The Tip of Borneo is the northern most point of the island where the South China Sea crashes into the Sulu Sea. Besides this perpetual meeting of the depths, not much goes on around this end of the island. It is a place to come for quiet. It is a place to walk along the shores, lay on the beach and eat fresh seafood in the warm evening breeze. Formerly an isolated safe haven for marauding pirates, today, it is a welcome refuge from the sweaty concrete of Kota Kinabalu.
Where to stay:
While there are a handful of small backpacker establishments that can host you on Pantai Kalampunian Beach, those with a bigger budget should think about staying just south of the Tip of Borneo at the Hibiscus Villa. It is an incredible property on Pantai Avoi Beach, and is perfect for a big family or group of friends. Entering the front door, you are greeted by an infinity pool, which extends back through the house, and then ends in a tee, providing a little channel for swimming laps.
Every wall facing the sea can be rolled back, allowing the ocean breezes to stream through the house, and an owl to roost in the master bedroom when guests are not around. The structure of the house is made of big exposed hardwood beams, and both floors are furnished with exquisitely carved ornaments from Bali, including bathrooms featuring huge stone tubs that resemble natural hot springs, decorated with smooth round river pebbles.
The living room is modern with a wraparound couch, flat screen TV a tasteful movie collection, and the backyard has a restaurant sized gas grille and a large outdoor dining area. Down beyond the pool, an unassuming little path winds to the beach, which was empty the whole time we were there, and also hosts the quaint Hibiscus Beach Retreat on the same property, which can also be rented out.
What to do:
The area seems reasonable for water sports, and some of the reefs offer decent snorkeling, although many of them have been dynamited in the past and so most coral is still just recovering in patches. It also looks like a number of the beaches included Pantai Kalampunian could hold a decent swell, so surfing could be in the cards, and it seemed like boards could be rented from the backpackers. Definitely go check out the confluence of the two seas at the Tip of Borneo and beyond that, I highly recommend a little beach hunting.
Pack a lunch, some water, and a camera, and wait for the tide to start going out. When it is low enough to cross onto the rocks at the southern end of Pantai Kalampunian Beach, cautiously traverse around the rocky point being super careful with the deceptively dangerous slippery rocks, and keep an eye out for the amphibious walking fish (mudskippers) that hop around the surf line. As the tide ebbs, tide pools will form and race car red crabs will scurry in and out of crevices of periwinkle barnacles.
The rocky point will lead you to a beautiful crescent moon beach, back dropped by a dense mixture of coconut and pine tree foliage, mixed with tall sweeping pandanus grass, and jungle vines. This walk will take you through a series of secluded little white sand, crescent moon beaches, but only after the first three (at Pantai Avoi Beach) will they be deep enough to swim in. Here, you can climb up to the look-out for a picnic, or just go down and lay the day away on the beach. This is the beach in front of the Hibiscus Villa, so alternatively, if you are staying there, you could do this walk from there to the Tip of Borneo.
You will know the tide changes and starts coming in as all the brittle stars turn over. Instead of rushing back over perilously slippery rocks, you can walk up the dirt road from Pantai Avoi Beach on to the main road and saunter back to wherever you have chosen to rest your head for the night.