Highlights of Kinabalu Park
Introduction to Kinabalu Park
Kinabalu Park is on the west coast of the state of Sabah in East Malaysia. It is at the northernmost end of the island of Borneo. The park is approximately 90km from Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah. The park is named after Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in south east Asia which stands in the centre of the park at 4,101 m (13,451 feet) high. It is one of the youngest non-volcanic mountains in the world, being formed an estimated 10 to 35 million years ago. Mount Kinabalu contains to grow at a rate of 5mm a year. The park covers a range of altitudes and habitats. It ranges from scrub and sub-alpine forest on the mountain slopes through tropical mountain forest, hill rainforest to tropical lowland habitat near the coast. It attracts many visitors for its natural beauty, mountain climbing, walking trails and many natural geological features.
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Guide to Kinabalu Park
Kinabalu Park covers 4,343 km2. Sitting just north of the equator, the climate favours some of the richest flora in the world. The lowlands are covered with dipterocarp forest. Higher up the mountain slopes are montane oaks, rhododendron and conifers and above those are alpine meadows and stunted, windswept bushes.
The Park is home to more than 250 varieties of birds including the Mountain Bush Warbler, Kinabalu Friendly Warbler, Palefaced Bilbul and Mountain Blackeyes. There are also many small mammals which inhabit the mountain include mountain squirrels, tree shrews and bats. The park has several endemic animal species including the Kinabalu Giant Red Leech, and the Kinabalu Giant Earthworm.
The mountain has many species of carnivorous plants growing on its slopes and many beautiful orchid species. It is particularly well-known for the insectivorous pitcher plant called Nepenthes Rajah. This plant is endemic to Mount Kinabalu and the nearby Mount Tambuyukon and is an endangered species. The urn-shaped dark red plant grows to 35cm high and 18cm wide and can hold 3.5 litres of water. It traps insects and ants but has been known to capture birds, frogs, lizards and small mammals too.
One of the main reasons visitors come to Kinabalu Park is to climb Mount Kinabalu. Although it is an impressively high peak, it is fairly easy to scale without any special equipment or mountaineering skills, although all climbers must be accompanied by a qualified guide. The main summit trail begins at Timpohon and there is an alternative route called the Mesilau Trail. The expedition takes 2-3 days and is completed by thousands of people every year. There is lodging at 12,500 feet (3810m) at Sayat Hut. As well as being an impressive height to conquer, the climb offers beautiful scenery through various ecosystems and incredible views from the peak. As well as the mountain ascent trails, Kinabalu Park has several graded paths at lower levels through the forests to mountain rivers, waterfalls and bat caves. One of the best known features of the mountain is Low’s Gully. It is 1.6km deep and the ravine runs for 10km along the side of the mountain.
There are also some hot springs within Kinabalu Park which are a popular attraction. The sulphurous water is piped into several open-air, Japanese-style bathing pools which visitors use for their healing properties, particularly for skin conditions. This is one of the major draws for visitors to Kinabalu Park. In 2004 the park recorded 415,360 visitors and 43,430 climbers.
Video of Kinabalu Park
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History of Kinabalu Park
One of the first recorded visits to the area was by British colonial administrator and naturalist, Hugh Low. He led an expedition to Mount Kinabalu from Tuaran in 1895. He was the first recorded person to reach the peak of Mount Kinabalu and the highest peak of the mountain is named after him as Low’s Peak, along with the impressive Low’s Gully. He was the first person to collect the pitcher plant Nepenthes Rajah which became a much sought-after plant thereafter.
Kinabalu Park was one of the first national parks in Malaysia and was created in 1964. The park later became Malaysia’s first world heritage site for its ‘outstanding universal values’ and is considered one of the most important biological sites in the world. Mount Kinabalu has for centuries been revered as a sacred spot to the local inhabitants and there are many myths and local legends surrounding it. The Poring Hot Springs within the park were developed by the Japanese during World War II.
The Park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
Getting to Kinabalu Park
The Kinabalu Park is located approximately 90km south west of the city of Kota Kinabalu. The park’s main headquarters are on the southern boundary of the park and access is good on sealed highways. Mountain guides and accommodation can be booked at the headquarters.
Minibuses run throughout the day from the city of Kota Kinabalu to Ranua and depart regularly between 9am and 3pm. You can take the minibus for about a 2 hour journey and get off at the stop at Kinabalu Park.
Local tours are also available for those who just want to make a day trip to the park.
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