Kinabalu Park is an incredible environment, home to the towering Mount Kinabalu and hundreds of plant species found nowhere else in the world. The park is Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site.
More than half of the world’s families of flowering plants exist within the park, including more than 700 species of orchid, and the world’s largest flower, the rafflesia. Though the rafflesia are rarely seen in bloom, when the flowers do reach maturity they can grow to a diameter of 3 feet (1 metre)! Many carnivorous pitcher plant species grow in the park, including one which can hold almost a gallon (3 litres) of water.
While exploring the park, keep an eye out for some of the interesting fauna, including Bornean gibbons, spotted giant flying squirrels and leopard cats. Listen out for the more than 300 species of birds that dwell here.
For the local tribes, Mount Kinabalu, the second-highest mountain in Southeast Asia is sacred, and they believe the souls of their dead rise to the peak. The living can also climb to the peak for the incredible views, on a two- to three-day hike with a mountain guide.
Most hikers stay overnight at Laban Rata, before making the climb to the peak in the early morning to catch the sunrise at 13,435 feet (4,095 metres) above sea level. The temperature at the top can be freezing, so be sure to pack warm clothes. While no special mountaineering equipment is required, climbers must be accompanied by an accredited guide and it’s recommended that you book permits and accommodation well in advance.
Buses run daily from Kota Kinabalu to the national park entry, which is about 56 miles (90 kilometres) from Kota Kinabulu. After your climb, catch a bus from the park office to Poring, where you can soak away your aches and pains in the popular hot springs. If you’re planning a few days exploring the park, it’s a good idea to rent a car from Kota Kinabalu airport so that you can make stops along the way and investigate all the park has to offer.