The exotic city of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah is attracting not only tourists from all over the world, but also birds; yes, birds, migratory birds. During the winter months, they come to Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary to feed and breed before returning to their home countries. There are also a number of resident birds.
Situated about 2-3 kilometers from downtown Kota Kinabalu or KK, the 24-hectare City Bird Sanctuary is a natural wildlife area that attracts all sorts of migratory birds from all over the world. The most common visitors are Little Egrets from Borneo, Little Heron from all over Asia, Marsh Sandpiper from China and Siberia, Common Moorhen from Antarctica, Redshank from Europe and northern Asia, and the plover from different parts of the world. The not-so-common visitors are the Lesser Adjutant Stork and Rufus Night Heron. Meanwhile, resident birds include the Pacific Swallow, Magpie Ribbon, Chinese Crested Myna, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Spot-necked Dove, Purple Heron, and others. They are not in captivity, but have decided to freely enjoy the sanctuary as their natural habitat.
Sadly for the excited tourists, the birds normally show themselves only at dusk or dawn when the temperature is just right. Lucky visitors may get to see a few birds wading in the shallow lagoon, feeding on frogs and small fishes; otherwise, they remain hidden and nestled on mangrove branches by the water’s edge, their natural nesting places.
The more common attractions are fiddler crabs, mud crabs, mudskippers, monitor lizards, water snakes, mud lobsters, butterflies and all sorts of insects moving about in the mangroves. This is why this bird sanctuary is also known as Kota Kinabalu Wetland Centre. It is mostly made up of mud-lands and mangroves. The sanctuary also used to go by the names Likas Swamp and Likas Mangrove. Visitors are allowed to see this wide mangrove jungle while strolling for 45 minutes along a 1.5-km long boardwalk. It is quite an experience viewing the sanctuary’s unique natural landscape while trying to spot the resident birds.
To get to the mangrove from Kota Kinabalu city center, take the Likas coastal highway all the way to the first roundabout at the Likas Bay. Keep right and make a sharp turn to Jalan Istiadat and stay at it until the Likas Square and Sabah Trade Center buildings. Turn right to Jalan Bukit Bendera Upper and drive all the way to Signal Hill. The Bird Sanctuary is right after the traffic lights. Taking the bus is actually much easier. Simply go to the bus terminal beside Wawasan Plaza near the Filipino Market and get on the Kampung Likas or Menara Tun Mustapha bus. Ask to be dropped off before the Kampung Likas roundabout. Bus fare is only RM$0.50.
Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary is open every day except Monday and public holidays from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. for an admission fee of only RM10 for adults and RM5 for children. (Malaysians pay half the price.) There are no restaurants or modern facilities in the sanctuary, just the wildlife and their natural habitat. When visiting, don’t forget to bring binoculars, good walking shoes, a hat, and bottle of mineral water. There are binoculars for rent and souvenirs for sale.