Lupa Masa Rainforest Camp is more than just a place to stay, it’s a destination in itself. On the edge of Kinabalu Park set amid primary rainforest in an idyllic riverside position, open-air huts and basic facilities contribute to an authentic jungle experience.
“Lupa Masa” means “forget time”, and this is indeed the place to snub the schedule and follow the primitive tempo of mother nature. The easy 45-minute walk into the camp from Poring Hot Springs traverses jungle paths passing towering bamboos and pretty waterfalls, there’s wildlife aplenty, but you may need help to see. Our keen-eyed guide pointed out a rather spectacular green pit viper camouflaged in the foliage as we passed.
The camp offers a variety of back-to-basics jungle accommodation and all include vegetarian meals, locally sourced and organic when possible, plus tea and coffee whenever you like. A number of open-to-the-elements wooden and bamboo structures will keep out the rain and offer a variety of sleeping options from a row of covered tents in the “longhouse”, to quite special riverside chalets with a mosquito-netted (almost proper) bed to keep out the bugs (hopefully) and private furnished balconies overlooking the river. For any other creature comforts, you’ll need to bring your own. Go for the chalets — they are worth the extra ringgit.
Made from a funky collection of stone, wood and recycled biscuit tins, share bathrooms offer a choice of a squat or Western-style toilets (you’ll still have to do a bucket flush), and icy shower (bamboo pipe) or mandi (bucket). It's basic, but clean and not smelly.
We love the large bamboo communal area, with a Dr Heckle-like collection of small creatures in formaldehyde to study, a selection of games, a library (always a Danielle Steel and a Paulo Coelho) and a bar that serves house-made rice wine—all to aid in the time obliterating. It’s a wonderful relaxing spot to soak up the jungle ambience or carry on with a bit traveller talk.
If you’re not just here to relax, Lupa Masa offers a variety of jungle-based activities including guided day and night walks (30 ringgit per hour per group) with a chance to spot some of the rich and diverse mammal, bird and plant life hidden within. Jungle survival courses are offered too (250 ringgit).
If relaxing is really all you want to do, the pristine waterholes and waterfalls are excellent for a swim and there’s always a hammock to swing in. Lupa Masa’s pricing system is per person and second and additional nights are at a reduced rate, and really, one night is not enough.
We love it, but the jungle is not for everyone — there are critters and leeches and countless jungle noises and it’s not really comfortable. You’ll probably be sleep deprived and wish those bloody frogs, crickets and rare jungle species would just pipe down for a bit. It can be steamy in the day and freezing (or even steamier) at night and when the equatorial rains fall, you’ll know the true meaning of rainforest. But it could well be the best life-affirming experience ever, so we recommend that you go ahead and forget time.
You’ll need to book ahead, so they can make sure you’ll be fed, and that someone will meet you at Poring to accompany you into camp.
Lupa Masa is owned and run by friends of Travelfish and was not inspected on an anonymous basis.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 2nd October, 2016.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.