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Banggi Island Cycling Eco Camp
Take the off-beaten path in the biggest island of Malaysia, Pulau Banggi, located within the Kudat Division of Sabah, spanning 440.7 square kilometers.
We took a completely different route for this adventure, travelling far away from the city to live it simply in an eco-camp in Banggi Island (also known as Bonggi Island), ripped of the glamour of the city.
Imagine life in the absence of electricity, not to mention living without phone coverage. It sounds unnatural, doesn’t it? No more Instagramming those beach views. No more selfies with a beautiful sunset for backdrop. No more telling the world in one upload where we had been. But hey, we didn’t simply imagine, we lived it.
Blessed with headlights, mosquito tents and canvas bags for bed, we, cut off from the buzz of the world, found meaning and enjoyment with nature. Lying on our leaf filled beds, wide-awake, ears alert on the wild insects, we realized that simple living was an adventure of its own.
We felt as though we were in one of Mark Twain’s adventures—very watchful and fast on the draw. Oh, those all-overs. Where else did we find security but the never-failing Mother Nature? How the waves crashing on the shore soothed the pins and needles! But this is only the beginning to this extraordinary cycling adventure, and we are sparing no details.
Our cycling escapade started at 5.30am from Promenade Hotel in Kota Kinabalu. On our way, we had the opportunity to see the sun rising from the majestic Mount Kinabalu, a truly warm welcome.
Main Jetti of Kudat
It took us 2 hours to reach the 1. Main jetti of Kudat, just in time for the 9am ferry ride to Banggi Island. We boarded the Banggi Express for a journey that lasted an hour and a half. The moment we reached the 2. Kerakit Jetty, it felt like we were transported to another world, as we were greeted by the clear blue waters and the people graciously smiling at each other.
The sun was already blinding, but we hopped on our mountain bikes and pedaled through our adventure. A little over 11km after, we reached our first stop for our first hurrah—lunch!
After devouring on our tasty dish, we geared up from 3. Sri Daggang Limbuak Darat Restaurant. The ride consisted of a straight road of simple elevations and windy downhills. When we reached Jalan Maliyu, the real fun began. The off terrain gravel slowly picked up in elevation. At this point, some of us were already pushing our bikes up. As we went uphill, we saw the great Sulu Sea waving at a distance. We then prepared ourselves for the exciting downhill. Swoosh! We went pedaling down! Our fingers were always on the brakes slowly bringing down the speed as there were many holes on the ground. But the adrenaline was at pace, keeping us alert.
That first big downhill of the ride already put a big smile on our faces and we knew that there was more to come.
Heart-shaped Wooden House
As we cycled on, picturesque views curtained out—the roots of the Mangrove trees peeped through the still blue waters. It was hard to keep our eyes on the road as we were distracted by the view. We passed by Kampung Padang where the 4 wooden houses were carved in heart shapes and each house was brightly painted in colorful shades. These villagers are expert boat makers and other villagers usually seek their expertise to build boats. We cycled a few more kilometers and our last stop was at a fishermen’s jetty where we had a chance to see all their golden catch!
Banggi Island Eco Camp
When we finally reached the shoreline, we felt overwhelmed by the view before us. The sun was slowly setting and due to the rising tide, we took another boat ride. Twenty minutes later, we arrived at our destination, the 5. Banggi Island eco camp, and the sun slowly fell behind the hills. The Banggi Island is the only island where you’ll find yourself interacting with the Banggi tribe, so consider yourself lucky!
Banggi Huts (Yul Hut and Wangah Hut)
As we entered the area of heavily shaded trees, there were two 6. Banggi huts called the Yul Hut (tall one) and the Wangah Hut (short one). These huts have a lower deck, an upper deck, and can accommodate up to 10 people. The names of these huts are retrieved from the name of the plant species used to build the roof. The Yul plant and Wangah plant have 4 to 5 years and 2 to 3 years of lifespan respectively. That’s not all; Bonggians have 10 types of plants that they use to build their huts including rattan. The eco camp was equipped with a dining hut, a kitchen hut and basic toilet facilities. For a quick yet refreshing shower, we walked 150 meters into the jungle to a clear stream of fresh water. It was pitch dark and our only guide was our headlight. Imagine taking a cold bath in the jungle with the men standing guard (backs turned, of course!) as the women bathed in a sarong. What an experience!
For dinner, we feasted on an array of seafood delicacies such as squid, stingrays and Trevally fish, which were cooked on wood and fire, and served with tapioca leaves and rice.
Our last activity for the night was watching the fireflies, and as we walked out to the beach, we were taken aback by the stars that grandly lit the sky. In the middle, a dust of stars stretched from one end to the other, it was the Milky Way! We were completely stoked observing the stars and pointing out excitedly every time we catch a falling star.
Kampung Lok Agung
We cycled 1.1km from our camp to the jetty, where 7. Kampung Lok Agung is located, to continue our cycling adventure of Banggi Island. It is interesting to see that a multipurpose community hall called Balai Raya is built for the local community that serves as a school and meeting venue for villagers. We were extremely excited to meet the tribe and we learned so much about them. Bonggians are quite shy, small framed and are very highly skilled in camp crafts and they are experts in making full use of the jungle environment.
Did you know that due to their high survival skills, most of them can converse in more than one language? Other than their main language which is Dusun Bonggi, they can speak Ubian and also the Tagalog. You also wouldn’t believe that we had a chance to meet Moyog and Adu who are considered legends of the tribe!
Open Green Plateau
From here, we convoyed through a narrow grassy path. Speeding through the 8. Open green plateau and having the morning breeze touch our faces made us feel like children again, with big smiles plastered across our faces. We traversed 200m towards a 9. Big stream of fresh water. We had to take turns climbing down small steps of rocks and the stream was simply stunning to look at.
After cycling another 1.1km, we stopped for a 10. Coconut break. At 11.35am, we were already beat from the heat, so all of us devoured the big coconuts. The fresh coconut water quenched our thirst and we sat there eating the young white flesh, while admiring the view of the 11. Tapioca farm and a village home in front of us. Our attention was then brought to the dexterity of the Banggi tribes. One of the tribesmen showed us his 12. Hunting tools, tapioca steamer and diving fins.
We parked our bikes and trekked another kilometer downhill to visit the 13. Ritual House. The healers of this house, called the Ngurus, use musical instruments to heal the sick. The power of healing lies in the rhythm and the psychedelic chants and mantras they produce using gongs and xylophones made out of brass. Other than using 20 types of rhythm to heal, herbs such as leaves, barks, and roots, either fresh or dried are also used to aid the process. We even got a chance to hear one of the rhythms that would definitely get you swaying, too!
Banggi style lunch
Feeling all enthusiastic again, we trekked back and headed to one of the Banggi tribe’s houses for 14. Banggi style lunch. Here we were served tapioca puttu (steamed), freshly boiled tapioca wedges, and a choice of fried and barbequed Menangin fishes. After a healthy lunch, we returned to our bicycles and cycled the same way back, getting another pleasurable look at the view.
On our last night, we had a simple spread of corn, tapioca leaves, fried eggs and belacan. We then walked around spotting nocturnal animals, as we felt like we’re not getting enough of the vast earth and sky.
At 4.30am, we woke to depart from our temporary home. We walked to the beach, seemingly blinded by the dark, as we enjoyed the last moments of living freely from the shackles of technology. The men loaded the bikes on the boat by walking through the cold waters with only their headlights on! We began finally seeing each other’s faces when the sun broke into dawn.
Sure, you would ask yourself what we did ask ourselves, while on the trip, “How long will I last in this island living on a few basic things for survival—3 days, 1 week? Irrespective of the number of days you betted on, we can assure you, that your stay in the island will be an unforgettable one.
This 47km cycling escapade was easy and can be a fun-filled adventure for the whole family. What a great escape from the city! We definitely had the best 2 nights living a simple, quiet life, with great food and memorable conversations.
Cycling Route - Banggi Simply Paradise Island Cycling Eco Camp
This cycling tour package is provided by: Trek Finder Tours Sdn Bhd
Lot 42, 2nd Floor, Grand Millennium Plaza, Penampang Bypass, 88200, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Tel: +6088 731 480