Sabah: Land of Mountains, Rainforest and Orangutan

I rise to see the most majestic view of Mount Kinabalu. The early morning Sabah sun shimmers off the metallic roofs of the base camp, a small trail of slurry distantly indicating where the 2015 earthquake had its most tragic impact, claiming 18 lives. It is the second time I have awoken to the highest point in Malaysia, and like 18 years previously I will not ascend its summit.

Back then I was exhausted after climbing the Pinnacles in neighbouring Sarawak. A pointless exercise that had taken five hours to climb and even longer to descend, a feat that my ex and myself completed on our own as our guide had complained of a stomach complaint. Reaching the summit, we discovered that dramatic as the limestone needles look from the air, when surrounded by them they are far less impressive and distinctly lacking in any vista. On the way down, we bumped into our guide, who had risen like Lazarus afraid that his charges had become lost in the mists of the rainforest and wandered off track. Fortunately, we had not. So, by the time we reached Mount Kinabalu a few days later we were weary of another fruitless trek and decided instead to feast ourselves upon the spectacular views.


Others are less timid, taking two days to ascend to the 4,095-metre peak, resting the night at the base camp some 2.5 km from the summit, and then setting off at two the following morning to time their final push for sunrise. Since the earthquake the numbers have been restricted to some 135 per day, so it’s advisable to ensure that all your permissions are in order before setting off. Naturally, I would join them, but this time I am travelling with my brother and sister-in-law on their first trip to Asia, and it would be rude to leave them behind while I take on Malaysia’s Everest. It will have to wait for the next time.

Despite tales of spitting cobras and green vipers I am pleased to discover that the most unusual creature we encounter is a lantern bug.
Last reviewed: November 27, 2018

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