Poring Hot Springs is 40km northeast of the Kinabalu Park Headquarters on the edge of the Mamut River on the border of Kinabalu National Park. En-route from the headquarters, you will pass flower and vegetable farms and miles of rice paddy fields, you will also enjoy magnificent views of Mount Kinabalu’s impressive eastern summit and its long eastern ridge. Poring is situated 550 metres above sea level and is in the more humid lowland rainforest which contrasts with the majority of Kinabalu National Park. Aptly named Poring as this is the Kadazandusan word for the species of bamboo that is prevalent in the area. Poring is populated by an abundance of birds including Drongos, Woodpeckers, Leafbirds, Broadbills, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Magpie Robin, Asia Fairy Bluebird and Hornbills. Out of Borneo’s ten Sunbird species, seven are found in Poring, as well as six species of Spider-hunters. Poring possesses several species of snakes; the Green Vine, Bamboo and Racer being amongst the most popular. There are many flying species, such as flying lizards, flying frogs, flying squirrels and flying snakes. Squirrels, lemurs and tree shrews are also abundant.
It is believed to have been discovered by the Japanese during the occupation, other sources say that it was discovered by a British geologist in the colonial time when Sabah was known as North Borneo. According to writing by Japanese, they say they heard about it from locals who used to bathe their sick there. Nevertheless the hot springs have been developed to include five tiled hot spring pools ranging in temperatures from 49-60 degrees Celsius. There are options of private spa cabins, some with jacuzzis and there is a large communal cold water swimming pool to cool off in. Mineral rich and naturally heated, the waters of Poring Hot Springs are said to increase the metabolism, accelerate healing, soothe muscles, improve blood circulation and detoxify the body's lymphatic system. Soaking in the hot springs' waters allows minerals to pass through your skin and be absorbed and utilized by body cells. This can fight the effects and symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, edema, poor micro-circulation, repressed immune system and even arthritis.
There are three rivers within the Poring Hot Springs area, namely the Mamut, Kipungit and Langanan are often swollen during most times of the year. Standing on the suspension bridge over the Mamut River one can enjoy a breath taking view of the crystal clear and sparkling waters swirling around the moss-laden rocks and boulders strewn below. Poring has two spectacular waterfalls, the Kipungit Waterfall and the Langanan Waterfall. These two waterfalls named after the rivers can be found by trekking the forest trails of the same name. Botanists like to trek along the Langanan Trail as somewhere along its path is the only site known in the Poring Park for the very rare Rhizanthes; a parasitic flower belonging to the same family as the Rafflesia, the Rafflesiaceae. The genus Rhizanthes is easily distinguished by having smaller flowers with 14 to 18 petal-like lobes instead of five as in Rafflesia. On the path to the Kipungit Falls, up a steep embankment are the Tumbled Bat Caves. Thousands of bats make their home here in the crevices between the giant rocks, some say you can hear and smell them before you even see the mouth of the cave.
Also within the Poring area is a Butterfly Farm said to be the first of its kind in Borneo. Kinabalu National Park has over 350 species of butterflies and over 600 varieties of moths, many of which can be spotted here. The Butterfly Farm features a well cared for flower garden, a butterfly nursery and hatchery that houses countless caterpillars. It is being maintained for the purpose of research that leads to the preservation of rare and endangered species. Malaysia`s national butterfly the Raja Brooke`s Birdwing was discovered in 1855, is endangered but can been seen here. The wings of the male are black and each forewing has 7 distinctive teeth shaped electric-green markings while the wings of the female are browner with prominent white flashes. The head of both the male and female is bright red with the body being black with red markings. As well you can see the Atlas Moth, considered to be the largest moth in the world in terms of total wing surface area (upwards of 65 square inches!) with a wingspan of 12 inches. They are predominantly tawny to maroon in colour with triangular transparent “windows” on their wings. It is so named because its wing patterns resemble maps. The wing tips are hooked and some say resemble a snake head complete with eye to scare off predators. Besides these two spectacular species the Butterfly Farm boasts countless other equally striking butterflies and moths endemic to Sabah.
Another great attraction of Poring is located a quick 20minute walk from the hot springs and is the Canopy Walkway. At the maximum height, the walkway reaches 41 metres into the canopy and it is 175 metres long, affording the visitor a different perspective on jungle life. This walkway permits you to get a closer look at the life in the canopy and catch glimpses of numerous bird species, small mammals, reptiles and countless insects. The largest stick insect in the world, Chan`s Megastick is found in Sabah, it stretches to an extraordinary 22 inches! There are also tens of thousands of beetle species running around Kinabalu National Park so you are pretty much guaranteed to see several species such as the Giant Long-horned Beetle as well as the fabulous Three-horned Rhinoceros Beetle. Keep your eyes peeled for the largest ant species in the world, the Giant Forest Ant. Numerous epiphyte orchids can be seen amongst the tree tops. These types of orchids grow on other plants for support and are very well adapted to life in the canopy.
Not to be missed while in the Poring area is the Poring Orchid Conservation Center. This 10 acre park was started in 1987 and houses the largest living collection of Sabah`s endemic orchids. An impressive compilation of more than 500 species of orchids grown at Poring, mostly rare and endangered is a photographer’s paradise. Six of the 12 Borneo Slipper Orchids are endemic to Kinabalu National Park including the endangered Rothschild’s Slipper Orchid. The orchids are generally considered to be the most diverse plant family, with estimates of their numbers ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 species in over 800 genera. This represents about 10 percent of all flowering plant species. Recent DNA research suggests that the orchids, at more than 90 million years old, are among the most ancient flowering plants. The Centre also has a collection of other plants such as palms, aroids, begonias and gingers. Within the Orchid Centre is a micro-propagation laboratory for conservation of rare species of orchids and pitcher plants by micro-propagation.
Poring is also home to the Tropical Garden and Rehabilitation Centre. The tropical garden is a 5 acre man made garden displaying lowland tropical forest flora and fauna. There are flowering plants such as hibiscus, bougainvilleas, heliconias, ixoras, cock`s combs and geraniums, as well there are many examples of orchids, palms and ferns. Amongst the fauna are turtles, monkeys, deer, lizards and snakes that include the venomous Striped Coral Snake and the Oriental Vine Snake. The centre has rehabilitated five Orang Utans in the past, and there are reports of one which is free to come and go who occasionally turns up for supplemental feedings. Recent sightings of Orang Utan in the canopy surrounding Poring have rekindled hope that this area's ecosystem has been regenerated to suit the fragile habitat of this beautiful creature, once relegated to the most remote interior jungles.
There are several accommodation types at Poring Hot Springs ranging from basic dormitory style bungalows to lodges that can accommodate up to six people. There is campsite as well, for the adventurous that are equipped with a tent. The Rainforest Restaurant offers up some good food, but there is an inexpensive option to head to the stalls just outside the main entrance to Poring Hot Springs
At Labuk Bay, huge pendulous noses and enormous pot bellies are not the result of a lifetime of overindulgence, rather they are the distinguishing features of one of the world’s rarest primates, the proboscis monkey. The sanctuary is located at the centre of a 500 acre mangrove forest along coastal land near Kampung Samawang in Labuk Bay; a one hour drive from Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia.
In 1994, the area was initially purchased for commercial development of a palm oil plantation; this plan was dropped when the owner of the land found there were proboscis monkeys living there. He started to give the monkeys supplemental food when he realised that the Labuk Bay area was entirely hemmed by palm plantations, drastically reducing the amount of natural vegetation needed for the monkeys’ survival. Today more than 60 monkeys have been recorded in the area, many of which show up daily for their supplementary food. As the population of the proboscis monkey is growing, the sanctuary is currently underway planting more mangroves trees in the surrounding area to ensure more room for the monkeys to move around.
The proboscis monkey is one of the largest monkeys in the world, with the big-nosed male weighing up to 23 kg. The females have smaller pointed noses and can weigh in at 7-11 kg. This unique monkey is one of nine totally protected species in Borneo and are found exclusively here; Labuk Bay in Sabah is one of the most accessible places to view this fascinating creature. During the colonial period the locals gave the monkey the Malay name ‘Monyet Belanda’ which means Dutch monkey. The locals felt that this odd looking monkey, with its pendulous nose, red face and large pot-belly resembled the European traders and colonialists. The proboscis monkey spends most of its time in the trees in loosely unified groups of 12 to 24 feeding on young leaves, shoots, sour fruits and seeds that they digest in a multi chambered stomach which accounts for their extended bellies. The nose of male can be four inches long and hangs down past the monkey's mouth. Loud nasal honks are emitted by the males and are given a particular resonance by the long proboscis, which straightens out during each honk. The nose is a secondary sex characteristic; the bigger the nose, the sexier the monkey.
Though protected by law and listed as endangered by the USDI and Appendix 1 of CITES, this unusual monkey is threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat through land clearing for plantations, logging and hunting. Today, there are only 1,000 proboscis monkeys in Sarawak. There are 2,000 in Sabah and 4,000 or so in Kalimantan. Currently the proboscis monkey is more endangered than the Orang Utan and it is said if something is not drastically done to save the habitats of these animals they may be extinct in about ten years.
Danum Valley Conservation Area
Danum Valley Conservation Area is one of the last remaining pockets of protected primary lowland tropical rainforest in Asia and is one of the world’s great storehouses of genetic diversity.
In the early 1960s, between the fading years of the British rule and the promising years of Sabah's independence through a merger with independent Malaya, soil surveyors first carried out soil studies in Danum Valley. They observed that there was an abundance of wildlife and diverse forest types and then recommended setting up a wildlife sanctuary within. In 1976, the Sabah Natural Parks Board sponsored a scientific expedition into Danum Valley, which was funded by the World Wildlife Fund. The report recommended that Danum Valley should be converted into a natural park. Luckily, in 1980 the Sabah Foundation retained the Danum Valley as a centre for conservation where natural flora and fauna will be preserved for the purposes of research and education. In 1986, the Sabah Foundation officially opened a scientific field study center, Danum Valley Conservation Area, in the eastern part of Danum Valley. In 1996, the protective status of Danum Valley was further enhanced when it was announced as a Protection Forest Reserve. Danum Valley holds a unique status in the sense that before it became a protected area there were no human settlements within the area, meaning that hunting, logging and other human interference was non-existent.
It is a pristine rugged terrain that carpets 438 square km of Malaysian Borneo; it is bordered by the Danum and Segama Rivers and a vast timber concession area. Its immense size makes this area the largest lowland reserve in Malaysia and boasts the world’s most complex ecosystem.
The 60 million year old rainforest preserves many flora and fauna species found only in Borneo; over 200 species of tree per hectare thrive here. A Dipterocarp forest covers over 90% of the area that can grow to an amazing height of 70m.
This virgin rainforest is home to more than 300 species of birds including the endemic Bornean Bristlehead, Bulwer’s Pheasant, Bornean Ground-Cuckoo, Bornean Wren-Babbler, Black-throated Wren-Babbler and Dusky Munia, just to name a few. It is also home to all eight species of the Bornean Hornbills and six species of Pitta, including the impressive Giant Pitta. Also calling Danum Valley home are 75 types of reptiles, 40 species of fish, 56 species of amphibians, and 110 species of mammals. A few of the mammals include the Clouded Leopard, Borneo Pygmy Elephant, Sumatran Rhino, and Sun Bear. Also included are 5 species of Deer (including the Yellow Barking Deer, the Mouse Deer, and the Sambar Deer).
In Danum Valley you can see the nocturnal Tarsier – one of Sabah’s cutest mammals that is 13 cm in length with a tail nearly twice its length, enormous eyes, soft velvety fur and webbed feet. Though very, tiny it is one of Sabah’s strongest mammals. Almost every single Borneo primate species can be found in Danum Valley such as the Orang Utan and Proboscis Monkey with the exception of the Silver Leaf Monkey.
Arthropods form by far the most diverse group at Danum with perhaps as many as 15,000 species. These species include 600 varieties of moths, more than 350 butterfly species, tens of thousands of beetle species, with flies and wasps also being extremely species rich. With all of this to behold you can see why Danum Valley has a reputation for being one of the best places to view and photograph Borneo’s extensive wildlife.
Striking rivers and waterfalls thread throughout the park including Tembalang Falls, and Sungai Purut which is a spectacular waterfall 20m tall with 7 tiered pools making it a destination not to be missed.
For the bird lovers there is a 170m long 27m high canopying walkway that offers a peek into abundant bird life in the tropical jungle. Gunung Danum or Mt. Danum at 1093 metres is the highest peak in the Danum Valley Conservation Area. Trekkers preferring a leisurely hike could take the 3 days 2 nights’ trip. However, hard core trekkers take only about 4 hours to reach Gunung Danum. In the park there are over 50km of marked trails for visitors to hike.
In order to fully appreciate Danum Valley’s richness it is advised to stay in The Borneo Rainforest Lodge that has 24 chalets that house 31 twin-sharing rooms. All rooms have a private bathroom with hot shower and a balcony. These comfortable and environmentally friendly chalets are designed like local village houses on stilts overlooking Sungai Danum in the midst of the teeming jungle. They are made up of local “belian” (ironwood) and stones from the nearby rivers. The main building with a spacious lobby that overlooks the forest is the ideal place to have your meals and compare notes on the day’s findings. There is a bar for those who like to enjoy a drink or two. Borneo Rainforest Lodge amidst the tranquil tropical forest is nature at its best.
Another overnight option is to stay at the Danum Valley Field Center which gives preference to researchers but if others can stand its studious, if sparse atmosphere, there may be a spot for you (depending on the management’s mood and the relations with the BRL). The accommodation is a separate male female dormitory with bunk beds and cold water showers. They offer a communal lounge and dining area at a budget price
Danum Valley is about 80 kilometres southwest of Lahad Datu, Sabah's fourth largest town and lies within the upper reaches of Sabah's second largest river, the Segama, and its tributaries. Remote from human habitation and almost alien to modern civilization makes the Danum Valley a naturalists’, nature lovers and ordinary travellers paradise.
Crocker Range National Park
The Crocker Range National Park covers the north-south Crocker Range, of 1200-1800m mountains in Sabah, east Malaysia on the island of Borneo, which separate the western coastal plain with the rest of the state. Lying 300m above sea level it is spread over 1399km making it the largest protected park in all of Sabah. The Crocker Range National Park preserves a massive swathe of forested escarpment that overlooks the coast.
The Crocker Range has been under protection as a forest reserve since 1968 but was gazetted as a National Park in 1984 to protect its rich biodiversity and rare species of plants and wildlife, also in part to protect the natural freshwater reserve area. Crocker Range National Park receives a rainfall of 3,000-4,000 mm per year, making it one of the highest precipitation areas in Sabah. The water catchments in the park provide an indispensable water source for drinking, agriculture and industrial purposes, and to sustain the daily needs of more than one third of the population of Sabah.
Cutting the park in two is the Padas Gorge in which the Padas River swiftly runs, making this place the best white water rafting spot on the Island of Borneo. There are 11 other rivers and several streams and waterfalls that interlace through the park. In the Crocker Range National Park it is possible to identify the five distinct types of vegetation in Sabah, which includes the montane forest, lower montane forest, upper montane dipterocarp forest and lower land forest. The word 'di-ptero-carp' meaning 'two-winged-fruit' comes from the Greek for the leaf-like appendages of the mature dipterocarp fruits which cause them to spin like helicopter blades and slow their fall to the ground. Although this type of tree is most prevalent within the park, it is also rich in chestnuts, oaks, conifers. The huge Belian (Borneo Ironwood) trees and the Seraya trees which can reach upwards of 70m are from the dipterocarp family and abundant.
The Rafflesia Pricie, one of the three species of Rafflesia that can be found in Sabah, is the world’s largest flower and can be found in the Crocker Range National Park. It is a parasitic plant that gets its food from the Tetrasigma vines on which it grows. The flower can grow up to 38cm across with the largest of the Rafflesia being 100cm across and weighing 10kilos. It has no leaves, roots or a stem of its own and buds take several months to grow before the five petaled flower opens, and after only a few days of being open, the flower dies. The flower has the look and smells of rotting meat hence its local names which translate to "corpse flower" or "meat flower". The vile smell that the flower gives off attracts insects such as carrion flies, which transport pollen from male to female flowers. Orchids, Rhododendrons and Pitcher Plants are also widely dispersed throughout the Park.
At least five species of primates can be found in the Crocker Range National Park such as the Orang Utan, Gibbons, the tiny Tarsier with its enormous button-like eyes, and the long-tailed and pig-tailed Macaque. The Clouded Leopard, Wild Bearded Pigs, Sun Bears, Civet and Marble Cats, Porcupines, Squirrels and Tree shrews can be found in this area as well as a rich variety of birds including hornbills, pheasants, and partridges.
Roads crossing the range have also made the interior more accessible from the coastal areas, making it possible for visitors to enjoy the tranquillity in the rugged mountains. And a scenic railway runs along the park from Kota Kinabalu (144km from the park) to Beaufort.
The Sabah Park’s facility recently opened in 2004 is an ideal place for meetings, camping, bird watching, animal sightings, trekking and outdoor educational activities. The Crocker Range National Park is a paradise for hardcore campers and trekkers with the abundance of local people’s trails that run through the park, namely the ‘Salt Route’ considered one of the most beautiful and adventurous jungle treks in Sabah. The trek takes four days and you can experience home stay with the local people during your journey.
There are no resorts or hotels in Crocker Range National Park itself but there are several options for you to stay just outside the boundaries of the Park in the nearby town of Keningau Sabah’s in the southern Pegalan Valley.