Pitas in Sabah is not a place you hear about very often. Its legend about the ship turned into an island is a whispered secret. But Pitas is one place in Sabah that everyone should visit. This tiny magical island holds an adventure for every traveler.
Where is Pitas, Sabah?
On the map, Pitas is located North of Sabah. Pitas is the capital of the Pitas District in Sabah.It is made up of many villages and small islands. All around them are the clear blue waters and coral of the Marudu Bay.
The people of Pitas are mostly Rungus or Orang Sungai, members of the Kadandunsun ethnic group. As of 2010, there were 895 people living in Pitas. The villagers make a living by fishing from the waters nearby and oil palm cultivation.
Profiting from tourism is a recent development for the island as it is not a popular destination. But this does not mean that Pitas is any less beautiful than other sites in Malaysia.
How to get to Pitas, Sabah
The easiest way to get to Pitas is through Kota Kinabalu. From the Kota Kinabalu city center, you can get a long-distance bus/van/taxi near Padang Merdeka to Kudat town. This journey takes about 3 hours. If you plan to stay at Malubang village then you should go to the harbor at the edge of Kudat town and charter a boat. It takes about an hour to reach Malubang Village.
Places to stay in Pitas, Sabah Pitas
Pitas is a small district with limited places to lodge. So it is best to book a room ahead of time before. You can book an AirBnB or stay at these establishments:
The Malubang homestay is one of the best options for accommodation in Pitas. It gives off a very traditional feel. The Malubang Homestay is situated on the beach with an extensive view of the water. You can wake up to the fresh scent of bay water every morning. Each room is big enough to fit a group of 3 to 4 people. You can cook in the common kitchen area or enjoy the meals the homestay provides.
Indah Chalet Dataran Bengkoka
Indah Chatel is a restaurant and chalet that offers rooms to lodge in. The restaurant serves fresh seafood. You can also enjoy catch and release fishing during your stay.
You could also stay at resorts or hotels in Kudat and visit Pitas instead. A drive from Kudat to Pitas is about 28.95 km. The journey usually takes 2 hours. Here are some places you can stay in Kudat
9 huts on a hill
9 Huts on a hill (just as the name implies) have nine huts that face the beautiful Bak Bak beach. The huts are built in Rungus architectural style with materials sourced from the area. It has a restaurant, a fitness center and a stunning view of the sea.
Dreamland Beach Holiday
This establishment is made up of brightly colored huts. There is a restaurant, a bar, an outdoor swimming pool, and a shared lounge to relax in.
The Food Culture of Pitas, Sabah
The food the people of Pitas eat is sourced from the ocean and farms around them. The waters of Marudu Bay provide shrimp, crabs, prawns, snails and diverse types of fish. The restaurants serve fresh seafood cooked in various ways with different types of side dishes.
Rice is a staple food of the Kadundunsun people. Tapai rice is a dish made by mixing yeast together with cooked rice. It is then left overnight to produce the sweet taste and scent of Tapai. It is usually eaten with seafood.
You should also try out Tinopuru Linugu, a dish of tasty steamed fish in vegetables. Ampang is crackers made from Spanish mackerel, tapioca starch, and other seasonings. It is sold in shops in Pitas.Another dish to try out is the shrimp fried rice. This is a delicious meal made with shrimp, rice and fresh vegetables.
Make sure you request for Ambuyat, a starchy dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm. Its bland taste is complemented with dips and seafood.
Things to do in Pitas
Pitas is not well known as a tourist destination but it has many attractions that will make your stay worthwhile. Pitas is home to a mystical island, a floating coral bar, a waterfall, and tasty seafood. There is so much to do and see on this spectacular island.
1. Visit the beautiful Malubang Village
Malubang village is your gateway to all the sites to see and experience in Pitas. This idyllic village is situated at the edge of the Maduru Bay. It has picturesque sandy beaches and a view of the clear blue sea that warms the eyes. The people of Malubang are friendly and you can learn a lot about the culture and life of this fishing village from the people. On this island you will discover the sad story of Supirak. Supirak was a sailor from long ago who was cursed by his mother and turned to stone.
2. Visit Sipurak Island
This island has a haunting tale to explain its origin. Many years ago a sailor called Sipurak was cursed by his mother after he treated her badly. Her curse turned his ship into stone. The stone ship is known today as Supirak island.
Supirak Island is a must-see for every visitor to Pitas. A boat ride from the Malubang village will take about ten minutes. The island stands in the water and its top is covered with many trees and grasses. To enter the island, visitors have to walk across a 30-Meter wooden boardwalk and then, climb up a 12-Meter staircase to get to the top of Supirak Island.
There is an observatory platform with an exhibition about the legend in English and Malay languages. When you stand at the edge of the island, you will be able to see the Banggi, Balambangan and Maliagin Islands.
3. Visit the stone formations of Pitas
Supirak’s ship was not the only thing that turned into stone at his mother’s curse. Standing at the beach facing Supirak’s island is Batu Gerawang. The stone arch is believed to be what remains of Supirak’s home.
If you want to stand on water, you should visit the Batu Dalung. These are three outcrops of rocks in the water. They are said to resemble plates used for food. From where you stand, you’ll be able to see Batu Talum.
Batu Talum owes its shape to the Supirak legend. It looks like a food cover. But this outcrop of rock stands alone in the middle of the Maduru Bay. It is high and has a slanted top. Foliage grows on top of it, framing the top with green.
Have you ever imagined humans turning into stone? This is the fate that is said to have befallen the people that are now rocks at Batu Betunsai, another island in Pitas. The rocks protruding out of the ground are reminiscent of dancing people. They were turned to stone along with his ship. The eeriness of the story is belied by the swaying, mangrove trees that grow in between the rocks. This tiny islet is a must-see if you are in Pitas, Sabah.
4. Visit the Bongkol waterfall
Bongkol waterfall flows down from a ledge of rocks overhead. It is located in the forest reserve area and has no clear path to it. But the trek is worth the beauty of clear water rushing down the waterfall. You can take a dip in the stream below the waterfall. Bomgkol waterfall is located about 21km from the main town of Pitas.
5. Eat at Pitas Floating coral bar
Pitas is peculiar for many things but one thing that stands out is the chance to drink and dine on the water. The sandbank in the middle of the water is a spot for relaxation and food. Red and white umbrellas protect diners from the sun as they sit in chairs placed in the water. The tide is low so you can eat and drink and enjoy the feel of water against your feet.
6. Swim in the waters of Marudu Bay
Underneath the waters of Marudu Bay are sea creatures every diver would want to see. They live in the reef below. You can go snorkeling and discover the micro life in the bay. You can also go scuba diving, paddleboarding, and canoeing in the warm blue waters of the Marudu Bay.
7. Catch and release Fishing
If you love fishing, then Pitas has the right activity for you. You can catch the fishes in Marudu Bay. Places like the Indah Chalet provide fishing equipment for the visitors. But you cannot make a meal of your catch. You have to let it go. This is a relaxing activity that is also eco friendly. You can also go fishing on the Bangang overnight. Bangangs are traditional fishing platforms that stand on sticks above the water.
A visit to the quiet island of Pitas is your chance to experience the serene charm of a small town unlike any other in the world. It is one of the few places in the world where you can also sip wine while your feet rest in the water. The road to Pitas is one less traveled but it is worth every step