Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village Tour: A Taste of Old Sabah (Kota Kinabalu Tour Part 2)

Just a week ago, I was in Kota Kinabalu courtesy of Zest Air and Tourism Malaysia and Fleishman Hillard Philippines.  One of the favorite activity we did at our Kota Kinabalu Tour was the trip to Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village where we had a taste of the Old Sabah culture, taste, feel, sight and sound.  FYI:  Kota Kinabalu is the capital city of Sabah, Malaysia.

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village
The Heritage Village is set up in a rain forest environment where visitors cross a hanging bridge to see and explore the traditional houses of some of Sabah’s ethic communities without having to pry into their privacy. There are five (5) longhouses of ethnic tribes we explored in the village which included the tribe of Dusun Lotud of Taruan, Rungus of North Bormeo, Lundayen tribe, Badjau tribe from the Philippines and the head hunters tribe of Murut .

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First House: The Dusun Tribe Old House

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

What I learned from our Mari Mari Tour Guide Felix was that the Dusun tribe that they keep their rice away from their main house. They keep their rice on higher ground as they believe rice is sacred, they call such storage as Tangkob. It is also away from the main house so in case there is fire they have their rice intact.

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

This is their kitchen and their so-called refrigerator in the old times, this is where they keep their food stored.


Second House:The Rungus Tribe Longhouse

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

In this tribe everyone lives in one house. They just add another room/ extension to the house each time a member of the family gets married. Which where the term longhouse came from. The bigger the family gets the longer the house gets!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour


Third House: The Lundayen Tribe House

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

When you see a crocodile shape hill in front of a Lundayen villager, that means the owner of that house is a warrior!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village

You will see a lot of skeletons of animals they hunt and even human skulls displayed in the house of a warrior as they believe the spirit of the owner of the head will protect the house from evil or bad spirit and people.



Fourth House: The Badjau Tribe House

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village

Felix confirmed that this tribe came from the Philippines so whatever Muslim culture and the way of living our old Badjao tribe does they do it here. They have the most colorful house especially when there’s a wedding ceremony!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

Fifth House: The Murut Tribe House

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

One of my favorite houses as they have a trampoline made of bamboo inside. But that trampoline is not just for fun. They use the trampoline to celebrate their hunt or just after a warrior decapitated an enemy’s head!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

What we did at the Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village Tour

What I love about this tour is that it was not just a typical look-see tour but an interactive one where visitors get to try how things are done in the olden days themselves.

We were shown how the Dusun makes rice wine and we had wine tasting too! I must say the wine taste really good!

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They also showed us the old days “refrigerator” it is where they keep their food fresh, even meat and poultry products!

We were also shown how they cook in the traditional way by using bamboo trunk.They use bamboo and put the food they need to cook inside the bamboo and burn the bamboo to cook the food. We were able to try this ourselves too!

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Tribes in the old times of Sabah loves to drink, so they have different kinds of “alcohol” this wine is from another tribe Dusun but it was a bit bitter compared to the rice wine

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village Tour
Cookie making! This cookie is good but a bit oily!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village
Fire making.

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour
Vest and rope making

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Henna Tattoo for us but in the old times they use some sharp objects and ink

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village
And to complete the experience a Cultural Dance Show was held where audience get to participate in the end too by doing that bamboo dance we know here at Tinikling (I forgot what they call the dance!)

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The Mari Mari Cultural Tour I think last about 2 hours. In all honesty, I forgot about the time as I was enjoying every inch of the interactive tour. It was just my stomach that was telling me it was time to eat! Fortunately at the end of the tour was a buffet waiting for all the guest to enjoy and to cap the night. Aside from what’s in the buffet they also gave us the food we cooked when we started the tour around the village! Kewlness!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour

What I think about the Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Tour:

  • If you are going to Kota Kinabalu and you have half of the night free, tour starts at 5:30PM then you should not miss this one. This will complete your Kota Kinabalu Trip.
  • I completely understand why the trip is held at nighttime so as to get that old feel ambiance. Especially the scary part where we visited the head hunters tribe who were said to be the most aggressive tribe of all!
  • I think they need more spotlight on the cultural dance part so as people can get better videos and pictures of the dance. But then again maybe that’s intentional so as not to show everything when people upload it online haha!
  • How I wish the Philippines have such kinda village where tourist gets to have an interactive feel of how the old Filipino used to live.

Do I recommend this?
Absolutely. Mari Mari is a must see attraction in Kota Kintabalu! You should not miss this one in your travel itinerary to Sabah!

Mari Mari Cultural Heritage Village is 30 minutes away from the Kota Kinabalu City proper.

If you would like to try this heritage tour when you are in Sabah you may contact the Sabah Tourism Board or email them at [email protected]

How about you, have you been to Mari Mari? Have you experienced such tour in your travels before?

Stay gorgeous everyone!

Some photo courtesy of Iris Camille Acosta of

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  1. hi!,I love your writing very much! proportion we communicate
    extra about your article on AOL? I need a specialist on this space to solve my problem.
    Maybe that’s you! Having a look forward to peer you.

  2. I don’t feel like this photo is out of the country… the surrounding is very similar to Philippines, but I wonder what the food is taste like. I also went to Malaysia and I think your adventure is more better than I have. Still exciting because I went there for entrance and exit only.

  3. Madali lang sha sha Techa just put all the ingredients inside the bamboo cover it with banana leaves then ihawin lang sha until maluto. to know it its cooked just listen to the boiling sound and when boiling is done luto na sha! galing ano?

  4. Very cool place!.. It just shows that the Philippines have more interesting places to visit… Hope i could go there… 🙂

  5. I love what they did in this village so fun. and yeah they have similarities with Filipino coz some of their tribes come from the Philippines esp te Badjao tribe

  6. Interesting… this is truly a cultural immersion. I’m surprised they can squeeze in so many things in 2 hours. I also find similarities with Filipino tribes’ culture…

  7. Naku Zoan mejo malayo ang KK sa KL ako rin nung nagKL ako di ako nakapag KK. Maybe our DOT should promote more of this cultural village in Davao if ever. I haven’t heard of it so far. Went to Davao na but for a coffee farm trip. Sana kumpleto din sa “tribes” or ethnic groups sa Philippines and interactive din like this para masaya ang experience ng mga tourista to actually recommend it.

  8. Hi earth, I think you should visit Davao City. mayroon din silang cultural village and mayroon din performers doon, hindi sya everyday, pero alam ko talaga meron, doon malapit sa crocodile park 🙂 I wasn’t able to tour around KK when I went to KL, kasi it was a quick drop off lang nung plane namin.

  9. It’s so awesome that you can go to places like this! I am so jealous..
    The food looks pretty cool!and delicious of course.
    I remember back in highschool, there was a topic about Sabah..
    if it belongs to Malaysia or the Philippines..something like that LOL
    great pictures hun!


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