Mention Kota Belud, and most people will talk to you about the Tamu/Market. What everyone fails to mention however, is the gorgeous beaches that lay hidden close by.
On a rare free weekend, I managed to gather not just one but three (this is really a feat given our schedules) accomplices for a weekend getaway. In typical Malaysian fashion, we left later than expected and the first order of business was food.
On our way to Kota Belud, we popped by for breakfast Yi Siang Hainan Ngui Chap which is famous for their curry Ngui Chap. On hindsight, I preferred the clear soup, but have to say that the beef was really tender and literally was melt in your mouth good.
With our bellies filled, we start on our 1.5 hour drive to Usukan Cove.
We stayed at Usukan Cove Lodge (easily found on Waze), which is essentially a backpackers lodge but on it’s own private stretch of beach surrounded by fishermen villages. There are 3 different types of rooms, quadruple (bunk beds), family and triple rooms. The rooms are air-conditioned, the bunk beds are sturdy and clean. The bathroom however s shared with showers (salt water), which were a bit sandy but clean. Cheap, affordable and literally no frills accommodation with the option of dive and snorkelling trips to Pandan Pandan Island, along with other water sports.
The cove is beautiful and secluded. We were the only ones at the picnic table by the beach minus a couple and their kid. We spent the rest of the day, by the beach listening to music, occasionally going in and out the water to cool down and of course trying and failing miserably to capture a perfect photo of the sunset. We didn’t spend as much time in the water, as we did not bring wet suits, and it was jelly fish season. Having been stung before, I was not taking any chances! The unexpected highlight of the cove – was the sunset. I’ve said it over and over again, that Sabah has some of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, but this one really was stunning.
The next morning, we made our way over to Pantai Rang Bulan which was an additional 15 minutes away. While Usukan Cove was nice, it was still a small area where local fishermen lived and went about their day to day. Which means that while every effort was made by the people who ran the lodge to keep the beach clean, this was a slightly impossible feat.
While I do find it frustrating, cause of course they should know better – these are the same people who don’t have access to basic amenities such as water or electricity, so it’s a bit difficult to sit on my high horse and throw judgement around. It does however, really make you think about the disparity that exists in this state and country.
When we got to Pantai Rang Bulan, I kind of regretted not getting there a little earlier. The water was perfect for swimming and there were no jellyfish! The beach itself, was a lot cleaner and actually is quite popular amongst the locals as for once, we weren’t the only ones at the beach the entire afternoon.
The best bit, there is accommodation available. For a cool 50 ringgit/night, you’ll get a little hut, with no beds just mats, a small fan, electricity that runs on generator and a well as your main source of clean water. So from what I’m told, it’s mainly used by people who camp at the beach to store their belongings.
We swam, had a simple lunch of Nasi Goreng Kampung at the stall by the beach and did absolutely nothing the rest of the day before making the 2 hour journey home. My only wish, would be to move the lodge over to this beach, though I must admit it’s kind of perfect just the way it is.