Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu – Highest Peak in Malaysia

Mount Kinabalu History

Mount Kinabalu is a huge granite dome, the highest mountain in Malaysia at over 4000 metres, and is one of Sabah’s most iconic attractions. In local folklore the mountain is the sacred home of ancestral spirit and Mount Kinabalu is protected as a gazetted National Park, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Climbing Mount Kinabalu

In most parts of the world 4000 metre peaks are not easily accessible without serious preparation and equipment. Mount Kinabalu is one of the few high mountains, along with Kilamanjaro, that can be climbed by persons of all ages and backgrounds, with minimal preparation. The reason for this is due to the accessibility of the route to the summit, and the moderate temperatures due the mountain’s located in a tropical region.

The main route up is a hard trek, with some moderately steep sections, but never requiring ropes or any form of rock climbing or alpinism. There are some specific routes around the granite dome that do require climbing equipment and a professional mountaineering company maintains and operates the worlds highest “Via Ferratta” for some high altitude alpine-style climbing experiences.

For more information about climbing Mount Kinabalu click here.

Mount Kinabalu Climbing
Cormac Stanford on the Summit Trail

Mount Kinabalu Biology

The mountain and its surroundings are among the most important biological sites in the world, with between 5,000 and 6,000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and more than 100 mammalian species identified. Among this rich collection of wildlife are famous species such as the gigantic Rafflesia plants and orangutans.

Mount Kinabalu along with other upland areas of the Crocker Range is known worldwide for its botanical and biological species biodiversity with plants of Himalayan, Australasian, and Indomalayan origin.

A recent botanical survey of the mountain estimated a staggering 5,000 to 6,000 plant species (excluding mosses and liverworts but including ferns), which is more than all of Europe and North America (excluding tropical regions of Mexico) combined. It is therefore one of the world’s most important biological sites.

The flora covers the mountain in zones of different types of habitat as one climbs up, beginning with a lowland belt of fig trees and insectivorous pitcher plants. Then between 2,600 to 3,200 m (8,530 to 10,499 ft) is a layer of short trees such the conifer Dacrydium gibbsiae and dwarf shrubs, mosses, lichens, liverworts, and ferns. Finally many of the world’s richest variety of orchids are found on the high rockier slopes.

Many plants in the Kinabalu Park have high levels of endemism (i.e. species which are found only within Kinabalu Park and are not found anywhere else in the world). The orchids are the best-known example with over 800 species including some of the highly-valued Paphiopedilum slipper orchids, but there are also over 600 species of ferns (more than the whole of Africa’s 500 species) of which 50 are found nowhere else, and the richest collection in the world for the Nepenthes pitcher plants (five of the thirteen are found nowhere else on earth) which reach spectacular proportions (the largest-pitchered in the world being the endemic Nepenthes rajah).

The parasitic Rafflesia plant, which has the largest single flower in the world, is also found in Kinabalu (particularly Rafflesia keithii whose flower grows to 94 centimetres (37 in) in diameter), though it should be noted that blooms of the flower are rare and difficult to find. Meanwhile another Rafflesia species, Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, can be found on the neighbouring Mount Trus Madi and the nearby Maliau Basin.

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