Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia’s highest peak and is recognized as a World Heritage Site. The mountain and it’s surrounding areas is one of the most important biological sites in the world. It is home to between 5000 and 6000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified.
The mountain is a popular destination for hikers and climbers, and is an important cultural location for the nearby local people. But there is more to see in this area than just the mountain… as we will show you…
We had an early start. Our guide, Erik, picked us up from our hostel, Borneo Backpackers, at 7 AM. Luckily, our favourite roti place for breakfast is open 24 hours so we were well fed for our big adventure at Borneo’s highest peak.
It was about a two hour drive to the Mount Kinabalu viewpoint. The reason we left Kota Kinabalu so early in the morning is because Mount Kinabalu is generally only clear and fog free in the early morning. As the day warms up, the fog thickens, and your chance of seeing the mountain greatly decreases.
We stopped here for about 20 minutes to enjoy the view, grab an iced coffee, and buy some local pineapples from the nearby market. The pineapples that grow in this region are particularly sweet, and are highly recommended.
Poring Hot Spring
The Poring Hot Springs are part of Mount Kinabalu national park. Here, naturally heated water is collected into pools for swimming and bathing. Rent your own private pool, fill it with naturally hot water and enjoy a relaxing soak. This seemed to be the place to be for local people and other Asian tourists. Most people seemed to come for the hot springs and nothing more, which is a shame as there is quite a bit more to discover in the area.
The canopy walk way will take you up into the trees. A short walk through the forest will bring you to a ladder that takes you up into the tree tops. If you decide to buy the camera pass, make sure you keep your receipt, because as you reach the top of the ladder the attendant will request to see it again.
The swinging bridges connecting the trees offered an interesting perspective of the rain forest, although it was a little scary.
After you leave the canopy walkway area, if you immediately turn left and hike a peaceful and shady track for about 10 minutes you will come to this peaceful little waterfall. Dan went off to take photos while Jacob busied himself with tossing small stones into the water. And unlike other areas of the Borneo jungle, there was not a leech to be seen!
World War 2 History
In the village of Kundasang there is another war memorial dedicated to remember the cost of the war to the Australians, British, and local populations, which compliments the one we visited in Sandakan. Built on a hill side, the first garden is the Australian garden, next the British garden, and finally the Borneo garden. At the top of the hill, a memorial lists the names of all the known victims of the war as well as offering beautiful views across the countryside to Mount Kinabalu. We visited in the afternoon, so the mountain was shrouded in clouds.
If you want to properly hike to the top of Mount Kinabalu then you need to PLAN AHEAD. Only a limited amount of hikers passes are issued each day – 146 to be exact. It normally takes 2 days and 1 night to climb the mountain, and it is physically demanding. That being said, we did meet a group of retired ladies who had conquered the mountain – so as long as you are confident in your fitness level you should be fine.
We were only in the area for one day, so the climb was off limits to us. However, there are a few short walks at the base of the mountain that you can enjoy. We did a short jungle walk where we saw a couple snakes by the path. It gave us a bit of a fright, but turns out they were harmless.
Another worthwhile attraction to check out in the park is the Botanic gardens.
Thank you to Sabah Tourism for their assistance on this trip.