5 Malaysia’s Hidden Gems That Will Leave You in Awe


This country is famous for its incredible twin tower, colonial towns, and good food. However, little that we know, many unexplored places offered this nation’s true authentic beauty and culture. In collaboration with HUGS Project by Laili Basir, we at Kokonutlist are proud to support the 3C Project (Conservation, Culture, and Community). As this is a 5 series continuous post highlighting 5 incredible places, let’s start with the first out of 5 Malaysia’s hidden destination that should be in your bucket list!

1) Pulau Banggi

eco tourism in malaysia
Limbuak, Pulau Banggi by Hugs Project

Banggi is an island located in the northernmost part of Sabah in the district of Kudat, Malaysian Borneo. It is the biggest island in Malaysia that not known for many outsiders. It is bigger than Langkawi and Penang! This mysterious island is home to dense jungle, untouched beaches, swamps, limestone hills, and savanna hills. It is also a supreme habitat for the vicious freshwater and saltwater crocodile. Intriguing much? Let’s continue.

marine parks of borneo
Tun Mustapha Marine Park

Located within the vicinity of Tun Mustapha Marine Park, Banggi is the door to about 50 islands in this spectacular park with Balambangan island being the biggest. With almost 900,000 ha, Tun Mustapha Marine Park is the second biggest marine park in Malaysia behind Luconia Shoals in Sarawak.

Marine Parks of Borneo
Coral Reefs in Tun Mustapha Marine Park

It does not stop there, the marine park also hosts the second biggest coral reefs in this country with over 250 species of corals! This reef is home to about 360 species of fish, turtles, dugong, and sharks. The eco-tourism programs introduced by HUGS project in this marine park is a collaboration with Taman-Taman Sabah, Sabah Government, and WWF Malaysia. You can check out their activities at the Community and Conservations Based Tourism page.

sabah tourism
Fishing village in Banggi

Around 30,000 people inhabited Pulau Banggi. Most of them live in secluded villages and highly depending on fishing as their primary source of income. However, over the years, sustainable eco-tourism has been introduced to this region. This is crucial to help boost the economy of the locals. For years they have been neglected with lack of access to health care, infrastructure, and education.

coral reefs in borneo
Balambangan Island

As for HUGS Project, this industry is the main priority to save this island from those who want to introduce logging and mining of minerals. On top of that, around 4,000 people living here is from the Bonggi Tribe. Their existence, unique Bornean language, and cultures are threatened and can lead them to total extinction if not preserve.

hidden gems in borneo
Limbuak Laut, Banggi

The highlights of Banggi island is the small town of Karakit and Limbuak. It is where homestays and locally owned guesthouses are located. One can even found tree houses here. The view of the fishermen village, the vast Sulu and the South China Sea with limestone hills surrounding these villages are astonishing. Some villages have secluded estuaries and beaches that are merely undisturbed. Among included in HUGS Project tour is Kg. Padang, Kg. Kapitangan, Kg. Laksian, Kg. Kaligo, Kg. Timbang Dayang, and Kg. Kobong Laut.

islands of borneo
Balambangan Island

Balambangan island is the ultimate highlight for nature and photography lovers. The 19KM Kok Simpul Beach with a white sandy beach and rows of coconut trees is breathtaking. It is one of the longest white beaches in Malaysia! The best of all, it is not crowded. The beach is facing Bounti Loun Hill, a 181M savanna hill with green grass and few caves hidden around. It is also the transit points to diving sites across the marine park. There is nothing more can we say, it is just astounding. Check out the video below of Balambangan Island by Laili Basir, founder of HUGS Project.

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PATH FINDER TRIP TO BANGGI AND BALAMBANGAN ISLAND: 🌴Destination : KOK SIMPUL BEACH & BOUNTI LOUN HILL, BALAMBANGAN ISLAND, SABAH 🎥Drone Videography by: @raoufphotog Raouf Ahmad ⌚Date: 29.04.2017 : 1100hrs We accidentally explore the longest white sandy beach in Malaysia. Trust me, it's really really long! 🌊1st Beach is 8.00KM long ! 🌊2nd Beach is 19.00KM long! 🌊By comparison, Long Beach in Perhentian and Redang Island only 1.10KM. 🏃The best experience to view this majestic is by hiking savanna hill that local people named it as Bukit Bounti Loun. The height only 181 Meter above sea level. It takes only 40 minutes to hike this hill. 🌅Special notes: This place is really paradise for photographer! #hugsproject #hugsbonggiproject #pathfindertrip #banggiisland #balambanganisland #bonggi #kudat #sabah #hammockersmalaysia #selffundedproject #gotravel #goasean #travelbug #travel #asean #asia #malaysia #aerialphotography #aerialview #droneoftheday #dotd #neverstopexploring #exploremalaysia #travelgram #mavicpro #mavic #wanderlust #lonelyplanet #aerialvideo

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limestone and caves of borneo
Limestone and Caves at Kg. Timbang Dayang, Banggi

HUGS Project introduces the International Ultra Trail Run and it is open to maximum 200 experienced runners. It will cover Banggi island and Tun Mustapha Marine Park with 110KM trails along beaches, villages, and hills. It will take place on the 23rd and 24th March 2019. The event will also focus on combatting marine debris that threatening our oceans, especially plastic waste. At the same time, it will promote the island, thus improving the eco-tourism industry for this region. The program tentatives and details can be found here.

running events 2019 in Borneo
Banggi Island Ultra Trail Run Poster

in 2017, HUGS Project successfully launched Path Finder Trip that offers adventurous, divers and sea lovers a chance to explore Banggi and Balambangan island. Before that, the Bonggi Tribe documentations trip was done to ensure their heritage and cultures is well documented. All these projects developed by Laili Basir focus on the welfare of the locals and giving them the chance to develop their eco-tourism industry in both Banggi and Balambangan islands. The revenues from the tours will be channeled to the locals’ welfare. So, If you love rough adventures with a cause, Banggi is the perfect spot for you!

trail run borneo
Sunset in a rocky beach, Banggi

Flights to Kota Kinabalu is offered daily from Kuala Lumpur International Airport by Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines. Meanwhile, direct flight to Kudat only offered by Malaysia Airlines. From Kudat town, ferries are available to reach Karakit jetty on Banggi island. Ferry schedule varies depends on ferry companies such as Kudat Ferries Service Sdn Bhd.

accommodation for adventure
Tammoyo Place by Hugs Project

One of the homestay available here is Tammoyo Place in Kg Nusa Nusa and over the sea Sri Maliangin Homestay near Karakit. However, to ease the journey and have a magnificent time in Banggi, do join Tun Mustapha Marine Park exploration tours organized by Hugs Project! Contact details as below:

adventure tour guide
Hugs Project by Laili Basir

There you go, the first hidden gems of Malaysia. Kokonutlist will publish all destination under the 3C project in collaboration with Laili Basir. Stay tuned and do like our Facebook Page!  Check out the link below for next destination on this list!