulty seeing the sights while you’re there. Besides its elegant atmosphere, it also has many facilities for your convenience.
If you prefer the great outdoors, you can opt for camping at Pimpang Mambakut Beach. It is a popular destination for local youths to chill and enjoy nature. While it isn’t unique to other beaches, it is cooler because of the winds that blow from the colder parts of Sabah. This makes the beach a great place to go with your friends and family.
You may also search AirBnB for various homestay options. Hotels around Beaufort Sabah are also in abundance, with great views and in strategic locations. Whether you are traveling solo, with your partner, friends, or family, you are bound to find the perfect place to stay.
Where to go in Beaufort Sabah
You can visit Starcevich Memorial, which was erected as a token of gratitude to Private Thomas Starcevich. Private Starcevich led two counter-attacks in June 1945 against the Australian forces. He destroyed enemy positions with his Bren machine gun and helped liberate the town.
There is no shortage of ecotourism in Beaufort Sabah. Klias Wetland is situated in the east of Beaufort with its own unique qualities. It not only houses animals native only to Borneo, it also contains a mangrove forest reserve. There, you can learn more about the mangrove flora and fauna. Amongst the wildlife found there are orangutans and proboscis monkeys.
Enjoy the Klias River Cruise where you can watch proboscis monkeys and fireflies in their natural habitat. The Klias River Cruise has been listed in tourism packages by various tourism agencies, making it popular among local and foreign tourists alike. Nearby the Klias River Cruise is the Monkey Top Safari where you can find various species of monkeys, orangutans, crocodiles, birds and other wildlife.
Weston Wetland Park
Weston Wetland Park allows you to go on a river safari and watch the local wildlife. Among the wildlife that can be seen along the river are proboscis monkeys, long tail macaques, fireflies and exotic plants.
Sungai Padas, with its cool atmosphere, is a destination not to be missed. If you enjoy challenging activities, you can go whitewater rafting and kayaking. However, if you prefer more laid back activities, you can simply swim and play in the water.
Garama Wetland is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Beaufort. It contains a water theme park alongside natural habitats of native wildlife, and you can enjoy nature and behold fauna that isn’t easily found elsewhere. There, you can get on a cruise to enjoy the sights around Beaufort, or go on a flying fox for some excitement.
Pulau Tiga Marine Park
For scuba divers, head over to Pulau Tiga, which was once a location on the reality show Survivor. Besides scuba diving and watching the marine wildlife, you can also see several species of wildlife on land. You will see many animals, insects, reptiles and birds, some of which you may not even have heard of before.
Pulau Tiga is also known for its mud volcanoes, which are the only ones in Malaysia. It is one of the islands in the Pulau Tiga Marine Park. The park encompasses three islands – Pulau Tiga, Kalampunian Besar and Kalampunian Damit over an area of 15,864ha. Kalampunian Damit is also known as Snake Island due to thousands of sea snakes that go to lay their eggs only on the island.
Batu 58 Waterfall
Beaufort is also home to some nice waterfalls. One such waterfall, the Batu 58 Waterfall, is near Sana Waterfall in Kampung Jempahgah. This waterfall is surrounded by large black rocks, with a hill or steep structure. Even so, you can still swim and play in the water here.
Another waterfall worth visiting is Lumadan Waterfall. Although it is a tourist attraction, not many are aware of its location. Just like Beaufort Wetland, proboscis monkeys are a common sight, as well as various species of birds. This waterfall is safe and perfect for the whole family.
Banting Beaufort Waterfall
Banting Beaufort Waterfall is located in Kampung Banting, and many are unaware of this waterfall as it is within a rural area. Head over to Kampung Banting and find out more about this waterfall. Ask any local and they will point you in the right direction.
In the town itself, you can visit its open air market, known as tamu, where you can find local produce such as fresh fruits, vegetables, fresh meat and live poultry. It is held weekly from Friday evening to Saturday afternoon. If you prefer air-conditioned shopping, there is also a newly developed shopping area with superstore branches such as Servay, BestMart and CNF Hypermarket, as well as fast food joints like Pizza Hut, BTC, Marrybrown and KFC.
Beaufort Sabah: The Place to Go
Whether you’re a solo traveller, going on an adventure with your friends, enjoying a fun and relaxing holiday with family or a romantic getaway with your partner, there is something for you there. With its myriad wildlife and activities, Beaufort is definitely a place worth visiting in Sabah. You will see many species of wildlife you’ve never even heard of, let alone seen before, making your trip a highly memorable one.