Published: May 31, 2017

Kinabalu National Park - Malaysia's Primordial Rainforest

Adventure of a Lifetime to Malaysia’s Most Incredible National Park


An opulent tropical rainforest, the Kinabalu National Park is a 130 million-year-old nature sanctuary that is home to unique flora and fauna such as the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia; and even the majestic Mount Kinabalu.

Adventure of a Lifetime to Malaysia’s Most Incredible National Park

Lush epiphyte and towering canopies at Kinabalu Park
Stark green against the grey mist

A green haven like no other; Kinabalu Park, located in the enormous state of Sabah, is the ideal sanctuary to escape and unwind. Designated as Malaysia’s first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site, the park features more than 5000 species of flora and fauna, some of which are rare and endemic to the area. As you ascend to higher altitudes, tall canopies give way to coniferous trees and sward dotting the sparse landscape. In 1851, British colonial administrator naturalists, Hugh Low, led an expedition to the region. He also became the first person to reach the peak of Mount Kinabalu, now named ‘Low’s Peak’ in honour of him.

Covering an astounding 75,370 hectares, the Kinabalu heritage site is embellished by the proud centrepiece that is Mount Kinabalu. It is no wonder globe-trotters and nature enthusiasts flock to the region, so much so that we proposed to offer adventure tours that encompass Kinabalu Park, Mount Kinabalu and more!

Getting to Kinabalu National Park

Reaching the park is easy if you depart from the city of Kota Kinabalu, as it serves as the starting point to multiple attractions all over Sabah. The distance of Kinabalu National Park from Kuala Lumpur is only a mere 2.5 hours' flight from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), before embarking on a further 2-hour journey to Kinabalu National Park from the airport. There are a number of public transportation options for you to take from Kota Kinabalu city to the park. There are minivans from the Long Distance Bus Station which leaves when its full and costs around RM20 one way. There are also many buses and coaches that leave every morning for the park which should take around 1 to 2 hours and cost between RM10 - RM15.

If you're coming from Singapore, embark on a 2-hour flight from Changi Airport bound for Kota Kinabalu for around S$120 (return ticket). In order to enter the park, you would have to cough up an entrance fee of RM15 per adult and RM10 per child (for non-Malaysians), and RM 3 per adult and RM1 per child (for Malaysians) with an additional RM120 if you are looking to attempt Mount Kinabalu.

Kinabalu National Park, Rafflesia and Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid

Beautiful Rothschild Orchid
The mesmerising Rothschild Slipper Orchid

Explore the trails at the base of the mountain and you might just come across the world’s biggest pitcher plant as well as the rare Rothschild's Slipper Orchid. The park hosts a beautiful botanical garden which pays homage to the beauty of Malaysia’s flora. Pictures are a must, as the mountain presents a breathtaking backdrop that is truly Insta-worthy.

Kinabalu's Largest Flower in the World, the Rafflesia
The notorious Rafflesia flower, largest in the world

Depending on the season, you might even get to see the infamous Rafflesia—said to smell like decaying corpse. As a parasite, its filaments comb through roots and stems of forest vines to obtain nutrients. The flower is extremely rare to see with your very own eyes, it’s been said to last only three to four days, a blink of an eye compared to the six to nine months it takes from bud to bloom. Kinabalu park is one of the few places in the world where you can even get a chance to see this amazing flower, as the flower can only be found in the South East Asian region (mainly Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines).

Colourful jumping spider
A brilliant jumping spider eyeing the camera suspiciously

One of the fascinating facts about the Kinabalu Park is the botanical richness. The park’s fauna is equally impressive with 90 species of lowland mammals, 22 species of montane zone mammals, over 300 bird species and up to 290 types of butterflies. And that's not even considering the thousands upon thousands of insect species riddling the forest floor. Some of the animals you might get a glimpse of are the Bornean Gibbons, the mountain blackbird and many more. Close your eyes and let the jungle speak as the sounds of the jungle dwellers merge to form harmonious melodies that will soothe your soul.

Exploring Nature Trails to Experience the Rainforest

Rugged Kinabalu trails
One of Kinabalu Park's rugged trails 

One of the main activities to do at Kinabalu National Park is trekking through its lush forest. There are trails of varying difficulties to suit your fitness levels and a number of these trials are family-friendly. There are nine network trails around the park headquarters; many of which are interconnected. For those hardcore trekkers, you might want to attempt the Liwagu Trail—the longest at 5.62km—trekking mostly long the Liwagu River. You can also opt to trek through both the Pandanus Trail and Kiau View Trail in one go. Viewpoints en route allow you a view of a Kadazan Dusun village and foothills. The trails are a good prelude to the summit trails, allowing you to acclimatise to the altitude and prepare yourself mentally.

Fascinating Facts About Mt. Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu, Low's Peak
Standing on the edge of the world, Low's Peak 

Reverently called the 'Aki Nabalu'—the revered place of the dead, akin to the Greek's Asphodel Meadows—there is no sight more impressive in Kota Kinabalu than Mount Kinabalu. Overshadowing the area, the Mountain stands tallest among the massif of the Crocker Range and provides a stunning backdrop to the park. Seeking to take on the challenge of climbing the mountain, hiking enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies are drawn to its challenges; a test of mental and physical strength.

In days long past, the Dusun community would perform the "Monolob" ritual whenever a group of climbers look to attempt the peak. It is now only done in December; the ritual is done to beseech the mountain spirit, Aki, for protection. To evoke the spirit, an assortment of ingredients are used in the ritual, as described in NST: The Rituals of Kinabalu.

Mount Kinabalu, said to be one of the youngest non-volcanic mountains in the world, is also one of the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. There are two exciting trails leading to the summit: the New Ranau Trail—diverging slightly from the old Ranau Trail due to the earthquake in mid-2015—and Kota Belud Trail. This extreme feat of hiking is no walk in the park, so do check up on your health, fitness levels and stamina before attempting the hike. It is better to come prepared than to fail halfway or worst. We at Adventoro also offer a 3D2N Mt Kinabalu Trek adventure tour package if you want to get started without any hassle.

The best time to climb Mount Kinabalu is between March and April when the weather is more dry and clear; however, the mountain conditions have changed over the years, and now climbs to the summit may sometimes be cancelled as a result of poor weather conditions. Only 135 permits are issued per day so it is highly recommended that you conduct your bookings months in advance. As of 2017, one-day permits are no longer issued and hikers are required to book the 2D1N package.

Due to Mount Kinabalu’s high altitude, you can expect to experience colder climates than Malaysia’s usual tropical weather. Mount Kinabalu experiences 23 to 31 degrees celsius weather with an average humidity ranging from 70 to 90%. However, as you ascend to higher and more exposed regions the climate will get colder and there might even be strong winds with speeds of 10-20 km/h.

Attempt the World's Highest Via Ferrata

Scaling Mount Kinabalu Via Ferrata
Scaling world's highest Via Ferrata

If the usual route bores you, test your mettle against one of the many activities at Mount Kinabalu, the Via Ferrata. The world's highest Via Ferrata is ideal even for those without any prior mountaineering experience. There are three routes: the Low's Peak Circuit, Walk the Torq, and Ranau Trail. If you are not keen to exhaust yourself, the Walk the Torq route is perhaps the best for you. The Low's Peak Circuit, on the other hand, is a gruelling 4 to 6 hours route filled with tight ropes and swinging planks, an adrenaline-pumping thrill without putting you at risk. Along the way, go wild with your camera as it is a sin to not capture the jaw-dropping scenery; nothing beats a profile picture of you dangling off the rocky facade! Being the highest, it is even featured in Guinness World Records: Highest Iron Road (Via Ferrata).

Soaking Away Your Weariness at the Poring Hot Spring

Poring Hot Spring
Enjoy a relaxing dip

Situated just an hour's drive away from the park, Poring Hot Spring & Nature Reserve serves as a perfect conclusion or introduction (depending on your itinerary) to the Kinabalu Park. Giving you a sneak peek of what's to come, you can engage in bird-watching activities and even catch a glimpse of the rare Rafflesia flower. Part of almost every itinerary, the hot spring is even recommended by Your Sweet Bornean Escape, as part of the Kinabalu Park experience. Soothe your aching muscles at this steaming hot springs and just relax amongst the sounds of nature. Visiting the hot springs is one of the things to do in Kinabalu National Park, which costs about RM15 for adult foreigners and RM3 for Malaysians. So let the hot sulphur spring with its natural minerals cure you of all your aches and weariness!

Although the temperature in Kinabalu Park’s Poring Hot Spring that is situated at the lowest elevation (550 meters) is hotter and humid, you will experience a cooler temperature that may even go as low as 4 degree celsius at the Mount Kinabalu’s summit! One of the main attractions at Poring Hot Springs is the infamous canopy walkway. The canopy walk offers you amazing aerial views of the forest at heights of up to 41 meters. The walkway is open daily for visitors between 9 am and 4 pm. Besides the walkway you can observe dazzling butterflies at the Butterfly Farm or rejuvenate in Japanese-style baths. The natural hot sulphuric minerals are believed to have therapeutic effects designed to alleviate the sores and soothe your aching muscles. Check out our adventure tours featuring both Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot Spring: 3D2N Kinabalu Park or Full-Day Tour

Spending the Night - An Experience in Itself

Tranquil resort for overnight
Ideal for an overnight experience, Kinabalu Pines Resort

Accommodation in Kinabalu National Park are available for guests that intent on exploring the park to its fullest. Several guest houses, lodges and chalets are available for booking. Ranging from basic hostel to luxurious accommodation, these resorts allow you to spend the night so close to nature, which makes the trip even more memorable. One such resort is The Hill Lodge which is situated some ways from the Park Headquarters. Offering 10, twin bedrooms, the Hill Lodge has all that you need and more—offering guided walks daily at 11 am.  

The Hill Lodge // Add: Kinabalu Park, 89300 Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia // Check In/Out: 2:00 pm/12:00 pm //  Website:

Another noteworthy accommodation would be the Kinabalu Pine Resort. With a stunning view of Mount Kinabalu just outside their cabins, this resort bagged a couple of awards such as the 2000 Clean & Green Premises Awards and the Excellence in Hotel Services 2005/2006 Malaysian Tourism Awards as well as the 2017 Recognition of Excellence. Providing modern amenities, the resort promises a comfortable stay, one that would have you waking up feeling refreshed and energised to tackle the new day. 

Kinabalu Pine Resort // Add: Kampung Kundasang, 89300 Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia // Operating Hours: Mon to Fri 0800 to 1700, Sat 0830 to 1200 // Tel: +60 8 888 9388 // Website:

In a Nutshell

Preparation is key if you're looking to attempt the rugged moonscape of Mount Kinabalu. As described in the article by The Guardian: The Truth about Mount Kinabalu, it is essential to bring a torch, a lightweight and waterproof bag, thermal clothing, proper footwear, lots of high-energy bars and sufficient drinking water to keep you hydrated. 

As you walk past gnarly tree barks, the damp phantasmal breath of the forest sighing, columns of supernal light breaking through the canopies, the Kinabalu national park truly entices your senses, cementing the experience onto memory. Speaking of which, do glance through Adventoro's Sabah Tours/Activities page for a myriad of Kinabalu tours including conquering Mount Kinabalu and exploring Kinabalu Park to get the ball rolling! 

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