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Sabah's Mount Kinabalu

In 1964 Kinabalu Park was established to protect Mount Kinabalu and its plant and animal life. The Kinabalu Park, covering an area of 754 sq. kilometers including Mt. Kinabalu, Mt. Tambayukon to the north and their foothills, was gazetted to preserve the valuable natural heritage encompassed within the mountains and its natural environment. The majestic mountain has 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 the feet of the overlying sand and mud stone exposing this massif. During the Ice Age, glacier running though 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.

Mount Kinabalu towers 4095 meters (13,436 feet) above sea level. It is the highest mountain between the mighty snow-capped Himalayas and New Guinea. It is also one of the most accessible and spectacular mountains in the world. Because of the earth movement, in is still growing with the rate of 5 mm (1/4 inches) a year. This rugged mountain is the focal point of Kinabalu Park. Only at Mount Kinabalu can you eat breakfast in a lowland rainforest, lunch in a cloud forest, and enjoy dinner in a subalpine meadow, all within one day! 


Mt Kinabalu view

Mt Kinabalu

Mt Kinabalu Low's Peak

Flora and Fauna

The park is known for the abundance and diversity of its plant life, within one of the most ancient vegetations in the world. It has one of the richest and most diverse assemblages of plants in the world and recent studies declared that Kinabalu's flora contains 5,000-6,000 species including 200 family and 1,000 genera. The park contains a high number of endemic flora; 78 species of the 135 species of Ficus occurring in Borneo can be found at the site.

There are believed to be:

  • 1,000 orchid species, including at least five species of slipper orchid, of the genus Papiopedillium.
  • 608 fern species
  • 10 Nepenthes species - pitcher plants
  • 24 Rhododendron species (5 species are endemic to Kinabalu)
  • 78 Fiscus species (over 50% of all the species found in Borneo)
  • 52 palm species
  • 6 bamboo species
  • 30 ginger species


  • ORCHID - The orchid family Orchidaceae is probably the largest plant family in the world; estimated 25,000 species. Borneo alone have between 2500 and 3000 species, over 1000 species are found on Mount Kinabalu, that is 30 per cent of all species found in Borneo and a high proportion of these are endemic to the mountain. Mount Kinabalu provides such a range of habits and climates, from steaming lowland rainforests at its base to windswept frozen peaks at the summit.

    The most renowned endemic orchid is Rothschild's Slipper Orchid considered to be the "aristocrat of slipper orchids"; it grows wild in Mount Kinabalu and has won many awards and perhaps the most expensive orchid in the world. It takes 15 years to bloom from seedling! Five other species of similarly beautiful belonging to the genus Paphiopedilum are also found on Kinabalu Park.

    NEPENTHES - PITCHER PLANTS - Nepenthes are carnivorous plants and as such they are fascinating people since they are known. These plants have evolved highly modified leaves that form "bucket traps" for insects. The trap contains a fluid of the plant's own production, which may be watery or syrupy and is used to drown and then gradually decompose the preys. Normally their victims are ants; the larges species of Nepenthes occasionally can catch small vertebrates like lizards and even rodents!

    Nepenthaceae family comprises roughly 120 species, numerous natural and many cultivated hybrids. The greatest diversity occurs on Borneo and Sumatra with many endemic species. Currently, 31 species are known from Borneo and Mount Kinabalu is the richest single site on the island with 10 species including Nepenthes Lowii, N. Edwardsiana N. Tentaculata, N. Villosa and N. Kinabaluensis . Another species restricted to Mount Kinabalu is Nepenthes Rajah; it is probably the most well known of all pitcher plants, and also one of the most impressive. Pitchers grow to huge dimensions, up to 35 cm high and 18 cm wide, with a wide, deep red peristome and large lid.

    Rothschild's Slipper Orchid Kinabalu Park

    Pitcher Plants Kinabalu Park

    Rafflesia Kinabalu Park


    RAFFLESIA - Raflessia is the world's largest parasitic flower, one of the wonders of the botanical world. The 18 known species within the genus of Rafflesia are found throughout South East Asia, at altitudes between 500 and 700 meters in the tropical rainforests where the climate is continuously warm and humid.

    The Rafflesia can be seen only when it is ready to reproduce, when the parasitic growths on the vine form a lump that develop into a structure somewhat resembling a cabbage. This cabbage-like bud bursts through the host's bark, and after about 9 months will open to reveal the massive 5-petaled flower, with stamens and pistils, which develops into a fruit with seeds. The flowers, which sit directly on the forest floor, are each either male or female (female flowers are particularly rare), can measure more than a meter across and weigh 10 kilograms.  Two localities in Sabah offer a reasonable chance to see Rafflesia; around Poring Hot Springs on the lower slopes of Mount Kinabalu and in Tambunan Rafflesia Reserve in the Crocker Range

    RHODODENDRON - The acidic soil and cool, moist conditions that predominate on the middle and higher slopes of Mount Kinabalu ideally suit the requirements of plants belonging to the family Ericaceae.

    The largest genus in the Ericaceae family, Rhododendron contains over 900 species worldwide, some 300 of which occur in South-East Asia. Borneo is home of about 50 species, and half of these occur on Mount Kinabalu, a proportion of which are endemic. All of the species found in Mount Kinabalu belong to the sub-group Vierya: Rhododendron Gracile, Rhododendron Classifolium and Rhododendron Borneensis.


    Rhododendron Kinabalu Park

    Canopy Walkway Poring Hot Springs

    Poring Hot Springs

    WILDLIFE ranges from mammals, birds, fishes, amphibians and reptiles to insects and other invertebrates. Some montane mammals such as pygmy squirrels, Black Shrews and Kinabalu Shrews are found no where else.

    Of 29 birds species unique to Borneo, at least 17 are confined to the mountains, notably Kinabalu. These include subspecies of the Red breasted Tree-partridge and the Crimson-headed Wood-partridge. A common sight on the summit is the Mountain Blackbird. Kinabalu is home to over half of Borneo's 518 bird species, including Rhinoceros Hornbills. There are also mountain black eye, Borneo eye bright, Euphrasia borneensis, and the now 'not-so-friendly' nor easily sighted Friendly Kinabalu Warbler.

    Over 1,000 moth varieties, numerous small reptiles, insects and spiders are endemic to Kinabalu. Of the 900 known butterfly species in Borneo, some 600 are found here.

    Diversity - with over 100 species of mammals alone - does not guarantee sightings. Many animals are nocturnal or tree top dwellers. The most obvious are tree shrews and squirrels, of which 28 species are noted. Primates include Orang Utans, Borneon Gibbons, Leaf Monkeys, and two distinctive nocturnal species, the Slow Loris and the Tarsier. The Bornean mountain ground squirrel Dremomys eve is often spotted scampering about in the scrub vegetation area while the mountain tree shrew Tupaia montana are easily spotted along the mountain trails. You may even come across a red-necked keelback snake sunning itself along your path.

    Climbing Mt. Kinabalu

    The climb can normally be accomplished in two days but this can be quite tough. A more comfortable option is to take it slow and stretch the climb to 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, rhododendrons 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, a delicate plant that has the foul-smelling mucous on the outer surface of its cap that attracts insects.

    Climbing Mt Kinabalu - Via Ferrata

    For the more adventurous, there is another way of climbing to the summit - via Ferrata. Mountain Torq Via Ferrata, a mountain path (via ferrata is Italian for iron road) which was opened only recently, has been certified by the Malaysia Book of Records (MBOR) as the world's highest and Asia's first.

    It is at an altitude of 3,800 metres on the 4,095-metre Mount Kinabalu, Southeast Asia's highest summit. A via ferrata is basically a long climbing route with permanently fixed cables for protection. Steel rungs are used on steeper sections to keep the difficulty of the climbing moderate.

    The Mountain Torq, with various alternative routes, enables people of all ages to enjoy climbing Mount Kinabalu's rock faces, giving them a chance to view the mountain from different angles.

    The Mountain Torq Via Ferrata, comprising rungs and cables embracing the mountain's rock face, allows access to scenic sections of the summit normally accessible only to rock climbers and mountaineers.

    Via Ferrata Mt Kinabalu

    Low's Peak Circuit Via Ferrata Mt Kinabalu

    Via Ferrata Suspension Bridge Mt Kinabalu 

    Poring Hot Springs

    Just 43km from the Park and on the eastern boundary is Poring Hot Springs. Located at a lower altitude than at Park headquarters, you can enjoy an invigorating soak at the open-air or enclosed tubs filled with hot sulphur water from a natural spring. Take a dip to rest your tired feet and aching muscles. The water contains sulphur that is famously known for its curative properties in curing skin problems.

    A walkway takes you through the rainforest canopy for a bird's eye view of life at the top of towering dipterocarp trees. 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.

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