Mari Mari Cultural Village

Lonely Planet review

Mari Mari is an entertaining combination of semi-corny and semi-educational. It's supposed to offer insight into the living cultures of Sabah via a three-hour show-tour (beginning at 10am, 3pm and 7pm), which winds through the jungle passing various tribal dwellings along the way. At each stop, tourists learn about indigenous folkways and can try their hand at bamboo cooking, rice-wine making (and drinking!), fire starting, tattooing, blowpipe shooting etc. A short dance recital and meal are included in the visit – the centre must be notified of any dietary restrictions in advance. A trip to the cultural village can be combined with a white-water rafting tour; contact Riverbug for more information. The village is a 20-minute to 30-minute drive north of central KK, so most people visit it on a package tour, but if you come on your own the admission is RM80/70 for adults/children.

Rather than portraying living cultures, Mari Mari sort of freezes local ethnic groups into museum pieces. No one is dressing in loincloths and feathers in Sabah, except maybe in the very deepest, remote interior. The Rungus and Murut may live in longhouses, but many of those longhouses have satellite television and air-con, and they hunt with guns, not blowpipes.

There is also a small waterfall – Kiansom Waterfall – about 400m beyond the cultural village, which is easily accessible by private transport or on foot. The area around the cascade lends itself well to swimming and it's a great place to cool off after a visit to Mari Mari.