Mount Kinabalu

Climbers roping up for the challenging ascent of Mount Kinabalu’s rocky summit, Borneo
Climbers roping up for the challenging ascent of Mount Kinabalu’s rocky summit, Borneo


LOCATION Mount Kinabalu National Park is located in the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo

HIGHEST POINT 13,435 ft (4,095 m)

FIRST CLIMBED In 1858 by British naturalist Sir Hugh Low


On anyone’s list of bizarre flora, a carnivorous plant that can eat small mammals would certainly be near the top. On the same list you would also expect to find the parasitic Rafflesia plant, which has the largest flower in the world and is also known as the “corpse flower” because it smells and looks like rotting flesh. These are just two of the extraordinary plants found in the jungles of Borneo, where the ascent of mighty Mount Kinabalu begins in a shuttle bus carrying trekkers to the trailhead.

The jungle also boasts more than 800 orchid species and 600 fern species – to put this in context, there are only 500 fern species in Africa. This is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and a hotbed of endemism thanks to its tropical climate and abundant rainfall.

The three-day climb of this giant granite dome begins at the Timpohon Gate, which lies at an elevation of 5,900 ft (1,800 m). Accompanied by mandatory guides, trekkers rise through forests of conifer and oak, cloud forest, and subalpine meadow.

Like the rain forest below it, the mountain boasts a wealth of unusual fauna, including giant red leeches that prey on giant earthworms, extraordinary rhinoceros hornbills – birds that look as if they have a shoe attached to their heads – and the threatened orang-utan, one of the four great apes. Pygmy squirrels, fruit bats, and brightly colored tropical birds share the forest canopy on the steep mountain slopes. Hand-carved stone steps, moss-covered wooden stairs, and fixed ropes assist trekkers on the trail’s steeper sections.

The final leg of the climb emerges onto a slippery surface of exposed granite that leads to the summit and boasts fantastic panoramas.

Practical Information

Getting There and Around A 3-hour bus journey takes you from Kota Kinabalu Airport to Kinabalu National Park, where you join your tour group.

When to Go Mount Kinabalu can be climbed at any time of year, but is most enjoyable in the dry season, which is from February to April.

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