Mount Kinabalu, the highest between the Himalayas and the snow-capped peaks of Papua, rises starkly out of the tropical rainforest of the Kinabalu Park. Kinabalu Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Standing majestically above the surrounding countryside, the granite massif of Mount Kinabalu dwarfs all around it. At 4095.2m, Mount Kinabalu, the highest between the Himalayas and the snow-capped peaks of Papua, rises starkly out of the tropical rainforest of the Kinabalu Park. Declared a national park in 1964, Kinabalu Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. The Kinabalu Park, covering an area of 754 sq. km including Mt. Kinabalu, Mt. Tambayukon to the north and their foothills, was gazette to preserve the valuable natural heritage encompassed within the mountains and its natural environment. The majestic mountain, has a fascinating geological history. It began approximately a million years ago when the granite core lying beneath the earth’s crust was solidifying. This granite massif was later thrust upwards through the crust to the surface. Subsequent erosion removed thousands of feet of the overlying sand and mud stone exposing this massif. During the Ice-Aged, glaciers running through the summit plateau, smoothed it out but the jagged peaks that stood out above the ice surface, remained unaffected by these ‘cosmetic’ touches and retained their extremely ragged surfaces. This rugged mountain 4093m above sea level, and still imperceptibly rising, is the focal point of the National Park.
FLORA & FAUNA
The park is known for the abundance and diversity of its plant life, within one of the most ancient vegetations in the world. There are over 1,200 species of wild orchids and 40 varieties of oak in its forests, not to mention the countless varieties of rhododendrons with blooms ranging in hue from deep red to pale pink and white! Masses of moss and ferns weigh down the trees of the Montane oak forests of the upper regions. Flowers are to be seen everywhere on the trees, in the shrubs, along the banks on the forest floor and even peeping out of the rocky crevices of the summit.
Orchids, such as the white necklace orchids are as delicately beautiful as their namesake. The Bornean mountain ground squirrel Dremomys eve are often spotted scampering about in the scrub vegetation while the mountain tree shrew Tupaia montana are easily spotted along the mountain trails. You may even come across a red-necked keelback snake stunning itself along your path. The variety of birds range from mountain black eye, mountain black bird, Borneo eye bright, Euphrasia borneensis, and the now ‘not-so-friendly’ nor so easily sighted Friendly Kinabalu Warbler.
PLANNING AN ITINERARY
Climbing Mt. Kinabalu
The climb is normally accomplished in two days but this can be quite tough. A more comfortable option is to take it easy and make it in three days, spending two nights in mountain huts along the trail. It gives you the chance to look around and absorb the sights and sounds of your surroundings. See the clear mountain streams, observe the subtle changes in vegetation as your trail leads you first through the montane oak, rhododendron and conifer forests, to the mossy cloud forest zone with its gnarled twisted trees covered in moss and epiphytic orchids and ferns; and finally to the alpine meadow vegetation and stunted vegetation of the scrub-like summit regions. You may chance upon the maiden’s veil fungus Dictyophora, the delicate plant with the foul-smelling mucous on the outer surface of its cap. Insects feeding on this mucous unsuspectingly transport the spores that inevitably get stuck to their feet.
The park organises complimentary visitor programmes for first-timers to the park. This includes multi-vision show, guided walk and mountain garden walk conducted by park naturalists. Take advantage of these to gain some informative and educational insights on the park’s flora and fauna.
Poring Hot Springs
The hot springs, first developed by the Japanese during World War II, now feature several open-air Japanese-style baths. Take a dip to rest your tired feet and aching muscles. The water contains sulphur, known for its curative properties for curing skin problems. Jungle paths lead through lush lowland forests to bubbling mountain streams and waterfalls amidst the merry chirping of the birds and the colourful profusion of wild flowers.
The Park Headquarters at 1,524m above sea level, has a range of accommodation facilities, restaurants and an exhibit centre.
At Kinabalu Park
The Park charges different rates for accommodation on weekdays and weekends. The accommodation are provided with a fireplace, kitchen, shower, gas cooker and a refrigerator and cooking and eating utensils. Visitors intending to cook must bring their own food. Simple meals (both western and local) are available at the Clubhouse and Canteen in the Administration Building. There are no fireplace and kitchen facilities are provided. Electricity, piped water and firewood are all provided free of charge.
At Poring Hot Springs
Accommodation is available here. tents, blankets and pillows can be rented. There are also facilities such as restaurant to cater for visitors intending to stay overnight here.
ACCOMMODATION FACILITIES ON THE MOUNTAIN
The park also provides lodging facilities for climbers. These facilities are situated on the mountain at two altitudes; 3353m and 3810m. They serve as overnight rest areas prior to the ascent to the summit.
Arrangements For Climbing
Book a guide, porter (if required) upon arrival at the park and overnight accommodation at the mountain huts, through the Sabah Park’s head office in Kota Kinabalu. Reservations cannot be made at the Park headquarters. You also need to book transport to take you to the end of the Power Station Road where the climb starts. Rates are charge as follows (subject to change without prior notice);
- Adult RM50.00
- Below 18 years RM20.00
Come to the Park Naturalist’s programmes at Park Headquarters. They will tell you about the climb and advise you on what to take. The programmes are free, so do take advantage of them.
- Make sure you have good shoes. Tennis or gym shoes are fine.
- Bring enough warm clothing. The temperature can fall to below freezing point at night. Pack all clothes in plastic bags to keep them dry in case of rain. Sleeping bags are provided at the mountain huts.
- Bring something wind and water-proof, gloves and a hat.
- Bring a water bottle with you.
- Bring some high-energy foods for the climb. (e.g. chocolate, nuts, raisin’s. Glucose sweets are good).
- Bring a good torchlight.
The park is about two hours drive from Kota Kinabalu. Buses to the interior town of Ranau usually leave the main outstation bus depot at every other hour beginning at 7am and pass the entrance to the park headquarters (80km). To return to Kota Kinabalu, just wait outside the park entrance from 9am for the numerous buses that ply the route. Taxis are also available from the bus depot. You are advised to negotiate your fare before boarding. One taxi for four persons is approximately RM80. Return fares can be negotiated. The other alternative is to hire your own vehicle from one of the many car rental companies. Poring, located 40km from the main park headquarters, is accessible by road through Kundasang and Ranau.