Sabah is famous for her friendly and hospitable people. There are a staggering 32 different ethnic entities, each of which speaks a different language, plus another 80 or so dialects or variants from the main languages. The largest group in Sabah comprises the Kadazandusun who are of Dusunic origin. The Bajau are the second largest group and the Paitanic the third largest. The largest non-indigenous group is made up of Chinese. All these people are, since the formation of Malaysia, Malaysian citizens and live together in harmony despite their different ethnic background and various creeds - a fact Malaysia can be truly proud of. Most of the Dusunic and Paitanic people are nowadays Christians. The Bajau are Muslims, and the Chinese Buddhists and Christians. Most Chinese have settled in towns, where they have their businesses, but some live in the interior and are farmers. The Bajau are coastal dwelling people while the Paitanic people live in the far interior. Kadazandusuns can be found throughout Sabah.
The largest indigenous group is that of the Kadazandusun, a term created to include all indigenous people of Dusunic origin. The Kadazan in this group feature strongly. Originally from the area of Penampang, close to the state capital Kota Kinabalu, and the Papararea, they were the first to come under the influence of Christian missionaries.
In the past the Dusun people lived a little by outsiders disturbed life. Their societies are defined by close kinship, with the family being the most important unit, followed by the village.
In the rugged interior of southern Sabah, along the border with Kalimantan you will find the Murut people. The Murut are of Paitanic stock, though there are many sub-entities and languages so varied that certainly more studies are require to find out if not some of the Murut belong to the original inhabitants of Borneo, or at least to the very first settlers. Murut means 'people of the hills' and they can be found right up to Keningau in central Sabah but they have indeed never cultivated the plains. Normally their settlements were on hills close to major rivers, and traditionally the Murut live in longhouses. The Dusun also used to live in longhouses, but nowadays only the Rungus in the north continue to do so, together with some of the Murut.
The Bajau were once known as the sea-gypsies, and indeed, they used to live their entire life on boats, the Lipa-lipa. They were true nomads, and extremely skilled in navigating the seas even though they had no compass on their small, richly decorated boats. The Bajau only came to land to collect fire wood, to get water, and to bury their dead. However, over the past few hundred years some Bajau have settled on the main land, particularly along the west coast of Sabah. And while the sea Bajau families tend to be small, the land Bajau have enlarged their families. Even to-day, a Bajau house tends to be large and spacious. They are still mainly fishermen, and often build their houses on stilts into the sea or rivers, such as the Bajau of Kg Mengkabong.