A Beacon of Biological Diversity...
The Kinabalu National Park is Sabah's
greatest attraction, and maybe Borneo's most important national
park. I like to say that we have an unfair advantage over the other
national parks here: with Mt Kinabalu and the many different climate
zones it is natural that there should be animals and plants that do
not occur in any other parts of Borneo - and some of them not even
anywhere else in the world. It is no wonder UNESCO has stated that
the KNP is one of the world's most important biological sites and in
December 2000 KNP was certified Malaysia's first World Heritage
Visitors generally visit the KNP Head
Quarters at Kundasang, and the hot springs at Poring.
The KNP HQ at more than 1500 m a.s.l.
and with more than 10 km well maintained trails offer a fine insight
into the lower montane rainforest at that altitude, and the patient
observer will be able to spot rare and endemic birds here. Ongoing
research on plant life is made accessible in the 'Mountain Garden'
where endemic plants, healing herbs and orchids are shown. After the
visit of this garden take some trails and try to spot the plants you
have learned about!
Daily guided tours with an experienced
ranger are organised at 11 am from the Liwagu Restaurant. The
rangers explain more about KNP's flora & fauna, the uses of some of
the plants, and maybe you spot some small mammal or rare bird which
the ranger can interpret for you.
Restaurants, exhibition halls and a wide
variety of accommodation complete the KNP HQ, from where one also
starts the climb of Mt Kinabalu. This is normally done in two days:
the first day climbers register at the park HQ and meet their
mountain guide (and porters if neccessary). Then they trek from the
Timpohon Gate at 1800 m a.s.l. to Laban Rata at around 3300 m a.s.l.
There is accommodation (dormitory style) at Laban Rata and the
surrounding mountain huts, but beds are limited and this in turn
limits daily climbing permits. Only a certain number of climbers is
allowed daily as not to create too much impact on the parks unique
environment. At Laban Rata there is also a restaurant.
Climbers are advised to go to bed early
as the next morning starts early. Normally, by 3 am everybody is
already underway to the summit - Low's Peak is South East Asia's
highest, 4095.2 m (old maps still indicate 4101 m, which has been
corrected some years back with the advent of more precise
altimeters). Most climbers will make it in time to to summit to
witness the sun rise over Borneo, and good weather conditions
permitting this is an exhilarating moment!
After many photo sessions climber
descend over Laban Rata back to the HQ, where they normally arrive
around midday to 2 pm.
Mt Kinabalu is 'the easiest 4000er' in
the world - meaning no climbing or mountaineering skills are
necessary to reach its summit. But a good physical condition and
stamina still help, as it is not exactly a stroll in the park
5,000 – 6,000 species of vascular
plants, comprising of over 200 families and 1,000 genera:
1,000 orchid species, including five
species of slipper orchids
608 fern species
9 Nepenthes species
(pitcher-plants, including 4 endemic species)
species (5 species are endemic to Kinabalu)
78 Ficus species (over
50% of the 135 species found in Borneo)
52 palm species
30 ginger species
The Rafflesia is one of the rarest
plants (and the largest) in the world, and two species, Rafflesia
preicii and R keithii are known to occur in the KNP, too!
The KNP is a paradise for ornithologist
and more than half of all known birds species in Borneo can be found
here: 326 species! They are categorised into 4 groups: subalpine
zone species; endemic montane species; non-endemic montane species
and lowland species (Wells and Philips, 1996; Buin, 1999). Endemic
Bornean species such as the Kinabalu Friendly Warbler are only found
at Mt. Kinabalu and Mt. Trus Madi. But there is more:
90 species lowland mammals
22 species montane mammals
61 frog and toad species (approximately)
species (approximately) of butterfly have been recorded
moth species (may be found at 2000m and above)
40 species of fish
(representing 9 families)
Then there are such curiosities as the Kinabalu Giant Earthworm...
These lists are not complete, and from
time to time some they need adjustment as plants and animals new to
science are found!
How to Get to the Kinabalu National Park & Accommodation
Bus, van, taxi, tour operator, ca 2 hours by road (83 km); there is
a wide choice of accommodation in the park, and in Kundasang there
are many 'highland resorts'. All accommodation tends to be fully
booked months in advance for public and school holidays and we
recommend that enquiries and confirmed bookings are made early.
Climb Mt Kinabalu
The permit to climb Mt Kinabalu is
guaranteed if one has secured accommodation (fully confirmed with
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges. As
accommodation is limited we suggest you make your confirmed bookings
at least five months in advance!
Mt Kinabalu, Malaysia's highest mountain
Aerial view of Mt Kinabalu
One of the more spectacular insects: the Lantern Bug
"Kinabalu Gold" slipper orchid Paphiopedilum rothschildianum
Pitcher Plant Nepenthes burbidgeae
One of the
many wild ginger species, flowering (Alpinia halivandii)