Welcome to the real life Jurassic Park … the land that time forgot.
Kota Kinabalu was known as Jesselton, the capital of Sabah. It was almost totally destroyed during World War II but today is a small, modern municipality. Two hundred thousand people live there and they are proud of the Sabah Museum's galleries of Ethnography, Ceramics, Natural History, Archaeology, History, Limestone Caves, and the world's largest art exhibition on the oil and petroleum industry. The Sabah State Mosque's resplendent dome is a famous landmark.
Ninety kilometres away is south-east Asia's highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu, in the Crocker Range. The majestic mountain is 4101 metres high and growing, and has earned both geographical and mythological fame over the years. For most of its history it has been revered as a sacred site and is still the pride and soul of Sabah.
Tribal priests climb to the top each year offering the spirits a sacrifice of seven white chickens. They believe it ensures their safety, as well as that of all who follow.
The jagged stone mountain is in the 4343 square kilometres of Kinabalu National Park, and despite its intimidating size, is easy to climb and attracts many visitors each year. No special skills or equipment are needed and a comfortable climb takes just about two or three days. Accommodation is available along the way, the highest being Sayat Hut at around 4000 metres.
Park Headquarters at 1588 metres is well organised and offers accommodation from hostels to chalets, restaurants and an exhibit centre. Temperatures vary between 20º C to 13ºC making activities quite comfortable. As it is just two hours from Kota Kinabalu. Some people go there just for the day to enjoy the cool air.
Kinabalu Park is famous and popular not just for the climb it offers, but also for the amazing wealth of flora and fauna it fosters. Each altitude moves from one ecosystem to another, with creatures and plants varying from level to level, and botanists, birdwatchers and nature lovers from the world over simply adore it. This place offers the world's largest bloom as well as plants so tiny they need to be looked at through a magnifying glass!
There are more than 300 species of birds living there, along with around 100 mammals and at least 4000 kinds of plant life. Some of the world's richest oak forests thrive here, with 40 different types recorded. Rhododendrons are common and are particularly beautiful when in full bloom.
The world's largest flower, Rafflesia arnoldii, is indigenous to the area's rainforests, and has recently become a marketable curiosity. Its other name is "stinking corpse lily" which speaks volumes. Its rotten smell attracts flies which in turn assist with the pollination process. It has no leaves or stems and survives endoparasitically within the woody stems of a host vine. It eventually breaks through its host's bark as a bud-like a pale orange cabbage almost a metre wide and weighing around 11 kilograms.
Carniverous, tube-shaped Nepenthes or pitcher plants, grow in thick moss on limestone and make short work of small creatures which get too close.
For those interested in exotic blooms, a visit to the park's Mountain Garden is and easy and rewarding way to see 750 varieties of orchid, including the very rare and beautiful Rothschild Slipper, which is the jewel of the forest. Each one is worth around $US15,000.
About half an hour from the park headquarters is the Poring Hot Springs. They were developed during World War II by Japanese, and are now piped into several open-air baths, some under cover and some in the open. They got their name from a species of bamboo.
Fifteen minutes further on is a marvellous walk to be taken through a thick canopy of trees on a suspended walkway. For those who don't have time to climb the mountain, it is a wonderful way to experience the jungle.