An introduction to Mount Kinabalu
Towering 4101 meters above the lush tropical jungles of North Borneo as the center-piece of the vast 750 square kilometers Kinabalu National Park, Mount Kinabalu is the major attraction in Sabah. It is the highest mountain between the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas and those of New Guinea and most mornings its jagged granite peaks are visible from many places along the coast.
Despite its height, the mountain is considered a relatively easy ascent in the world of climbing excursions, and is therefore a favorite for trekking groups of all ages. No special skills or equipment are required, all you need is a little stamina and gear to protect you from the elements, as it can get cold and wet the higher you climb.
Where to stay
At MalaysiaExplorer.net we recommend staying in a Kota Kinabalu resort if you intend to visit the National Park and mountain. The city itself is the vibrant pulse of Sabah state and boasts its own gorgeous scenery and cultural attractions. Crucially it is also home to a wide range of comfortable, appealing accommodation options, the perfect remedy to a long day on your feet. Minibuses traverse daily from the city straight to the National Park's headquarters providing convenience and speed of access. Alternative to regular minibuses you can opt for a tour or package that includes transport to and from the park headquarters from Kota Kinabalu along with organized guided walks. The headquarters of the Kinabalu National Park are built in a beautiful setting offering a magnificent view of Mt Kinabalu except when the clouds are obscuring the slopes and summits. The park is well managed and is capable of welcoming a large influx of visitors in peak months.
Visitors to Kota Kinabalu are spoilt for choice and variety abounds, but MalaysiaExplorer.net's top-pick goes to the stand-out resorts of The Pacific Sutera Hotel (pictured) and Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort. Tanjung Aru offers intense relaxation and pampering whilst the Pacific Sutera simply cannot be matched for 5-star luxury coupled with value for money. Enjoy beautiful scenery, excellent facilities and great food right by the South China Sea coastline.
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The National Park
Once you are at the headquarters, hiring a guide is compulsory and indeed useful, as most of the guides and porters are members of the Kadazan tribe that lives in the area. At the beginning of your trek the office at the headquarters will assign you with a guide. Although Mt Kinabalu is an easy mountain to climb it should not be underestimated, this is why having a guide is a good option, that and because the park wishes to preserve the integrity of the flora and fauna for future generations.
It is well worth spending a whole day exploring the well-marked trails around the park's headquarters, with a map available at the reception desk, which shows all the trails and points of interest. All the trails link up with others at some point, so you can spend the whole day walking at a leisurely pace through the magnificent forest without getting lost.
Things to see & do: Wildlife
Some interesting plants and, if you are lucky, the occasional animal can be seen as you travel the Liwagu Trail, which follows the river of the same name. Every day there is a guided walk which starts from the administration building and lasts for under two hours. It is well worth going on this guided walk as it follows most of the easier paths. The guides will also help you spot various different species of plants and flowers as well as colorful insects you will encounter along the way. You can catch these guided tours if you leave early from Kota Kinabalu.
Climbing Mount Kinabalu
The Summit Trail and climb to the top of Mt Kinabalu takes two days and some people climb to Laban Rata where they stay overnight in the nearby huts, then wake up at dawn for the final climb to the summit and return to the park's headquarters the same day. However, availability is limited and most people shorten the trek considerably by taking the minibus from the headquarters up as far as the power station and then go on from there. There are many shelters and signs as you travel along the trails showing your progress and there is drinking water available from tanks at each of the rest stops.
The walk starts off through a tall oak forest and soon rhododendron trees can be spotted. As you climb up higher the vegetation becomes more stunted and mossy. There are pitcher plants, which can be seen on the side trails along the way and you can make a detour to the Paka Cave that is situated near the sixth shelter. Laban Rata is the resting spot for many trekkers and offers heating, hot water, comfortable beds and a restaurant with breathtaking views. The climb continues up to the Spartan Sayat-Sayat by crossing the Panar Laban Rock face, a sheer expanse of rock laced with ropes to help you up the steep incline. This is the most difficult part of the climb, and once you have passed this area the summit appears beyond a final stretch of sheer rock.
There are two places where you can get a meal at the headquarters, the cheaper and most popular of the two is the Kinabalu Dalsam below the reception area, and offers Malay, Chinese and Western food. You can also find a shop that sells tinned food, chocolate, beer, cigarettes and other simple commodities. The second restaurant is in the main administration building and is more expensive than the Kinabalu Dalsam, but the food is excellent.
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Complete your trip with our travel essentials checklist: Tours, Flights and Car Rental
- Tailor all aspects of your holiday or visit to Kota Kinabalu with comprehensive tour and package choices.
- Read our top tips on car rental to ensure you choose a suitable vehicle at a good price.
- Our guide to Malaysia flights is packed with advice and pointers on finding the best routes and super deals.
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