Papar, Sabah: History, Sightseeing, and More

Are you thinking about travelling again? The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a ban on travelling worldwide but it seems like travel bans are being lifted again. If you are thinking of travelling, why not, be safe and try heading to Papar in Sabah, Malaysia. It’s off the beaten road and not many people visit it. However, it is full of interesting places to visit. 

We’ll give you a run down of the place in this article so read on and learn all you can!

History of Papar, Sabah

Papar is the capital of the Papar District in the West Coast Division of Sabah. Located about 38 kilometres south of the state capital, Kota Kinabalu. Also known as the “Rice Bowl of Sabah”, Papar is an agricultural town. You will be able to find a wide selection of local fruits, unique Sabahan handicrafts, culture, river rafting, community-based tourism and many more although traditionally, the land was used for growing rice and is dominated by paddy fields.

Despite the steady growth Papar has seen in recent years, the older buildings and features are preserved.

Before the 1990s, the famous Shaw Brothers film company operated Papar’s only cinema called New Gaiety. During World War II, Papar was featured in the Allied plans to retake North Borneo from the Japanese Army.

The first mosque was built in Papar in 1890, known as Masjid Daerah Papar (Papar District Mosque), laying the ground for Papar to be a major Islamic hub in Sabah. 

The rich history of Sabah is home to many and is full of historical facts and places to visit. For easy navigation, we’ve reviewed a few sites for you to visit.

How to Reach Papar?

But first, how do you reach Papar? There are four ways to get to Papar from Kota Kinabalu– by bus, train, taxi or car.

A great option for travelling to Papar is by bus which takes only 40 minutes. Catch the bus at Kota Kinabalu Bas Bandaran and it is a direct ride to Papar. Tickets are only RM9 and there is a bus twice daily.

The Sabah State Railway also has a train running from Kota Kinabalu once a day that leaves at 5.30pm. The train ride takes approximately 53 minutes, leaves from Sembulan Station and arrives in Papar Station.

You can also reach Papar via taxi, if that suits you. I only takes about half an hour to get from Kota Kinabalu to Papar and there are a multitude of taxi providers in Kota Kinabalu.

If that doesn’t suit you, try hiring a car and driving over yourself. The short drive out of the city might do you some good. Don’t worry, there are signboards to guide you so there isn’t much hope of you getting lost.

Where to Stay in Papar?

With Papar being considerably nearby to Kota Kinabalu, you can either opt to stay in Papar while visiting or make it a day trip.

We compiled 3 top hotels for you to stay in if you do not want the inconvenience of driving back and forth between Kota Kinabalu and Papar. Seeing as Papar has many sites to visit despite it being a relatively small town, it will take at least 2 days to cover all the sites.

So, you can book a room in the following:

1. Langkah Syabas Beach Resort

According to reviews, couples love the Langkah Syabas Beach Resort. Very near the beach and nature, you have an amazing sunset view and are surrounded by nature. Since Sabah, in general, is famous for its abundant nature, you can enjoy it here in this resort.

A 3-star hotel, this resort offers a clean pool and a really comfortable stay. It is also located near the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park as an extra bonus.

2. Utan Paradise Jungle Camp

For the more adventurous, this is the place to stay. If you love greens, love being in nature and love to go for an unconventional stay, this Utan Paradise Jungle Camp might just be for you.

This camp site provides accommodation, a bar and a garden, which suits the travelling style of a backpacker. There are 13 units of huts made from bamboo, which makes it a cooling stay. There are lots of spots to take insta-worthy shots, seeing as you’ll be surrounded by nature.

3. Beringgis Beach Resort

Beringgis Beach Resort overlooks the South China Sea. As you can guess from its name, this resort offers a beautiful, sandy beach for guests to enjoy in. With all the basic amenities, this resort is a must-stay place in Papar for families. Prices are not expensive either. A double room at this resort starts from only RM167! 

Besides all the amenities that comes with a hotel, a plus for Beringgis Beach Resort is its service. This resort organizes tours to Kinabalu National Park, Lok Kawi Wildlife Park and other attractions. 

Sightseeing opportunities in Papar, Sabah

After checking into your hotel or accommodation, it’s about time you start exploring and thoroughly enjoying your visit to Papar. Here is a list of “must see” sites when you arrive.

1. Borneo Cultural Village

Experience and learn about the culture in Sabah by first visiting the Borneo Cultural Village (BCV). Each house in the BCV was built by the descendants of the ethinicity they represent such as the Traditional Papar House, Murut House, Penampang House, Bajau House and Tidong House.

You will be able to play with a blow pipe and with musical instruments. You may also experience starting a fire by just using bamboo. Learn about the natives’ way of life at the BCV.

2. Papar River Rafting 

This site is not for the faint hearted. Papar River is famous for those who love water sports. It has a Grade II and Grade III white water rafting for adventure seeking individuals. Midway through the raft, the raft master will take a break and you can jump into the river or just chill on the river bank.

3. Lok Kawi Wildlife Park

Fully developed by the Sabah Wildlife Department, the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park consists of two components – zoological and botanical. If you are with your family, this is a very suitable place to visit as the objective of this park is to become a family-oriented park. Therefore, much emphasis is placed on the Children’s Zoo.

You will find many species of animals here including the Malayan Tiger and Borneo Pygmy elephants. You can also try their jungle trail which is actually a paved trail that is built along the botanical trail. We’re pretty sure kids would love exploring this wildlife park.

4. De Fontaine Memorial

You might want to visit the De Fontaine Memorial if you are a history buff. This monument was built by the North Borneo Chartered Company to remember an incident on 12 May 2885 that led to an ambush attack on the North Borneo Armed Constabulary. This monument is in Kawang, Papar.

5. Tamu Papar

One of the main draws for Papar is its tamu. Also known as the Sunday market, you should walk around and try the local fruits and fresh vegetables as well as shop for unique Sabahan handicrafts if your visit coincides with the days of the week. You can also chit chat with local sellers and vendors in order to get a feel of the place and a small insight to local lives.

6. Tagal Kg Kinolosodon

The Tagal Kampung Kinolosodon is a community-based tourism project initiated by the community in collaboration with the Fisheries Department. When visiting, you will be able to feed the fishes and have a leg massage. By the river bank, we are sure that your family, even if you have small children, will enjoy it as it has hints of adventure, you will be outdoors but you and your family will be safe at the same time.

7. KK Adventure Park

This is perfect for children who are just beginning to explore their adventurous side. Of course, if you’re an adult and want a bit of fun, you can always join in. Located at Kamping Gana Papar, the KK Adventure Park is also known as Mai Aman Adventure Park. It was especially designed for school holiday camps. 

You’ll be able to experience different outdoor activities such as the flying fox, wall climbing, kayaking and the flying squirrel. What a thrill!

8. Kawang Forest Center

For a family fun time, the Kawang Forest Center is perfect. This recreational forest is 1,551 hectares wide and you can access it by car. Experience different parts of nature with jungle trekking and visiting the beautiful waterfalls. You can also visit the Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave). 

Don’t worry about getting lost as there are tour guide services provided for those who need it. You can also opt to stay a night for as they have camping sites available. 

What are you waiting for? Papar is a town full of nature visits and if you really need a break, just pack your bags, book your accommodation and enjoy all the sites to visit. You won’t regret it for sure!

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