In 1882, Kudat was established as the first
capital of Sabah after the British North Borneo Chartered
Company leased the territory of Sabah from the sultans of
Brunei and Sulu.
The Rungus-the indigenous tribe on the Kudat peninsula and
on the east side of Marudu Bay-made their home inland, while
the coastline attracted Muslim Bajau, Irranun and Suluk. The
Rungus called the Kudat area after the Tomborungus River that
ran into an inlet nearby.
When the British arrived and asked for the name of the place,
the Rungus thought they wanted to identify the coarse grass
growing there, so said Kutad. Eventually, the name
was corrupted to Kudat, and was used in preference to the
old name of Tomborungus. Because of a labour shortage, the
British North Borneo Charted Company engaged the basel Missionary
Society to bring in families of Christian Hakka from southern
China to help develop Kudat.
The first pioneers arrived in 1883, followed by a steady
flow of Hakkas who cleared the jungles to establish coconut
plantations and small farms. They built their own homes, churches
and schools. In the early years of 20th century, they began
planting rubber. Although other Chinese groups eventually
made Kudat their home, the district remains dominated by Christian
Hakka and the Basel Church.
Accessible primary by sea until less than 50 years ago, when
a road eventually linked Kudat with Kota Kinabalu, Kudat's
past isolation has ensured that much of the original charm
and traditional of the region remain relatively unchanged.