UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kinabalu Park stretches over 75,370 hectares around magnificent Mount Kinabalu. Encompassing four vegetation zones, from tropical lowland forrest to sub-alpine meadows, the park is home to an impressive array of diverse flora and fauna, including many endemic species. Kinabalu Park offers first-class trekking, and a handful of more sedate activities.
Many visitors come to climb the monumental peak, but it’s well worth spending a day (or two) exploring the trails and gardens at the base of the mountain. They are an excellent alternative if you haven’t managed to secure one of the limited climbing spots or if you lack the time or fitness for 4,095 metres of up. However, if you do intend to climb, the park trails are a good warm up, and trust us, you won’t want to explore them post mountain—at that point head to Poring, the other section of Kinabalu Park, and have a restorative soak in Poring Hot Springs.
The altitude range of Kinabalu Park is 152 metres to 4,095 metres, with the park headquarters sitting at a pleasantly cool 1,520 metres above sea level. This is perfect for walking, so grab a map of the routes from the information counter and explore! Eight interconnected, well-marked paths (two other trails have been closed since the 2015 earthquake) range from the shortest Bulit Tupai Trail (343 metres) to longest, Liwagu Trail (5.6 kilometres). Consider the elevation when choosing a trail too — some of the short ones are very steep.
A daily guided tour of Silau-Silau Trail (3 kilometres) is led by keen-eyed guides who can point out and explain many kinds of plants and critters. The tour starts at 11:00 from Kinabalu Hall and costs three ringgit (less for Malaysians and kids). Along the various trails, keep your eyes peeled for insect-eating pitcher plants, including the endemic nepenthes rajah, the world’s largest, or one of the world’s rarest orchids, the Rothschild slipper orchid (Paphiopedilum rothschildianum). Among the many birds, you may encounter some of the 44 endemic species or perhaps one of the seven endemic butterflies. Take plenty of water and wet weather gear. If it rains, be wary of slippery paths and watch out for the endemic Kinabalu giant red leech.
If trekking doesn’t appeal, but you’d still like to see some rare species, head to the Botanical Gardens, which has daily guided tours conducted at 09:00, 12:00 and 15:00. It's open daily 09:00-13:00, 14:00-16:00, with last entry at 15:40. Entry fee is 5 ringgit for adults, 2.50 ringgit kids.
Kinabalu Natural History Gallery houses a moth-eaten collection of taxidermied animals and displays on the geology of Mount Kinabalu. If it’s raining it’ll keep you entertained for half an hour. Open daily 09:00-16:00; entry fee 3 ringgit.
A minimarket near the information office sells drinks, snacks, and sundries like gloves and medical supplies. Two restaurants operate within the park including Liwagu Restaurant where you can warm up in front of an open fire on really cold days. Cheaper eating can be had just outside the park entrance.
Accommodationis available both inside, or better value outside the park.
How to get there
From North Bus Terminal Inanam, all buses bound for Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Tawau will pass the park entrance (1.5 hours), but you’re better off taking a minivan (20 ringgit) or share taxi from Padang Merdeka Terminal. A private taxi from Padang Merdeka is 160 ringgit. A taxi from the park to Poring is 100 ringgit, and to Ranau 60 ringgit.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 2nd October, 2016.