For the second part of our trip in Borneo, we were heading to Kinabalu Park, on the northwest side of Sabah. Hiking on the highest peak in Malaysia isn’t really an activity to be done with a toddler, and I doubt we are fit enough for that anyway. But still, we didn’t want to miss the mountain area of Sabah, a unique place in the region.
Kinabalu Park is a national park since 1964 and Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site. It is one of the most important biological sites in the whole world, due to its flora and fauna diversity, famous especially for the carnivorous plants and orchids.
We chose a package from Sutera Sanctuary Lodges and spent two amazing days at Kinabalu Park. This was an awesome experience for all the three of us and our only regret was that we had to leave so soon.
We were picked in the morning from Kota Kinabalu by Kenlee, our driver, and Wanie, one of the naturalists at Sutera Sanctuary Lodges Kinabalu Park. They were our wonderful hosts during our whole stay. During the 2.5 hours drive we had the chance to admire the mountain roads and spectacular mountain landscape. Wanie explained us a lot about the park and the surrounding area, clarifying all our questions and indicating the best activities to be done here. On our way, we stopped at Nabalu Market to experience local products and buy fresh fruits from the region. We tried here bambangan, a jungle fruit similar with mango, but more smelly and we had one of the best pineapples we’ve ever tasted!
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges at Kinabalu Park
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges is the main accommodation available in Kinabalu Park. It features options for any type of tourist, from budget backpackers to families and groups and even luxury travellers.
We stayed in the Garden Lodge, one of the premium lodges offered by Sutera Sanctuary, very nicely designed with floor-to-ceiling windows and hard wood floors. Our bedroom was facing Mount Kinabalu, offering a magnificent view in the morning or late afternoon. The Garden Lodge is a two story chalet with two bedrooms, perfect for a large family or a group of friends. It features a spacious living room, including a kitchen and dining area and an open fireplace. This was the main highlight for me. Getting warm in front of the fireplace, in the cool night mountain air, was the perfect ending to our wonderful days here.
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges at Kinabalu Park features a very nice a la carte restaurant. It offers a wide selection of local and western food and drinks. We enjoyed tasty Malaysian dishes, while Eric was happy too, finding food for his taste. Liwagu Restaurant is located in the main building, just 5 minutes away from the lodges. It features a very nice terrace overlooking the jungle. All the staff in the restaurant was very attentive to our needs and they made Eric feel welcome over there.
What to do in Kinabalu Park
Kinabalu Park is the first location recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site in Malaysia. It is one of the country’s first national parks, established in 1964. It is an awesome getaway for nature lovers, totally different of most of the popular sights in the region. Kinabalu park is home for the highest peak in Borneo and in Malaysia; 4,095.2m Mount Kinabalu dominates the whole area and offers a very picturesque panorama. Hiking the peak must be an awesome experience and it is listed just as moderate difficulty.
But even if you don’t plan to conquer Mount Kinabalu, there are several mountain trails to explore; there are options of various difficulty, for families with kids or tourists looking for a relaxing walk, but also for the more adventurous ones. One point that you shouldn’t miss is Kiau Gap view, where you can admire the valley and surrounding mountains. This is also a memorial for the victims from the earthquake that hit Sabah in June 2015. You can get here taking a half hour walk or just 5 minutes drive.
If you want to learn more about Kinabalu Park flora, stop by the Botanical Garden near Sutera Sanctuary. It hosts endemic plants of the area and several rare species. I highly recommend you take a guided tour through the Botanical Garden, to fully understand the extraordinary nature and not miss anything from this experience.
Eric enjoyed a lot spending time outside, in the nice mountain weather. But there are some attractions specifically for kids around Kinabalu park. Eric loved the visit to the Rabbit farm. This is a great place for kids to interact with lots of tiny fluffy animals, just 30 minutes away from our lodge. There is also a cattle farm in the area that can be visited with the little ones.
Poring Hot Spring
During our stay in Kinabalu Park, we took a short trip to visit Poring Hot Spring & Natural Reserve, which is less than one hour away. The must do attraction here is the Canopy Walk, which was an awesome experience, but not for the faint hearted. Also, proceed with care if you have any fear of heights. To get to the first platform took a 15 minutes trail in the rainforest, not very steep and moderate in difficulty. Still, it would be advisable to wear appropriate hiking shoes.
The Canopy Walk consists of rope and planks suspension bridges between Menggaris trees. There are 4 bridges, in total length of 175 m, at canopy level up to 43m. I have to admit the third one was a challenge for me, as this is the highest and longest, which means it sways the most. But it was totally worth the sweat and emotions, as the view and feelings up there are awesome.
If you try the canopy walk with young kids, I would advise to use a baby carrier. There’s no way to carry him in your arms and I doubt he would be willing to pass through the whole itinerary by himself. Eric wanted to try it but changed his mind after 3-4 steps, scared by the way the construction was swinging. Luckily was had our Isara baby carrier which worked just fine.
After the canopy walk and a tasty lunch at Rainforest Restaurant, we ended our visit at Poring Hot Spring with a bath in the sulphuric waters. You can choose the public baths or a private section or, if you prefer cooler waters, there is the rock pool and a small waterslide too. We expected this place to be quite crowded, but luckily it wasn’t the case and we could peacefully enjoy an quite hour. The waters here are well known for healing properties and the place is quite popular for climbers. There’s nothing better after the mountain descent than a therapeutic bath to ease aching muscles.
Sutera Sanctuary Lodges at Poring Hot Spring
There are many other activities to be done at Poring Hot Spring & Natural Reserve and you need several days to cover everything. For adventure seekers, there are jungle trails to get to Kipungit or Langanan Waterfalls or to the Bat Cave. For a more laid back approach, you can visit the Rafflesia Garden, the Orchid Centre or the Butterfly Farm.
So if you decide to spend a few days ay Poring Hot Spring, Sutera Sanctuary Lodges has a very nice villa complex here too. You can chose a larger lodge, with several bedrooms, for families and groups, or just a simple room or even a hostel bed, depending on your needs and preferences. In our opinion, the best here is the River Lodge, very nicely located in a quiet location where you will hear just the river and the sounds of the jungle. Add plenty of sunshine and you’ll get a very cosy place to relax. It features two bedrooms, an outside terrace and a large living room with kitchen; the master bathroom is spacious and has a very special design.
From Kinabalu Park we finalised our adventure in Borneo with a trip to Manukan Island, a tropical paradise. For more information about Borneo, you can also read about wildlife we’ve seen on the eastern side of Sabah.
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Disclosure: We were hosted by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges at Kinabalu Park, in exchange for an honest review. As usual, all the opinions expressed here are our own.