Forgotten forts built by natives
Published on: Saturday, July 03, 2021
By: British North Borneo Herald
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Scenes from the past: Shophouses in Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) bombed during the war. Pic by Australian War Memorial. - pic for illustration only.
1st Sept 1938

Old forts may be found in some parts of the country, but history and stories of each differs. My findings of the forts in Langas and Atas rivers, midway between Semporna and Lahad Datu proved that the natives in the olden day knew how to protect themselves from foreign aggression. It gives now a national monument of remembrance.

Langas Fort

This fort is located up the end of the mangrove forest following the right branch of the river. It is made of filed black hard stones, with an average height of 5 feet, thickness of walls ranging from 4 to 15 feet.

There is no specific direction of the walls for stones has been filled on both banks of all the creeks, sometimes crossing them, some between the edge of the mangrove and mainland forests, and still some goes to any direction, just I think to protect the makers from enemy invasion.

It is probable that the stones could be found surrounding it, and why the nearest rivers at their heads has a lot? If 50 men worked on this has been accomplished in a year.

The fort now is of thick second growth forest and clearings will only be done if someone goes to do it.

Atas Fort

This fort is located on the right side, 10 chains away from the mouth of Atas river, at the seashore. It is only 50-feet long going inside the mainland.

It looked as if it is a jambatan (wharf) of a house, but it is said an unfinished fort for invaders attacked the makers during the construction.

The fort is made of coral stones taken from the seashore nearby. It is 4 feet high and 3 feet in width.

The Forts Story

Langas and Atas were formerly the villages of Idaans before the coming of the English to Borneo.

The villagers made their home in these two places, not so far from one another, a mid-way between Segarong and Madai, an easy way to reach both during the taking of the edible birds’ nests.

It was many years ago, that is before the colonisation of Borneo, that not only Dayaks attack people to take heads, but also Saga-i, a kind of tribe, who is said to be in Ulu Sirodong, Tawau district.

It was the custom of this tribe that when any if the royal family is dead, the rayats were sent out to attack other tribes and bring home heads.

Saga-i attacked people as they found them, and by passing the Trusan Pagagao in search of other tribes they incidentally found the Idaans of Atas and Langas which they attacked. By this incident the supreme heads of the Idaans, who stayed in Maruap and Tungku transferred.

These headmen were brothers, Datu alam from Maruap and Datu Bandiha of Tungku. Datu Alam stayed in Atas and Datu Bandiha stayed in Langas.

They then built forts to protect them from another attack. Langas fort was first built, and then Atas. It was on the process of making Atas fort that the Saga-i went to attack them again which forced the Idaans to flee to Langas, leaving the fort unfinished. 

The Saga-i followed. Fight occurred in Langas and due to the fort, the Idaans won. The Idaans then prepared also to invade the Saga-i in Sirodong by way of forest. 

Both datus, Alam and Bandiha were said to have powers, strengths and fighting ability, having both thick skins that kris and spears could hardly penetrate and were able to win and drove the Saga-i away. 

The Saga-i vacated the place and went to Bolongan, Dutch Borneo Territory now. The Idaans returned victorious, and on the way home they met a big powerful boar, said to be taller than ordinary man, which caused them to fight. 

Many of them died and the rest were able to return. Believed to be the living spirit of the Saga-i, the Idaans feared and vacated Langas and Atas and dispersed to different places, as Bikang, Silibukan, Segama and other places around Lahad Datu. 


Some of our readers will he interested to learn of a movement to introduce a number of International 14 foot racing dinghies to North Borneo.

Enquiries have been sent to Hong Kong and Singapore for quotations for a number of dinghies and the promoters of the scheme hope to have replies by mails due to arrive in Sandakan during the week ending September 10th.

Nothing is known as present as to the cost except the fact that there is a very considerable reduction in cost per boat if a sufficient number are ordered at one time.

From enquiries which they have made privately the promoters believe that they can secure orders for at least half-a-dozen dinghies in Sandakan alone and they hope to add a number from other parts of North Borneo.

It is intended to proceed with the project with all speed and any one desirous of further information on the subject should write at once to Capt. A. Rice-Oxley, D.F.C., Sandakan, so that he may forward full details as soon as these are received.

Would-be purchasers will be asked to deposit the approximate cost of dinghy, freight and insurance at the time of the order and it is hoped that the order will be placed by the end of September, with delivery by the end of the year.

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