The highest mountain in Sabah and in Malaysia is Mt. Kinabalu at approximate height of 4,096 meters above sea level. The first thought which came into my mind - I want to climb this mountain. As days passed and I did my research, I realised that climbing the mountain is not as simple as I thought. It requires training, climbing experience, if not that then at least stamina to walk and climb whole day to reach the top.
Since last 2 years between 2013-2015, Mt. Kinabalu was closed for climbing due to the after effect of an earthquake in the region in 2013. Now it is open again for people to tick 'Mountain climbing' off their bucket list. There are a fixed number of groups going every day. Each tour operator in Sabah has slots available which gets filled quickly, hence, you need to make sure that you reserve your booking in advance. The entire summit is around 2 Day 1 Night trip. The day 1 is where the climb will be till the point where Resthouse is made for people to rest for the night. Half day is spent in reaching Laban Rata Resthouse at 3,270 meters. After dinner and a good night's rest, next day early morning day 2 will start. Before the sun will rise and cast their rays on the mountain, your climb will start. By the time sun is out in open, you will be on top of Mt. Kinabalu. After a quick rest, photo session, and cherishing the success of reaching the top, the second phase of the summit will start, i.e. climbing down. For those opting for Ferreta Route, the descent is quite faster as you will be taking another route via ropes to come down.
People like me who don't have the stamina to go till the top or not looking at climbing, can opt for a visit to Mt. Kinabalu Park and Poring Hot spring in Ranau. Instead of exerting, walking and climbing, this visit compromise of a leisure walk in the park, exploring botanical garden and spending afternoon in Poring Hot spring, the reverse of what the challenges a climber will experience. This being said, Mt. Kinabalu park does include walking, quite a lot of it.
Our day trip started with a car journey to Ranau from Kota Kinabalu. The road is curvy and green filled with plantation of tree, fruits, vegetables. This was the only town where vegetables and fruits are planted, the rest of the places in Sabah has a plantation of Palm Oil Tree. The focus of government over the years have shifted and lot of land has been used for the Palm Oil tree which in a way in helping the economy and at the same time destroying the good fertilised land. We stopped in between our way to Ranau at a small village from which you can see the majestic Mt. Kinabalu. The village also had many small shops selling souvenirs and fresh cut fruits. Must Buy is packet of fruits. They are exotic fruits planted in the same place, fresh and sweet. Also souvenirs are a bit cheaper than what you will find in Kota Kinabalu city or in a mall.
After a short break for snacks and viewing Mt. Kinabalu park, we continued our journey towards Ranau. Poring Hot spring was only an hour away from the village. Instead of spending time in Hot spring, taking a bath or just socking our legs, we headed straight for canopy walk. The park is quite big where one has an option to go for canopy walk or head towards the waterfall. We started with canopy walk. The canopy is built in the midst of greenery and view from top of all the plants and trees around is soothing to eyes. Either we walk too fast or canopy was short, our fun time on canopy ended soon with a more time to spend at waterfall or in Hot spring. We choose waterfall and again started our walk towards that. Hardly after a 30 minute walk, we reached the waterfall spot. It wasn't big or long waterfall, it was very small in the midst of forest with less or no crowd. Also walking in the sun can be exhausting and the sight of a waterfall surrounded by tree is cool and relaxing. Take a dip in the water or keep your leg inside the pond where fishes will come and eat the dead skin like a fish spa.
Post our leisure time at the waterfall, next on our list was Poring Hot spring for which we came here in first place. There are many pot created where you have two taps, one for hot water from the ground and another for cold water. The pot was around 3 feet deep and 4 feet wide. Since we spent a lot of time at canopy and wanted to spend more time in Mt. Kinabalu park, we just dipped our leg in Hot spring and headed for lunch. Food was served in a nearby restaurant, modified to fully vegetarian food especially for us. Rice which stirred fried vegetables, salad and tofu. Hot Chinese tea was served before our food came to our table. Though typical Malaysian food involves chicken with rice, we were happy with vegetarian option provided to us.
Once lunch was finished, our next stop was Mt. Kinabalu park, but in Ranau in Rafflesia garden, there were fully grown 4 Rafflasia flower and we couldn't think of skipping that. Rafflesia is world's biggest flower and the sight of that is indeed rate to find. The garden was nothing but an area kept separately where Rafflesia blooms. Rafflesia takes around 6 months to bloom and once fully bloomed, it lives for another 3 month. There were few Rafflasia which started their process to bloom and also dead Rafflasia. Being World's biggest flower, there are arguments which suggest that it doesn't enter into the category of flower as it is a carnivore who lives by eating insects and bees. Also, it doesn't bloom with support from sunlight or branches. That being said, as per records, it is world's biggest flower so far!
Mt. Kinabalu Park is at a height, weather was quite cool with some clouds hinting that rain will come soon. During our stay in Kota Kinabalu, with humidity and sun, Mt. Kinabalu Park was quite pleasant. At the entrance there is a registration counter for people who are joining a summit. Since we were not park of the summit, we headed for the park and making our way to Kinabalu Botanical Garden. Our guide was quite informative and he shared details of many flowers and trees in the park. The Botanical garden has many species of plants and orchids ranging from smallest orchid to expensive orchid of all time. Apart from Orchid, there were many other flowers and plants which I have unheard or unseen. We got a chance to see the smallest orchid to world's most expensive orchid to many other type of Orchid. My personal favorite was smallest Orchid and it took me N number of attempt barely get a decent picture of it without using Micro lens on my Canon 1100D. Honestly, the expensive orchid looked not that worth the money. Rarity of things, make them expensive!
The greenery and efforts spent in keeping these places clean, pure and beautiful are admiring. It makes you realise that how much our city lacks in nurturing the nature and how much difference a tree can make to your surroundings. Visit to Mt. Kinabalu park was indeed a refreshing experience and cool weather made it perfect outing of the day. A Perfect blend of hot and cold!
Important note: When planning a day trip to Mt. Kinabalu park with Ranau Poring Hot spring, head to Hot spring first and then Park. As generally crowd head for park first, Ranau will be relatively empty and you will be able to spend time without any hurry.
Travel Agent: I have booked my experience of Mt. Kinabalu park with Downbelow Marine & Wildlife Adventures. They also offer package to participate in the summit.
Stay: In day visit, you won't need a stay in nearby area. However, if you wish to stay and do other places around like War Memorial Park, you can stay in Kundasang village.
Eat: There are many restaurants near Ranau Poring Hot spring. If you have taken a day visit package, lunch will be included. Don't forget to have a dessert of Milo Ice cream after your lunch. My personal favorite!