UNESCO World Heritage-listed Kinabalu Park doesn’t stop at Mount Kinabalu: This huge centre of biodiversity stretches all the way to the small town of Poring, located in the lowlands some 40 kilometres from the mountain. Poring is known for its popular sulphuric hot spring baths and the surrounding area has developed into a favoured local tourist attraction with not only the pools, but a terrific canopy walk suspended high in the rainforest, butterfly, orchid and tropical gardens, walking trails and a spectacular waterfall.
Post Mount Kinabalu climbers flock to Poring to soak their weary muscles in the therapeutic waters. Don’t expect a pristine natural environment and the clean hot tubs can get overcrowded. Private tubs are available for 15-20 ringgit. Don’t forget local sensibilities; take something to swim in and a towel. Lockers are available.
Other water attractions include a cold “rock pool”, and a chargeable swimming pool with waterslides (adults: 3 ringgit, adults over 55 and kids 6-18: 1 ringgit, kids under 6: free/per hour).
Once you’ve done relaxing, head to the canopy walk, 40 metres above the forest floor for a hornbill’s eye view of the jungle. Go early (or late) to see birds and wildlife and dodge the crowds. The ridiculous but commonly charged camera fee applies here (adults: 5 ringgit, kids: 2.5 ringgit; camera: 5 ringgit; video: 30 ringgit). Nearby is a butterfly garden (closed Monday) with a small natural museum (open Tuesday-Sunday 09:00-16:00; adults: 4 ringgit, kids: 2 ringgit). A combo ticket is available for the canopy walk and butterfly garden which saves you two ringgit.
If you’re keen to explore the surrounding jungle, trails near the entrance to the butterfly garden lead to the small, but pretty Kipungit Waterfall with a drop of about 10 metres (about 650 metres along), a bat cave (1 kilometre) and impressive 120 metre-high Langangan Waterfall (3.7 kilometres). The walk to Langangan Waterfall is steep and slippery in parts. To follow this trail you are required to register with Sabah Parks, and they don’t allow anyone to start after 14:00 as the trek takes about two hours each way. Take plenty of water and wet weather gear.
On the opposite side of the complex to the springs, a bamboo garden, orchid garden and tropical garden are worth a wander. Poring is the local Kadazan-Dusun word for bamboo, and it’s prolific in the area — this garden is free to enter. The Orchid Conservation Centre houses more than 1,000 species, including some rare and endangered. They are not always blooming — ask first before paying to enter (adults: 10 ringgit, kids: 5 ringgit). We were unable to visit the Tropical Garden but from outside the enclosures of deer and birds looked natural, however we’re not a fan of captive animals. A combo ticket is available for the orchid and tropical gardens, oddly cheaper than the orchid garden alone. Also within the park are two rafflesia gardens, but you’re more likely to see the giant flower outside the park cultivated in private gardens — look for the signs, as enterprising local charge for the privilege of viewing them.
A free one-hour guided tour around the park’s attractions (not including separate entry fees) is offered daily at 11:00 from the Poring Visitors’ Centre. Entry fee for Kinabalu Park at Poring is adults: 15 ringgit, kids 7-17: 10 ringgit, kids under 6: free. If you have visited Kinabalu Park near the mountain, your entry ticket is valid for same day entry (or three days if you stay at Sutera Sanctuary Lodge). Kinabalu Park is open daily 07:00-18:00.
There is no public transport to Poring. A taxi from Kinabalu Park HQ is 100 ringgit, and from Ranau 60 ringgit (prices negotiable). Accommodation and restaurants are available both inside and outside the park.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 2nd October, 2016.