BORNEO: A MOUNTAIN, THE PORING FOREST & IN SEARCH OF THE ELUSIVE RAFFLESIA FLOWER
Being quite the outdoor enthusiast, going to Borneo was always going to be about being in the rainforests and out there with all the sights, sounds and noises of the great outdoors. Based in Kota Kinabalu, one of the biggest cities in Sabah. Borneo meant we could take some interesting day excursions in-between days of relaxation back at our hotel. The sights that were top of mine and Dr C’s list were the majestic Mount Kinabalu, The Poring rainforest, its hot springs and its chain bridges. But additionally we were in search of something very special and in high demand but almost as ubiquitous as gold dust!
Our day started early around 07:30 with a 2 hour drive via the Crocker range to the base of Mount Kinabalu National Park. We made a couple of stops en route to take advantage of the vistas and grab photo opportunities. This gave us a great opportunity to mingle with the native Dusun villagers and peruse some of their fruits and handicrafts. We also stretched our legs and walked around some pretty market stalls to grab snacks and drinks.
Before we knew it, we had arrived almost at the foot of the 4095m (13, 435 ft.) high Mount Kinabalu, towering above us. It is the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. The area is a classified UNESCO World Heritage Site providing due to it’s unique biodiversity in the form of unique flora and fauna namely plants such as the carnivorous nepenthes, orchids and ferns. The guides will explain to you how their plant structures have evolved over time to enable them to survive in tropical rainforests.
We hiked a few of the trails to get a feel for the vegetation and plant life endemic to this rainforest, and also visited the mountain orchid garden, which gave us a great introduction into the species of orchids present in the area. We also had a great view of many species of birds that came to next in the area. The Montane oak chestnut forest at the park headquarters gives way to lowland dipterocarp forest at the next destination of Poring Rainforest, which is a further 45 minute drive.
A 45 minute ride from the base of Mount Kinabalu is the location of the Poring Rainforest. Here the montane oak-chestnut forest gives way to a lowland timber forest. We trekked uphill for 30 minutes to take a look at wildlife in the tree tops as we made our way to walk along the canopy walkway. If you are afraid of heights, this really isn’t for you as the walkway is situated 100 feet above ground level and 175m long in total but there are platforms to rest in-between each walkway. The walkways are pretty narrow and in comparison to some I have been on, and it is literally one foot in front of the other when it comes to walking! However in my opinion this is the best way to see the rainforest being up above its canopy.
You can also try out the hot springs on your way back or down from the canopy walk. We however chose not as things didn’t look as hygienic as they should have done, however the springs are known to be therapeutic for the skin due to the sulphuric content.
THE RAFFLESIA FLOWER
Now, ever since I heard of the Rafflesia flower from a friend who used to live in Borneo, I have been intrigued by this giant flower, infact the world’s largest bloom! The flower is endemic to the region of Sabah in Borneo but also in parts of Sumatra. The Rafflesia is very hard to get a sighting of because it only flowers once every 6-9 months but additionally has decomposed within 4 days. Just to Sir Stamford Raffles discovered the flower back in 1818 and quite modestly decided to name it after himself!
On our drive back to Kota Kinabalu, still within the grounds of the Mount Kinabalu National Park, our guide noticed a sign saying ‘Rafflesia in bloom today’. He remembered that I had talked about this flower earlier and stopped the car and went over to the farmer to see if it was true. YES! It was true! The Sabah tourist board require everyone going to see a Rafflesia to sign their name and country of origin so they can log the statistics.
This particular species, Rafflesia Keithii can only be found on the eastern slopes around Mount Kinabalu.
The Rafflesia flower at Day 1, day 2 and Day 4
I felt incredibly lucky to have had the chance to see the Rafflesia as well as one that was in the decomposing process. The Rafflesia we saw, was 2 out of 4 days old.
All in all what a productive trip this was. It was a glorious day so we got to see the tip of Mount Kinabalu, the canopy walkway was open and running but also we got to see the Rafflesia flower!!
Beautiful scenes on our ride back to Kota Kinabalu
01. A good pair of walking shoes are valuable as the rainforest in slippery as there is the occasional shower but also take a waterproof coat. Hat, sunblock, swimwear and a change of clothes and a towel if you intend to take a dip in the hot springs
02. A camera fee of RM 5 and a video fee of RM 30 is charged at the canopy walkway.
03.If you do get the chance to see a Rafflesia, farmers usually charge a fee for you to enter their land and go and view it. However do not pay more than RM40 to go and view it if it is 2-3 days old. There is really no point paying to go and see it if it is any older as it’s probably started decomposing.
Exotic Borneo Tours
Suite B, 1F, Lot24 Likas
Industrial Centre 88400
Tel: 60 88-245 920
I would love to know if any of you have ever seen a Rafflesia flower and what are your thoughts on it. Please feel free to leave comments below.
Have a read of what else we got up to in Borneo:
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