Kinabalu National Park 

One of the only 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Since December 2000) in Malaysia, Kinabalu National Park is spread over 754 sq km. It is a huge area and to put things in perspective, is larger than the country of Singapore. Kinabalu national park was established in 1964 to protect the environment around Mt. Kinabalu. The park is popular for its flora and fauna, hiking trails, wildlife and the rainforest. Reaching the Kinabalu National Park is quite easy, as it’s only a 2-hour drive away from Kota Kinabalu (KK). The tribals living in the shadow of Mt. Kinabalu regard the peak as sacred.

Kinabalu National Park is ideal for those wishing to trek through scenic landscapes and observe the country’s nature and wildlife. At 4095m, Sabah’s Gunung Kinabalu is one of the highest peaks in the world that can be summitted without special climbing equipment. Kinabalu National park is home to around 5000 species of plants, that also include 1,500 varieties of orchids. The weather is pleasant in Kinabalu National Park and one can have a relaxing vacation staying at one of the Mountain Lodges inside the park; temperature ranges from 15 to 27 degrees.

Mammals such as gibbons, civets, monkeys and clouded leopard are also found inside the Park. Among the birds; hornbills, partridges, and colourful butterflies and beetles can also be seen. The park is also home to several varieties of rare and exotic flora, including the extraordinary rafflesia which is the biggest flower in the world!

A lady looking at Mount Kinabalu
Photo credits: Shubhham Mansingka

Climbing the Summit – Mt. Kinabalu

Many tourists come to Sabah just to climb Mt. Kinabalu. It’s an exhilarating trek for the adventurous at heart and gives ample chance to savour the greenery and views. The trek can be done over a period of 2-3 days; which includes a 4 to 5-hour hike from the park headquarters to a midway point at Laban Rata, where you stay the night. The temperature can drop quite suddenly if the weather turns cloudy and it might get close to 5 degrees Celsius.

A meadow in the foreground, Mount Kinabalu in the background
Photo credits: Shubhham Mansingka

During the season, hundreds set out every day with the intention of standing on its summit. It is to be noted that park authorities advise against climbing Mt. Kinabalu independently. There are possibilities that one may lose their way and therefore, hiring a guide is recommended. It is possible to procure a climbing permit on arrival at the Park Headquarters.

Most climbers take two days to reach this summit with an overnight stay in one of the mountain lodges, there is one at Laban Rata at approx. 3200m above sea level. Among the basic requirements for this trek to Mt. Kinabalu is: Wear good hiking/trekking boots and warm, waterproof clothing. It is recommended to carry a sleeping bag, ample water, and high-energy food like chocolates and nuts. A flashlight is also much needed since the climb to the summit starts early in the morning to catch the sunrise at the summit.

Grass in the foreground, Mount Kinabalu in the background - Kinabalu National Park
Photo credits: Shubhham Mansingka

Generally, trekking groups start at 2:30 am for the 3-hour hike to the summit. It is a must that trekkers are properly acclimatised before trying to reach the top of Mt. Kinabalu and some parts of the hike are quite steep, and altitude sickness can cause headaches and nausea. There are two trails to reach the top of Mt. Kinabalu, the Summit Trail and Mesilau Trail. The trails converge at Layang-Layang at around 2750m before we reach Laban Rata from where there is only one trail.

Hiking Trails in Kinabalu National Park

Silau Silau Trail is a one hour walk along the Silau Silau stream, from its source to its confluence with a bigger river and is recommended for bird-watching.

Among the other interesting and accessible trails are Liwagu River trail, Bukit Ular trail, Kiau View trail, Bundu Tuhan View Trail.

Poring Hot Springs
Fed by mineral waters, these springs have been developed into public and private baths. The site is on a different road away from the main National Park entrance but is worth exploring for the wonderful natural phenomena.
Sights around Kinabalu National Park
Desa Dairy Farm
Outdoor seating at Desa Dairy farm with a view of the mountains, Kinabalu National Park
Desa Dairy farm – photo credits: Shubham Mansingka

Lying on the foothills of Mt. Kinabalu, the Desa Dairy Farm is a green pasture spread across gently rolling hills. Cows and goats milk is available for purchase, and ice cream gelato too! The café at Desa Dairy Farm is indeed a table with a view: Highly recommended for families and kids.

Sabah Tea Garden
A plate of food with the mountains and tea gardens in the background
Lunch at Sabah Tea Garden – Photo credits: Shubhham Mansingka

Sabah Tea Garden is the only organic tea garden in Malaysia and is spread over 2500 acres. It is located on top of a hill and has stunning views of the mountains and the tea gardens that are spread across the hills. Accommodation and dining options are also available. A recommended place to spend time during the afternoon and enjoy the gentle breeze of the tea estate.


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