Kinabalu Park Travel Tip :: Mount Kinabalu Climbing

On the rainforest-clad island of Borneo, you will find Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first world heritage site and home to Borneo’s tallest peak, Mt. Kinabalu. Revel in the wealth of rare flora and faunna and spectacular waterfalls that seem to cascade from heaven itself.

From the giant Rafflesia gflower and many nocturnal creatures, to the spectaculur trek through primordial jungle up misty peaks, and finally above the clouds to catch an awe-inspiring sunrise – this is the one adventure you will never forget.

Rich in biodiversity

Mount Kinabalu along with other upland areas of the Crocker Range is well-known worldwide for its tremendous botanical and biological species biodiversity with plants of Himalayan, Australasian, and Indomalayan origin. It’s estimated 5,000 to 6,000 plant species in the park.

There are some 326 species of birds in Kinabalu Park (including the spectacular Rhinoceros Hornbill), Mountain Serpent-eagle, Dulit Frogmouth, Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher, and Bare-headed Laughingthrush. The mountain is home to some 100 mammalian species mostly living high in th trees, including one of the four great apes, the orangutan.

Tales of the Mount Kinabalu

The Kadazan Dusun, Sabah’s largest ethnic group, believe that the mountain is the sacred resting ground of the spirit of their ancestors. This is why the name ‘Kinabalu’ is widely belived to have been derived from the Kadazan words ‘Aki’, which means ‘ancestor’, and ‘Nabalu’, which means ‘mountain’.

Another legend is the name “Kinabalu” actually means “Cina Balu” (which would fully mean “A Chinese Widow”). Due to the lingual influence among the Kadazan Dusun of Sabah, the pronunciation for the word “cina” (chee-na) was changed to “Kina” (kee-na).

Where to start your mountain climbing?

The gateway to the mountain is the Kinabalu Park Headquarters, situated 1,563 meters on its southern boundary. A variety of accommodation, restaurants and an exhibition center are available here. This is place where you pay the entrance fee to the park and register if you are an overnight visitor or a climber.

After viewing the slide shows on the park’s rich history and biodiversity, you can explore the gardens on your own, or join the park’s naturalist on a guided walk.

Climbing the mountain

More than 50,000 visitors go for mountain climbing on one the easiest mountain trail in the world. No real experience in mountain climbing is required before you conquer the highest peak in Borneo, but you should be physically fit.

Usually the normal climbers will take 2-day package unless you have ample time and money to spend off. The park management is reluctantly to allow one day package if you persist on your request for the financial rip-off reason. Please be reminded that the champion in the Kinabalu Climbathon took less than three hours to run up and down the mountain.

Day One:
To reach Low’s peak, the summit, climbers can either follow the more popular Summit Trail or the newer Mesilau Trail which begins at the Mesilau Nature Resort.

The Summit trail which begins at the Timpohon Gate, roughly 4.5 kilometers from the park’s headquarters, is equipped with clear paths and ropes to help climbers in ascending the steep and rocky terrain. After four to five-hour climb, climbers will pass Carson’s Falls, three trail shelters and telecommunication tower before reaching Layang-layang (the place of Swallows) at 2,703 meters above sea level. Here, the Summit Trail meets the more scenic Mesilau Trail.

From Layang-layang, the journey upwards passes the Villosa Shelter and a helipad where climbers can catch sweeping vistas of the Summit Plateau. Fruther on, climbers will come upon the Paka Cave Shelter where the first explorers slept. Climbers will break journey and spend the night at Laban Rata which offers climbers hostel accommodation and a restaurant before they resume their climb to the peak.

Day Two:

After a short night’s rest, climbers need to be ready by 3AM in order to catch the sunrise at the peak. It takes about three hours to reach the peak and there are ladders and ropes to help climbers overcome the steeper terrain. En route, marvel at the rugged landscape of cliffs, gorges, gulleys, plateaus and precipices.

At 4,905.2 meters above sea level and in the freezing darkness, climbers reach the summit of Mount Kinabalu. In an almost sacred moment, the dawn of a new day unfolds gloriously before you.

When is the Best Time to Climb Mt. Kinabalu?

Although the recommended climbing season is from late February to July, the best time to climb is actually in the months of March and April when it is usually dry. September to December are usually the wet months and climbing becomes more arduous when it rains. Although delineation can be made of wetter and drier seasons, the rains on Kinabalu are fairly unpredictable and they can still occur at any time of the year.

Fee structure for park entrance and permit

Other Activities

Walk the trails: For the less adventurous, there are a number of trails around the park entrance. There are also guided tours, but the quality is highly dependent on the actual guide.

Enjoy a short jungle walk: The majority of visitors to the Park do not climb all the way to the peak. For those with limited time or energy, there are gardens and many short walks through the jungle to enjoy in the vicinity of the entrance. A mud map is available at the Park entrance and sign posts guide you.

Visit the Botanical Gardens: See the unique flora of Mount Kinabalu and Borneo up close

Park Museum: A small one-room museum with interpretive signs and displays is worth a look to read about the flora and fauna of Mt Kinabalu Park as well as the other Parks in Sabah.

Precaution Tips:

– Advanced booking with the park management or via travel agent is advisable.

The official agent for Sabah Park’s lodging booking is Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. There are other cheaper hotels and lodges outside the Kinabalu Park if you are just staying for a night or two.

Important note: Pre-booking a bed at Laban Rata’s hostel is compulsory for your climbing permit approval.

– The weather can be freezing cool, gloves and thick clothing is necessary. Headlamp or torchlight is a must.

– Be physically fit.