Our Story – Heaven and Hell on the Tip of Borneo

Now we shouldn’t really tell you about this place as it is ‘the secret place’ but, what the hell, it was never going to stay secret for long! So, where to start with the Tip of Borneo?

We had previously come across the mention of the ‘Secret Place’ online but didn’t think much of it at first glance so concentrated on other parts of Sabah first. However, once we had shared one extremely strong G&T and a few laughs with two ladies in our hostel who highly recommended it we made up our minds to go to the Tip of Borneo a day later!

The promise of camping on an unbroken white sand beach at a place run by a big local family serving up local food was just too hard to turn down. And as a travellers ‘secret’ we thought it best to carry on the tradition and go and see what all the stories were about!

Just the small, tiny, minuscule problem of getting there was all that stood between us and paradise the next day. Full of excitement and anticipation we trudged down to the local minibus stop ready to start the 3/4 hour journey….or so we thought. It turns out that after 8am in the morning this actually isn’t so easy so when we ambled down at 9.30am fresh faced and full of breakfast our smiles quickly turned to boredom as we waited for another 2 and a half hours for enough people to fill the minibus for it to depart for Kudat. Note to self (and others) – when trying to get a public ‘minibus’ anywhere, get there early to avoid disappointment as sometimes they don’t go at all if there isn’t enough people!

Anyway…for 25k rupiah, a Malay lady asleep on my shoulder and Josh and our friend Cedric sat in the back with all the luggage on their laps. Thankfully, or not, the driver liked the fact his minibus was very fast so we made it to Kudat in about 3 hours…

Another quick haggle later and we were in a taxi to the northern most point of Borneo…or actually just a crazy mans car! He not only had random coins and things glued all over the inside and a gear stick held together by rubber bands but had also picked up Sergio Ramos (not THE) with a broken collar bone. An interesting journey, but hey, we were on our way to the tip!

We pulled up half an hour later and dropped our bags as we looked out to what can only be described as visual paradise. The sun was going down, our tents were assembled under some trees on a spot of white sand and a gloriously calm sea lapped the shore. A camp fire kicking off at sunset and a fridge full of cold beer is all we really need to say about the first night. A dream.

Our first day was filled with exploring the beach, camp, meeting the family and their 7 children and the 3 travellers who had been at the campsite for a little over a month. You really can find complete solitude at this place and they had obviously found it together and weren’t leaving anytime soon, who knows if the budding romance between two of them had anything to do with it…!? We spent most of the day swinging in the hammocks next to the tent enjoying the sun and the breeze before roaming the beach and floating around in the clear blue sea. This was definitely a slice of heaven.

That evening another group of travellers arrived and it was Saturday night so this called for a big bonfire, beer, lots of beer, then gin, then some local rice wine! A very fun night but lets just say the rice wine was a mistake and definitely got the better of both of us.

And so, as we woke from our slumber to a very windy day and feeling a little worse for wear we should have known that our heaven was beginning to fade away. We had met an Aussie girl the day before who was staying in a lonely longhouse up the beach and agreed that we’d make the walk to the actual Tip of Borneo together. Turns out drinking was bad planning on our part as we began the 10k round trip with heavy heads – the only saving grace was the cool wind! It took us around 3 hours to get there and back and although the walk is along a road the whole way its definitely worth it to stand on the tip and feel as though you’re at the edge of the world!

That afternoon the wind picked up again and although we went to bed feeling optimistic it was 3am when our tent almost took off and the sides started hitting us in the face. Should we stick it out or run for cover? The rain made that decision for us and as we were getting well and truly battered by the elements we grabbed our most important possessions, wrapped a towel around our heads and ran for the cover of the communal area. We sat in the darkness with our heads on the table for about half an hour before Roby, the sites owner, came out and guided us to an empty tent under the shelter. It was a pretty sleepless night to say the least.

It rained….every way imaginable…for the next 24 hours. So there’s nothing much to tell! Oh other than to look at when the typhoon season starts to hit the northern part of Borneo…silly us! We decided that the best thing to do would be to take shelter again under a roof (but still in a tent) to get some sort of sleep and let our legs recover from the barrage of sandfly bites from the previous day…It rained harder than the night before and the sky was louder so, you guessed it, we didn’t get any sleep..HELL! Here’s a picture of us looking extremely tired…

Although we think of ourselves as hardened travellers, 4 nights was more than enough for us so the following day we organised a taxi to take us back to Kudat and left the campsite behind us….

We would definitely recommend visiting the Tip of Borneo and the secret place. Both as we have said can be absolutely heavenly…just maybe check the weather forecast before you do!!!

Happy camping!

C & J


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