Kampung Air, Kota Kinabalu

Monday 10 January 2011
I've been wanting to visit a Kampung Air (translation: Water village) for well over a decade now.  My cousin paid an extra RM 20 for Boss, a Bajau (my nickname for our captain) to make a detour to the villages on stilts. The first kampung was mostly populated by locals, namely Bajau or otherwise known as Orang Laut (People of the sea) due to their sea-faring ways. They're the second largest ethnic group in Sabah.

kampung air1

Kampung Air


Their lifestyle could not be more different to mine.


The village is mostly populated by fishermen and their families. These fish are salted and then dried in the sun.


This rather enterprising fisherman was trying sell us a fish for an inflated price of RM 20. Boss shook his head and told us that was too expensive. Not that we're contemplating on bringing the fish back!

little boy

The villagers are a friendly bunch. They smiled and waved as we went past their village in a speedboat.

kampung air2

Another view of the village

kampung air3

The shanty squatter juxtaposed with urban contemporary buildings and Mount Kinabalu provided an imposing backdrop.

kampung air5

Instead of a car, they use a sampan to ferry to and from the mainland.


With a little encouragement from us, the kids put up quite a performance - leaping and somersaulting into the water again and again. Note the little boy in front has managed to catch a fish with his bare hands.

kids 5 jumping





It boggles my mind how those of us who live in large cities have to pay an absolute fortune for swimming lessons whereas these kids managed to figure it out themselves. While we're constantly sterilizing, worrying about germs and dirt, these kids are swimming in the murky sea. And they look happier than our kids who are made to swim back and forth in a boring pool.

pulau sapi

Pulau Sapi (or Sapi Island), our destination. The island has beautiful white powdery sandy beaches. You'll also notice there's a clear distinction between the caucasians and the Asians on the beach. The Caucasians sunbathed under the hot sun whereas the Asians could only be found under shady trees.


Biawak or otherwise known as monitor lizard is a common sight on the island. This fella is one of the smallest.


  1. Hi there! By the way, I e-mailed you with the address you gave but was undeliverable. I tried sent it also to your blog's e-mail and hope you got it!

    Take care!

  2. they may be poor, but they have more fun than our kids. i know bc when i was about 12, i used to go to a friend's house (most of us kkians of my age did tt bc the kampung air used to house a lot of chinese but now those houses are gone, the water filled by land for development) n i have fond memories (n my hub too, whom i didn;t know then) of tt kind of life. we caught crabs using lines and spears, fished, chipped oysters off the stilts of the houses (cooked with meefoon, and i still crave for tt today), swam in the dirty water among the really really was fun. now my kids play computer games, facebook and study study study.

  3. I know what you mean, Terri. Life is simpler without the urban stress and certainly more, carefree.

  4. I've been to Sapi Island where Annabelle and I did some snokelling. Yes and this 'giant lizards' as my girls called them. Looks like you're having a great time! When are you back to cold? Vivian

  5. Hi Vivian! I remember you mentioned about your trip. Unfortunately, I'm back to the cold now. Speaking of which, we're also just recovering from our cold too.



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