Sublime Sabah | Our destination of the Year!

When it comes to destination wedding locations it doesn’t take much to see why Sabah, situated on the north west coast of the beautiful island of Borneo, offers everything to make it the absolutely perfect experience.  From world class hotels, stunning white sands, crystal clear waters, fantastic cuisine to fascinating and unique local culture, Sabah has it all!  It’s the latest hot spot for your destination wedding!

Our Editor Joanna and some of the best destination wedding planners from the UAE were thrilled to be invited to experience the luxury of not one, but two 5* Shangri-La resorts in Sabah; and to see what the area has to offer for that unequaled destination wedding or the ultimate honeymoon retreat.

We flew to Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Sabah, courtesy of the award winning Royal Brunei Airlines. They fly daily from Dubai via a short stop at Brunei International Airport and with just a 20 minute transfer to the hotel we were soon settled into the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa.

Our sea facing rooms combined all the modern luxuries we could need with a sense of the traditional Borneo.  On a small peninsular, the resort has the serenity of the sea whilst being only a stone’s throw from the bustling capital city.

The first full day saw us travel by boat to Borneo Reef World to try out the very new experience of sea walking! It’s a chance to get up close and personal with some of the reef’s abundance of sea life, with a divers helmet that keeps you dry form the neck up, which is great if you want to keep your hair pristine!  The centre offers a host of other aquatic adventures from parasailing to jet skiing and even an underwater observatory where you can learn about the reef and its inhabitants.  So for all you adventurous couples and your guests it’s well worth a visit.

For lunch we transferred to the beautiful Manukan Island where we were hosted by Sutera Sanctuary Lodge.  We ate under a beautiful white canopy adorned with fresh flowers.  It would be a superb location for a intimate wedding lunch – it was so idyllic!

In the evening we were invited to a cocktail reception and dinner both set up for an evening wedding, which couldn’t have looked more stunning.  With the sunset lighting the water behind the wedding tent and petals lining the aisle, it truly looked movie-set perfect.  After a dinner of delicious local cuisine we visited the bustling nighttime markets of the water front in Kota Kinabalu.

As well as the breathtaking outdoor spaces; the Events team showed us around all their other areas in the resort.  It  boasts Grand Ballroom and further rooms to accommodate parties of any size.  My favourite spot is their Pavilion where floor to celling windows give your endless views of the gardens and the South China Sea.  To find out more about their different event spaces have a look at our recent Q&A article with their team.

For lunch we were treated to a sample menu, which was fit for the finest wedding – delicious appetizers, fresh local salmon and the chef’s famous tiramisu – and after two fabulous nights we were whisked off slightly further up the coast to the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa.

We were bowled over by the location and facilities of the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa – a complete paradise set in its own nature reserve.  A US$20 million refurbishment means everything is of an exemplary standard, each room benefits from a balcony, a marble bathroom and all the modern day luxuries you would expect whilst retaining traditional Malaysian charm.  To find out more  about the private 3km beach, nature reserve and the wealth of wedding options from ballrooms to beach side function rooms have a read of our recent article on the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa.

After settling in we were hosted to a local cultural dinner in their outdoor Wedding Pavilion which truly blew us away! This venue has probably the best views on the Island and will add a romantic and traditional touch to your special day.  It’s ideal for an intimate dinner under the canopy or for the ceremony itself it can seat up to 120 on the beautiful lawns either side.  For us there was no bride and groom but we enjoyed the amazing seletceion of food and chatted all things weddings!!

After a incredibly comfortable night we woke to the sun rising over Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia, what a perfect start to any day!  We transferred to the Mari-Mari Cultural Village, nestled deep in the countryside it’s a great way to totally immerse yourself in the history and traditions of Borneo. We saw and experienced the indigenous ethnic tribes and how traditional crafts have translated into the vibrant decorative style that we saw reflected in the Shangri-La hotels.


To continue the traditional theme we were taken to D’Place Restaurant in Kota Kinabalu – this is a must for foodies with a sense of adventure.  It is one of the few places where you can sample truly authentic local dishes – we were treated to a fantastic Kadazan Dusun buffet-style banquet, all accompanied by traditional dancing and blowpipe displays. For the truly adventurous they offer Butod (sago worm), a delicacy for the locals, which is apparently best eaten raw!

The following day we were taken to Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site, via the Nabalu Handy Craft Centre – a super place to pick up mementos of your trip.  Climbing Mount Kinabalu, the centrepiece of the park, is incredibly popular with visitors and there are various picturesque trails to take you to the summit with stunning views along the way. It is worth noting that as it is such a popular attraction it is sensible to book up to 6 months in advance as only 135 climbers per day are allowed up the mountain. Our team had a mixed day of weather but with the right gear we were able to get back to nature on a slightly shorter trek and see some of the 5000 plant varieties (including one of the world’s rarest orchids) and 90 mammal species that make this such a special park to visit.

We ate at the Liwagu Restaurant where the deck is a great vantage point to admire the beauty of the views whilst tucking into fresh local cuisine.  On our final night at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa we indulged in a beautiful four course Italian feast but it wasn’t our last treat before departure.  The following morning we walked a short trail up through the jungle to a secluded look-out where we had a breakfast of fresh fruit, pastries and delicious drinks!  Every unique venue we visited over the last few days has provided inspiration for the weddings planners and  ideas for their future brides!

For the ultimate wedding or honeymoon experience our highlights were the sheer variety that the resorts offered: the tranquility of an infinity pool disappearing into the sea, the decadence of the spa facilities and treatments, the exquisite beaches, the sporty adventures, and the proximity to unspoilt nature.  All against the backdrop of stunning vistas and their vibrant and welcoming culture.  Thank-you SABAH you are SUBLIME!

A massive thank you from all the team at weddingsonline and the wedding planners to the both Shangri-La hotels, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa and Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & SpaRoyal Brunei Airlines and the Sabah Tourism Board for such an amazing and informative trip.

The planners who attended the trip and have all the know how to arrange your destination wedding are:

The Wedding Haven   Couture Events    Lana Wedding Planner    Cloud 9    Event Chic  MSW Events  Rim Jhim Events

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The girls at weddingsonline

The girls at weddingsonline

The girls from the UAE's newest wedding community with real weddings and lots of gorgeous inspiration!

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