Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo is home to almost 30 national parks with 7 located within Sabah and 22 in Sarawak. Also home to both of Malaysia's only UNESCO World Heritage sites, all of these parks offer an insight to the immense flora & fauna diversity of Borneo. Within many of these parks one also has the opportunity to scale the many mountains of Borneo - be it the highest mountain, the toughest mountain or even those rarely attempted, such as Malaysia's second highest mountain Mount Trus Madi.
Discover Borneo can help you to plan your holidays to include visits to these parks.
Kinabalu National Park and Mount Kinabalu
A UNESCO World Heritage Area Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak not only in Borneo, but in the whole of Southeast Asia, The mountain towers at 4095m. Mount Kinabalu is essentially a huge granite dome (batholith) that was pushed up from the earth's crust as molten rock millions of years ago, and the result is a quite spectacular jagged, rocky peak which rises high above Borneo's surrounding Crocker Range to dominate the landscape, keeping a watchful eye over Sabah's west coast.
The name "Kinabalu" is from the Kadazan-Dusun language meaning "revered place of the dead" for in former times indigenous people regarded the mountain as a place where the souls of the deceased gathered in a village of the dead, which was strictly off limits.
From the mid-19th century onwards the Mount Kinabalu has been radiating a virtually magic attraction for botanists and zoologists due to its unrivaled diversity of species. The Kinabalu National Park, covering an area of 754 square kilometers, has tremendous botanical and biological species diversity with high levels of endemism (species which are found only within Kinabalu Park and are not found anywhere else in the world). One of the reasons for the unique and diverse biology is the many climate zones combined with variations of substrates upon which the vegetation grows. The almost sheer granitic slopes leading to the summit of Mount Kinabalu are a stark contrast to the dramatic alpine vegetation, similar to those found in New Zealand and New Guinea, located at around 3000 meters. For the traveler and especially those who want to climb Mt Kinabalu, it is important to know that the mountain tends to concoct its own climate, and a raincoat and some warm clothing for the climb are required.
For tourists, the Mount Kinabalu has been an unrivaled attraction from the very beginning: in the decade after the first pioneering ascent, by Hugh Low in 1851, only 53 people climbed the mountain, whilst nowadays tens of thousands annually follow in their footsteps. In spite of its popularity, Mount Kinabalu has not lost a bit of its aura, and in biological terms the "Sacred Mountain" has remained what it used to be in the last century: a great center of biological diversity which is unparalleled - not only in the Malay archipelago, but also worldwide.
Climbers have several options or routes to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. The main route follows a well laid path, and is a 1 night and 2 day affair. If however you would like to climb Mount Kinabalu 'off the beaten track' Discover Borneo organizes expeditions which can vary in time and in complexity, the shortest and easiest being the Eastern Ridge approach, which is approximately a 4 day trek.
- Kinabalu National Park
- There are four points of road access to Kinabalu Park, leading to four park 'stations'. The most visited is Kinabalu Park Headquarters, located at 1,500 meters.
- Travelers wishing to climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu begin their journey from Kinabalu Park Headquarters at 1874 meters. From here they start their climb along a well maintained trail.
- The ascent of Mount Kinabalu can be completed in less than one day, however, most choose to take a break at 3,280m and rest at one of the rest houses at Laban Rata. The climbers then wake up at 2am or 3am the following day to continue their ascent to the summit, Low's Peak, arriving in time to witness the sunrise.
- Kinabalu National Park has one of the world's richest orchid flora with over 800 species, over 600 species of ferns (more than the whole of Africa's 500 species) of which 50 are found no where else, and is the richest place in the world for the Nepenthes insectivorous pitcher plant (five of Sabah's thirteen are found nowhere else on earth) which reach spectacular proportions (the largest in the world being the endemic Nepentes Rajah).
- The worlds highest via ferrata, at 3800m, is on Mount Kinabalu. A via ferrata (or 'iron road' in Italian, plural via ferrate) is a mountain path consisting of a series of rungs, rails and cables embracing the rock face. It allows access to scenic sections of the mountains that are typically available only to rock climbers and mountaineers.
- Things to bring Up Mount Kinabalu:
- Good walking shoes
- Warm clothes, it really does get cold at the top!
- Snacks and water
- Torch light
- Poring Hot Springs
- Less than 40km drive from the park headquarters in Sabah, the Poring Hot Springs are known for their therapeutic properties and the waters with their sulphuric minerals are reputed to ease aching muscles, making this an ideal place to visit after climbing the Mount Kinabalu.
- Named after the local word for bamboo and famous for its hot, natural springs, Poring is a lushly beautiful region of fruit trees, hibiscus and spectacular gingers with enjoyable trekking trails, waterfalls, and a canopy walkway which, rising above the forest trees, gives you a birds eye view of the jungle. Poring also has a large butterfly farm, and among the more spectacular butterflies is the velvet black and glowing green Rajah Brooke Birdwing named after great traveller discovered it in Sarawak. The area is peaceful and a great place to spend a few lazy afternoons with family and friends.
For more information on the National Parks of Sabah, please visit www.sabahparks.org.my
Gunung Mulu National Park
The other famous National Park in Borneo and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is Gunung Mulu National Park. The largest park in Sarawak, this park covers almost 53000 hectares of primary rainforest.Within the park boundaries are 3 mountains, 2 of which are significant - Mount Mulu (Highest mountain in Sarawak) and Gunung Api (one of the more difficult mountains to climb). Yet this Mulu Park's fame is from the breathtaking cave system that offers to many, a chance to see some of natures wonders. It is in these cave systems in Mulu National Park where the largest cave chamber, largest cave passage and longest cave.
The 4 famous show caves accessible to the general public are: Deer Cave, Langs Cave, Clearwater Cave and Wind Cave - each unique in their own way and each offering an unforgettable experience. Part of the excitement in visiting these caves is the trip by long boat up the Melinau river. Mulu also offers for the more experienced, adventure caving of various difficulties.
Details on other national parks in Sarawak