Kinabalu National Park
Pristine rainforest still exists in Borneo, for example in Kinabalu National Park. The park encompasses Mt Kinabalu, the island’s highest peak and a popular destination for hikers from all over the world. In order to climb Mt Kinabalu during high season in July and August however, it’s necessary to book a spot months in advance and it’s not a cheap adventure.
Until a few weeks ago we had no idea we’d be in Malaysia in July and anyway, we didn’t want to climb Mt Kinabalu but we went to the park for the hikes in the jungle and to cool off a bit after steaming hot Brunei and Kota Kinabalu.
The bus from Kota Kinabalu dropped us off in front of the park entrance and we were lucky enough to find a reasonably cheap room in a hostel just opposite the entrance. There’s no village and apart from a tiny shop that closes very early and a restaurant, there’s nothing (which means: bring cash!).
The National Park
The park officially opens at 7 am but if you want to see the sunrise from one of the viewpoints close to the Mt Kinabalu trailhead, that’s no problem at all; you can enter anytime you like. There always seems to be someone at the entrance gate selling or checking tickets (they’re valid for three consecutive days). But be sure you get the right ticket – we were sold tickets for foreigners “under 18 years” but for the price of an adult ticket. No, that wasn’t by mistake, we don’t look THAT young. Someone just wanted to make some extra cash.
The many trails in the park are all interconnected and not as long as they might look on the map. Still, you could spend hours walking around – if it wouldn’t rain every afternoon. There’s also an orchid garden which is really nice and informative although almost no plants were blooming when we visited.
Kinabalu Park is definitely worth a visit, even if you don’t climb the mountain. It’s cool and humid (it does rain a lot but that seems to be normal in Borneo); a welcome climate change for a few days before heading back to the hot (and equally humid) lowlands. Mt Kinabalu is impressive from every angle and inside and outside the park you have wonderful views, especially in early the morning.