Photo: Traditional Rungus longhouses.

Rungus villages

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The Kudat area is home to the Rungus ethnic people, a sub-group of the Kadazan-Dusun, Sabah’s largest indigenous group. Traditionally Rungus folk live in low stilted longhouses with characteristic split bamboo outward sloping walls. About 40 kilometres south of Kudat, a group of Rungus villages open their doors, for a small fee.

Most are set up for standard tours, and there’s not a lot to see or do (except buy a few souvenirs), however if you’re passing it’s good to support the local villages and you may find something of interest.

Weaver at work. Photo taken in or around Rungus villages, Kudat, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

Weaver at work. Photo: Sally Arnold

Much of Rungus culture is still strong, although many Rungus hold regular jobs and live in modern houses. Traditional dress is black, decorated with long colourful beaded strands worn crossed over the chest; these days these clothes are only worn at festivals times. Until the recent past, women also wore heavy brass coils around their arms, legs and necks. Traditional music is performed on brass gongs.

Gomizau Honey Bee Farm is, you guessed it, an apiculture industry. Here you can see the traditional bee farming techniques and buy wild rainforest honey. Kampung Sumangkap is a gong-making village. Watch as the skilled craftsmen bang and wield sheets of metal into playable instruments. Amble down to the football field to check out the giant gong; we’re not sure if it’s the “world’s largest”, but it’s big.

At Kampung Sumangkap, a gong-making village. Photo taken in or around Rungus villages, Kudat, Malaysia by Sally Arnold.

At Kampung Sumangkap, a gong-making village. Photo: Sally Arnold

At Marannjak Longhouse, near Kampung Bavanggazo, wander around a traditional longhouse village; the buildings here are a little deteriorated, but the traditional architecture is interesting. Women demonstrate and sell intricate beadwork and weavings. It’s possible to spend a night in the longhouse too, but must be prearranged. Contact (088) 622 524;

Each village has a five ringgit entry fee. Public buses run past the turnoffs to each village, but then it’s a one to two kilometre walk back and forth to the main road for each, and the turnoffs are several kilometres apart. The villages are more easily visited by private transport or taxi from Kudat.

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Rungus villages
About 40 kilometres south of Kudat

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Location map for Rungus villages

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