Tuaran is the capital of the Tuaran District. It is located on the West Coast of Sabah, Malaysia. A population of 3,253 (2010 estimate) people lives in this small town. Half the population are ethnic Dusuns.
The Lotud and Bajau ethnic groups also live in Tuaran. The magnificent Tuaran river borders the town on both sides. Tuaran is about 34 km north of the state capital Kota Kinabalu, along the main highway linking Kota Kinabalu with Northern Sabah.
A Brief History of Tuaran
The name Tuaran comes from the root word, “Tawaran”. Tawaran means bargaining or sale. A long time ago, Tuaran was a market where the people from the villages on the hillside would bring their produce to sell to the indigenous people or Chinese people from the coast.
The market still holds at Tuaran allowing villagers and townspeople to sell to and buy from each other. It is called Tamu Tauran and takes place weekly on Sunday Morning at the city center.
The culture of Tuaran
Tuaran culture reflects the way of life of the Dusun, Lotud and Bajau people. These diverse cultures exist peacefully side by side in Tuaran. They share some common practices like the celebration of the rice festival, music, dance (the Sumazau) and hospitality to strangers.
Their traditional costumes are colorful with elaborate headdresses and unique jewelry. They celebrate Kaamatan festival, a rice harvest festival every year. A popular meal in Tuaran is the Tuaran Mee. A dish of handmade egg noodles served with meat and vegetables.
What is the best time to visit Tuaran?
The weather in Tuaran is mostly humid. Temperatures are high throughout the year, barely varying at all. The best time to visit Tuaran is in winter. Rains reduce from December to February making it the ideal time to tour Tuaran.
How to get to Tuaran?
Tuaran is about 34 minutes away from Kota Kinabalu. The drive from Kota Kinabalu covers about 38 kilometers. You can take a taxi or a town car to Tuaran. You could also drive to Tuaran yourself.
Places to stay in Tuaran, Sabah
Tuaran has many places for you to lodge in. There are homestays, hotels, and resorts. Here are some places to stay in while you are in Tuaran:
1. Shangri La Rasa Ria Resort and Spa
Shangri-la Ria Resort and Spa is one of the top places to stay in Tuana. With an ideal combination of a view of the sea and rainforest, visitors enjoy their stay in its luxurious suites. Meals are provided for a wide range of dishes. There is also a pool, beachside bar, and a music lounge.
2. Kiulu Riverside Chalet
Kiulu Riverside Chalet is a bed and breakfast that provides comfortable accommodation and a local cuisine breakfast course.
3. Western Beach Resort
Western Beach Resort is located on one of idyllic Sabah’s beaches.
4. Borneo Tree Houses
The rooms at Borneo Tree Houses are actually stilt houses. These beautiful bamboo structures are an adventurous option to stay in Tuaran. There is also a pool. Meals are provided for guests every day of their stay.
5. Kampung Pukak Homestay
Fashioned after village styled houses, the Kampung Pukak Homestay gives a unique experience of staying in a traditional Sabahan home.
6. Tuaran Homestay
The rooms at Tuaran Homestay are comfortable and simple making this a pocket-friendly choice for accommodation. It is also very close to many tourist sites.
What to do in Tuaran: Top 10 attractions you should see
1. Klias wetland safari
Klias Wetland Safari is a tour of the Beaufort and Klias Forest Reserve. It includes a river cruise on the Klias River during the day and a nighttime cruise through the mangrove forest. Bornean wildlife especially the Proboscis Monkeys and Orangutans can be spotted during the cruise.
At night time, tourists can enjoy the sight of hundreds of fireflies flickering in the dark. You can also enjoy bird watching and observing crocodile, long-tailed Macaques and Silver Langurs in their habitats. The experience also covers a taste of the local delicacies with dinner out in the open.
2. Sapi and Manukan island
Imagine experiencing the sandy beaches and warm blue waters of two islands in one day. This is possible with Tuaran’s twin islands. Manukan and Sapi islands are a few kilometers apart. Manukan island is the second largest island in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
It has white sandy beaches and beautiful coral reefs. You can enjoy a walk along the nature trail or dive into the water to snorkel. Sapi Island is also a great place to go snorkeling. The colorful fish and peculiar corals are a sight to enjoy. One of the things you want to do in Tuaran is go on the island to island zipline.
3. Colonial steam train excursion
Journey through Tauran in the oldest running train in Malaysia. The British Vulcan steam locomotive carries its passengers through four picturesque towns. Its refurbished interior ensures that you travel in comfort and safety.
During the ride, you will get to see the jungles, beaches, villages, rice paddies and plantations of Sabah as well as its lush landscape. A ‘tiffin’ colonial lunch is usually served on the return trip. The meal comprises of traditional and continental dishes.
4. Upside Down House
Also known as the Rumah Terbalik, the Upside down House is one of the few houses in the world that have their roof on the ground.
You can take a tour of the house which is a traditional village house with a kitchen, living room, bedrooms, toilet, veranda, and garden. Everything that is usually on the floor is on the ceiling. It is a very unusual experience but once your eyes adjust to it, you can enjoy the uniqueness of this site.
5. Cowboy Town in Sabandar
Modeled after the towns of the old wild west, The Cowboy town in Tauran offers a western theme landscape with the 9th-century American lodge, restaurants, stables, paddocks, walking trails, riding trails, and horse rides. The cowboy town also has a nature walkway. This is a path through the mangrove forest that stands nearby. You can also have a taste of Sabahan dishes at the bamboo restaurant.
6. Borneo Ant House
A visit to Borneo Ant House takes you underground to the home of giant ant replicas. There are 463 ant sculptures in one part of the Borneo Ant House. Ants are not the only focus of the Borneo Ant House. Sabahan culture is also on display.
From the ancient swords of the people of Sabah to their traditional clothes, the Borneo Ant House is Tauran’s most exquisite underground gallery. You can also go on a canopy walk, visit the treehouse and the souvenir shop to get handmade items.
7. Crocker Range National Park
Tuaran is one of the districts Crocker Ranger National Park is comprised of. It is the highest mountain range in Sabah, at an elevation of 5,900. It is also a reserve park for the animal and botanical life of Malaysia.
At the Crocker Ranger National Park, nature is left to flourish and grow on its undisturbed. There are many activities aside from watching animals live in their natural habitat. You can also enjoy camping, white water rafting on the Padas, visiting the insectarium and Crocker Natural Museum.
In Laya Laya Village of Tuaran, a fascinating place lies between the sea and a river. KellyBays has a floating restaurant, batik art area, and a blow dart shooting range.
You can walk along its sandy beaches, ride a water bicycle on the river or watch the dancers’ astonishing moves with fire. There are also hammocks on the beach for visitors to enjoy naps or the view of the water. You can go fishing on the boat rides and catch your own fish.
9. Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum
The Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum has a peculiar exhibition on display. Visitors to the museum learn about the people of Borneo through miniature-sized exhibitions. The clothing, lifestyles, rituals of the indigenous people are showcased through small doll-sized models.
The main exhibition is divided into the 3 major ethnic groups, the Kadazandusun, the Bajaus and the Muruts.
Visitors also get to dress up in traditional costumes. You can participate in the dance of the indigenous people as well as learn how to play the traditional gongs. There is also a game area in the Chanteek Borneo Indigenous Museum with ancient games.
10. Tuaran Crocodile Farm
The Tuaran Crocodile farm is home to over 1000 crocodiles. The farm breeds the reptiles in a sustainable manner. Visitors to the Tuaran Crocodile Farm get to see crocodiles up close and even hold and pet them.
Performances that feature workers placing hands in the reptiles open mouth without getting bitten. Watching feeding of the reptiles is also a very popular activity. There are other animals to see at the farm such as rabbits and sea otters.
Tuaran is a fascinating place to visit. It has both natural and man-made attractions that you will always remember. Enjoy Malaysia by paying a visit to the town of Tuaran.