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Paragliding at Kokol Hill (Kota Kinabalu City)

Kokol Hill Paragliding

Stop singing “I believe I can fly” because you can do it. Forget about the noisy plane that put you in an enclosed space where you can’t even fully stretch your legs. Paragliding gives you the closest experience as a bird, as there is nothing between you and the sky and cloud, so you can enjoy the breeze and a sense of freedom.

Taking off from Kokol Hill

Paraglider taking off from Kokol Hill

If you live or travel in Kota Kinabalu City (KK), the nearest place where you can try paragliding is Kokol Hill (Bukit Kokol) in Menggatal, about 40 minutes away by car from KK. It’s ok if you don’t have any paragliding gear, you can book a “pilot” to give you a tandem flight. More on this later.

Tandem paragliding at Kokol Hill

Tandem paragliding at Kokol Hill

At a height of about 800 Meters and cooling temperature of 24°C, Kokol Hill is fast becoming the favorite getaway place of KK people to escape the hot weather. Besides, Kokol Hill is one of the best spots to see sunset and panoramic view of KK.

Tandem paragliding

Tandem paragliding

The following is a 3-min video for you to see why paragliding at Kokol Hill is super fun and exciting.

Paragliding Site of Kokol Hill

After hearing many positive comments about paragliding on Kokol Hill, I contacted Richard via his Facebook on Kokol Paragliding, to arrange for a tandem flight. Richard is a very experienced paragliding tandem pilot who has worked in Nepal and Korea for 4 years. After he checked the weather and wind conditions, we set the date for the flight.

Short nature trail to paragliding site

Short nature trail to paragliding site

The take off base is not far away from the Celcom tower near Kokol Haven Resort. We parked our car near the tower and passed through a forest to the site. The forest can be misty during cool day.

Panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu City from Kokol Hill

Panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu City from Kokol Hill

After 5 minutes, I came to an open space on a ridge with breathtaking view of KK and surrounding hills. “Today’s weather is perfect! We got good wind too,” Richard said. Sometimes he needs to wait some time for the right wind.

Paragliding site of Kokol Hill

It’s Richard in front carrying 20Kg of paragliding gear

The take off base is located at 822 Meters above sea level, so the air was cooling and refreshing.

Paragliding site on Kokol Hill

Take off base of Paragliding on Kokol Hill

Usually paragliding here is started around 11am when the sun heat up the land and creates upward thermal current and wind, the forces that lift the paraglider.

Panoramic view of Kota Kinabalu City and islands from Kokol Hill

You can see Kota Kinabalu City and its nearby islands in clear day

You are good to go if your body weight is less than 120 Kg (264 lbs), the limit of tandem paraglider.

Tandem Flight

Before the flight, Richard demo some simple steps on what to do during take off, flight and landing. Guess what? To make this paragliding a bit special and crazy, both of us were wearing office attire. It’s so funny LOL.

Paragliding in office attire

Paragliding in office attire

We put on our harness and get ready to take off. Richard observed the wind direction and cycle, to time the take off.

Ready to take off

Ready to take off

After a while, he pointed at the trees far ahead and said, “See the rustling foliage over there? The wind is coming this way. Let’s get ready.”

Making the Wall to catch the wind

“Making the wall” to catch the wind

Then he shouted, “RUN!” Though the runway in front is a steep slope, I have to be brave and sprint without any hesitation, like what he told me to. After 4 or 5 steps, I was already kicking in the air. I was flying!

Office guys go paragliding

Office guys go paragliding

The ride is surprisingly steady, like a boat sailing smoothly on the calm sea. First we cruised at an average speed of 40 Kilometer/Hour along the ridge of Kokol Hill, which is part of Crocker Range Park, the largest terrestrial park of Sabah. We can see Mt. Kinabalu if we are lucky.

Lush forest of Kokol Hill

Lush forest of Kokol Hill

The vast greenery of lush forest relaxed my mind, and I didn’t feel scared at all. At some points, we were so close to the trees that I could hear the call of cicada.

Flying high on Kokol Hill

Flying high on Kokol Hill

Richard took a ride on an upward thermal current, so we soared high up to 1,000 Meters, until the birds and hill were under our feet.

Stunning view from the sky

Stunning view from the sky

During the flight, all passengers will naturally open their arms like bird spreading its wing. It must be feel like dreaming.

Flying on top of Kokol Hill

Flying on top of Kokol Hill

Fun with paragliding

Now I can fly

Next we turned to west and headed to Menggatal town. In clear day, you can see Labuan island at the left and Kuala Abai (Kota Belud) at the right, that’s more than half of Sabah’s west coastline.

View of Kota Kinabalu City

View of Kota Kinabalu City

In normal life, the space around us is so confined, and we are like living in a “2D” world. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to see and feel how big our world is from the sky.

paragliding view

This is the view you only can see in paragliding

My favorite view is KK city and islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in South China Sea. My hometown is such a beautiful city.

Paragliding is awesome!

Paragliding is awesome!

My paragliding was getting near the end when we approached Menggatal town. As we were descending, everything seemed to move faster. We flied over villages, plantations, houses, and finally landed safely on the field next to Menggatal Community Hall (Dewan Masyarakat Menggatal).

Flying on top of Menggatal town

Flying on top of Menggatal town

This 6-KM journey took about 20 minutes, but it felt like an hour. FYI, paraglider can fly over 300 KM under the most ideal condition.

The Fees

The fee of tandem flight is RM250 for Malaysian and RM350 (≈US$87) for non-Malaysian. Add RM50 (≈US$12.50) if you want photos and video. They can pick you up at Menggatal town. If you want them to fetch you at hotel or other locations, the transport fee is RM100 (≈US$25).

Group photo before paragliding

Group photo before paragliding

They also do sunset flight for RM500 (≈US$125) (after 5pm, only if conditions allow). You also can bring your friend to fly together next to you (a great idea for coming Valentine’s Day?).

Booking

For safety, you must hire only certified tandem pilots. The following is a list of professional paragliders whom you can trust.

Paragliding

Stop dreaming and imaging about flying. Try it at least once.

1. Richard Tan

(APPI International pilot No: 10474)
Mobile Phone: +60 16-6725124
Facebook: Kokol Paragliding
WeChat: giant_xtr

2. Cliff Man

Mobile Phone: +60 16-8471255

3. Chris Lammert

Mobile Phone: +60 13-8645606
E-mail: chrislammert@hotmail.com
Website: borneogl.blogspot.com
Facebook: Chris Exotic Sports

Paragliding fun

Happy Flying! Remember to apply sunblock lotion because you will be closer to sun

Soar High and See the World like an Eagle. Enjoy the Freedom like a Bird. This is Paragliding.

Photos taken in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Sabah Tea Garden, the Organic Tea Farm of Borneo

Sabah Tea Garden

Walk into any coffee shop in Sabah, and you would quickly learn that Chinese Teh Ping (Iced Chinese Tea), Teh-C Ping (Iced Milk Tea), Lemon Teh (Lemon Tea), Teh Tarik (Pulled Tea) are commonly ordered beverages among locals.

tea leaf

Sabah Tea

Our friends from Peninsular Malaysia are always surprised to find that Sabahans are fond of tea break and high tea too. Besides asking our friends to go Yamcha (drink tea), Sabahans would say “Let’s go High-Tea” too. Tea drinking is definitely part of our culture, and it fits well into our laid-back lifestyle.

Sabah Tea Plantation during sunrise

Sabah Tea Plantation during sunrise

“Tea drinkers take a break; coffee drinkers need a break.”

Not only that, Sabah also has its own local tea brand named Sabah Tea, which has established since 1978. Sabah Tea Garden is the only organic tea farm in Borneo. The tea leaves from its 2,480 hectare plantation are 100% pesticide free.

Variety of Sabah Tea products

Variety of Sabah Tea products

Anyway, you don’t need to be a tea lover to enjoy a trip to Sabah Tea Garden. Located 692 Metres above sea level, the cooling highland of Sabah Tea is an ideal place to escape the hot weather of cities.

20160106_5

Sabah Tea Garden is the largest commercial tea plantation in Borneo, and now they produce eight flavors of tea, namely, cinnamon, ginger, geranium, pandan, tongkat ali, lemongrass, and misai kucing (cat’s whiskers). I tried their Pandan-flavor Pulled Tea (Teh Tarik Pandan) and I really love its rich flavor, a must-try!

Fresh tea leaves

Fresh tea leaves

Sabah Tea Garden has one of the most beautiful plantations in Sabah. Just take a morning walk during sunrise time around Sabah Tea, you will see the breath-taking view of misty rainforest around the lush tea plantation with majestic Mt. Kinabalu as the backdrop.

Sabah Tea plantation under Mt. Kinabalu

Sabah Tea plantation under Mt. Kinabalu

However, Sabah Tea Garden is more than a tea plantation with scenic view. They have successfully turned Sabah Tea into a recreational and educational site, which is friendly for family and student groups. Whether they have a day trip or overnight stay at Sabah Tea, there are so many things visitors can do there.

Tea processing in factory

Tea processing in factory

If you only plan for a short educational visit, you can pay a small fee to join one of the following day tour at Tea Factory. Note the best time to visit is between 8am-12pm (Mon-Sat) and Tea factory tour is not available on major Public Holidays:

  • RM7 (≈US$1.75): 30-min Factory Tour for Primary School students
  • RM14 (≈US$3.50): 45-min Guided Tour of the Tea Factory
  • RM17.50 – RM42 (≈US$4.38 – 10.50): 1.5-hour factory tour with tea tasting (with Sandwiches, Tea Bites, or Set Lunch)
Visiting Sabah Tea Factory

Visiting Sabah Tea Factory

Accommodations

For an “anti-oxidizing” trip by fresh air and tea, I would recommend you to spend a night or two at Sabah Tea. They have two types of accommodations:

  1. Longhouse: 25 rooms (triple sharing), can fit 75 people at a time. 14 shower rooms, 6 toilets.
  2. English Cottages (4 units): total of 16 rooms (1 queen bed + 1 twin bed), can host 48 people. Air-conditioning, Hot Shower and TV available
Longhouse accommodation of Sabah Tea

Longhouse accommodation of Sabah Tea

Cottage of Sabah Tea

Cottage of Sabah Tea

The cottages at Sabah Tea Garden are named after colorful personalities in Sabah’s colonial past. The cottage where I stayed was named after Lofty Hodges, an Australian hero who rescued the survivors of Death March during World War II.

Bedroom of Sabah Tea Cottage

Bedroom of Sabah Tea Cottage

Living Room of Sabah Tea Cottage

Living Room of Sabah Tea Cottage

Sabah Tea put some good efforts to create a farmstay experience. They have flowers and herbs, colorful ornaments, fish pond and Bunny Villa (rabbits) in the plantation, all these small and big things make this place fun to explore.

Coloured Tree of Sabah Tea

Coloured Tree showcases the United Colours of Sabah which underlines the social fabric of the local communities.

Hornbill made of used tyre

Hornbill made of used tyre

Feeding rabbits of Sabah Tea

Feeding rabbits of Sabah Tea. Each rabbit has a nickname such as Tennie, Ah Beng, Bala and Puteri.

Tea Adventure

Tea drinking has over 3,000 years of history, so it’s good to know more about this most consumed beverage next to water. Sabah Tea Garden offers “The Journey of the Tea” tour for visitors who want to learn how tea is processed.

Harvesting tea leaves

Harvesting tea leaves

Collecting tea leaves with Wakid container

Collecting tea leaves with Wakid basket

Participants of Tea Adventure will have a chance to harvest, process and sample the tea from their 1,000 acres tea plantation. They will provide you native hat and wakid (basket), then brief you the right way to pluck the tea leaves and buds. Did you know an experienced tea picker can collect about 32 Kg of tea in a day, which is enough to make 14,000 cups of tea!

Tea harvesting at Sabah Tea

Tea harvesting at Sabah Tea

After harvesting the tea leaves for an hour of fun, you can leave your freshly collected leaves dry and wither. Then you will use them to make Oolong and Green Tea the old-fashioned way later.

Fun with tea harvesting

Fun with tea harvesting

Oolong Tea is semi-fermented and Green Tea is unfermented, and their processing steps are different.

Drying the tea leaves

Drying the tea leaves

For Oolong, the tea leaves are left oxidized before they are roasted in wok, while Green Tea is cooked in steamer.

Black and Green Tea

Oolong and Green Tea

The end result is Green Tea will have milder taste and more astringent than Oolong Tea, which is in light brown color, with richer and stronger flavor. The participants will sample both tea and learn the difference.

Making tea balls

Making tea balls

Tea ball

Tea ball

Their staffs are very keen to share their tea knowledge. They also conduct tea talk for you to gain a better understanding of tea culture. Who knows your appreciation and enjoyment on drinking tea will go up next level.

Tea laboratory of Sabah Tea

Tea laboratory of Sabah Tea

Bad and good tea

Can you tell which tea is of better quality? (The one at the right has too much coloring, bad..)

Tea sampling

Tea sampling

Other Activities

I was also impressed by a full array of activities at Sabah Tea Garden available from day to night.

Misty forest near Sabah Tea

Misty forest near Sabah Tea

The forest, hill and river adjacent to Sabah Tea are in clean and pristine condition, and we can enjoy many types of nature based activities. For example, you can hike to the hill, trek in rainforest, swim in the river (if you can stand the cold!), mountain biking and even camp around.

Group photo after the visit to Sabah Tea

Group photo after taking part in Tea Adventure Programme

If you love wildlife, Sabah Tea Garden is a good site for bird-watching and night walk for spotting insects too.

Fun game after dinner

Fun game after dinner

Sabah Tea Garden is also able to organize team building, game challenges, obstacle course and various group activities for corporate retreats (for a minimum of 15 people).

“Tea” Cuisines

Tea can be used in food too. You can try such dishes at Sabah Tea, like their chicken soup cooked with vegetables and young tea leaves, and one-of-a-kind dessert, Tea pancake with honey.

Sabah Tea Chicken Soup

Sabah Tea Chicken Soup

Sabah Tea Pancakes

Sabah Tea Pancakes

Others local dishes are also available at Sabah Tea, just to list some, Fish with Bambangan (this Fruit only found in Sabah), Tuhau Beef (Sabah’s Wild Ginger Beef), Sabah Tea Black Pepper Lamb, Butter Prawns and Soy Sauce Free Range Chicken.

Restaurant of Sabah Tea

Restaurant and Gift Shop of Sabah Tea

Local cuisines at Sabah Tea

Local cuisines at Sabah Tea

Yes, the food are delicious.

Sabah Legend Tour

Kadazandusun is the largest indigenous group of Sabah. Their legend says Nunuk Ragang is where Kadazandusun people originated, and everything begins with a father and his 3 sons, who later split and migrated to different parts of Sabah and formed three main tribes (namely, Rungus, Kadazan, Dusun).

Tour about Sabah culture and legend

Tour about Sabah culture and legend

At Sabah Tea, the story-telling starts in their Rungus longhouse. Ruby, their staff showed us the traditional clothes, baskets, handicrafts, farming tools, hat, mats, beads and musical instrument displayed in the hallway, to introduce the interesting culture of each tribe.

Pool next to Sabah Tea longhouse

Pond next to Sabah Tea longhouse

Below is the contact of Sabah Tea Garden:
Address (see Location Map): KM 18, Jalan Ranau / Sandakan, Kampung Nalapak, Ranau (2.5-hours Drive from Kota Kinabalu City)
E-mail: info@sabahtea.net
Tel: +60 88-440882 (KK Office), +60 88-879220 (Sabah Tea Site)
Opening Hours: 8am to 4:30pm (best to visit before noon)
Website: www.sabahtea.com.my
Facebook: SabahTea
Fax: +60 88-440886

You may check out my photo album for more photos of Sabah Tea.

Beautiful pool of Sabah Tea

Beautiful pond of Sabah Tea

Photos taken in Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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