Category Archives: Adventure

Climbing Bukit Lugas (Lugas Hill) in Tambunan

Miss Tambunan

The photos of Bukit Lugas (or Lugas Hill, Bukit means Hill in Malay language) in Tambunan were spreading like wild fire on social media last year. How does a small hill, which was never listed as an attraction, become a hot destination overnight? Just look at the photos below, and you will know why.

Ready to climb to the peak

Bukit Lugas is on the bucket list of every Sabah hikers

Look like the back of a twin-humped dragon, Bukit Lugas is one of the most awesome hills in Sabah. Some hikers from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) even drive 103 KM to visit Bukit Lugas. Such geological feature resembles what is called “dragon spine”, a king-maker terrain in Chinese Feng Shui. Cool huh?

Bukit Lugas looks like a dragon back from the air

Bukit Lugas looks like a dragon from the air

Besides its unique landscape, most people think it’s thrilling to walk on the narrow trail on the ridge with cliff only two steps away at both side. Acrophobia (fear of heights) finds even looking at the photo is frightening enough.

Profile of Bukit Lugas

Location: Kampung Kitou, Tambunan (Sabah, Malaysia)
Opening Hours: 7:30am-4:00pm daily, includes public holiday
Height: 600 Meters (1,965 feet) above sea level
Hiking Distance: 1.7 KM one way (Return trip takes about 4 hours)
I would rate its difficulty 2 out of 5, which means easy, because it’s 92% walking and 8% climbing. The climb is more like a mental than physical challenge.

One for the album after the climb

One for the album after the climb

The best time to climb is in early morning. After 9am, there is no shade on the hill for you to hide from the scorching sunlight. Though Bukit Lugas is 600 Meters, the starting point in Tambunan is 430 Meters above sea level, so you only need to ascend 170 Meters. Hope you get what I mean.

Going to Bukit Lugas

In a Saturday morning, I drove 2 hours from KK to the starting point of Bukit Lugas. This was my second visit, and I brought a drone and friends this time.

The entrance to Bukit Lugas is at the road side of Tambunan - Keningau highway

The entrance to Bukit Lugas is at the road side of Tambunan-Keningau highway

Signage with info on guide's contact and opening hours (7:30am-4:00pm daily, include public holiday)

Signage with info on guide’s contact and opening hours (7:30am-4:00pm daily, include public holiday)

After I parked my car, we descend about 40 Meters via a steep slope trail in the wood to campus of SK Kitou, where our guide was already waiting in the bamboo hut named Pondok PIBG.

Going to the registration centre next to SK Kitou school before the climb.

Going to the registration center next to SK Kitou school before the climb.

After registration and took our number 1 in a school toilet, we started hiking to Lugas Hill. I checked the signal strength on my phone. My Maxis line got good signal (3G), so is my friend with Celcom. Digi doesn’t work well there.

group photo of climbers

Everyone’s spirit is high

The 1st Kilometer is an easy walk on flat soil trail of countryside. This area is sparsely populated area with plantation of rubber, oil palm, banana, pineapple, tapioca, papaya and other crops along the way. We met a few friendly villagers who were busy harvesting latex and vegetables in the morning.

Start hiking to the hill

Start hiking to the hill

We crossed three streams and a small bamboo bridge. The water is very clean, and there was no rubbish. It was quite a wonderful stroll in the cooling morning of Tambunan highland.

Countryside and village view along the trail

Countryside and village view along the trail. Lower Right: The villagers were cleaning the rubber latex in case you wonder what those black stuffs are.

Start of Climb

After 25 minutes, we reached the foothill of Bukit Lugas, and went for a steep ascend on an uphill soil trail. It’s not really tough, just tiring.

Going to the foothill. The yellow arrow points at the start of Bukit Lugas

Approaching the foothill. The yellow arrow points at the slope of Lugas Hill

View from the slope

View from the slope

Climbing the steepest section

Climbing the steepest section

After 100 Meters, we entered a forested zone and rest under the shade for a few minutes. Congratulations! The hardest part of the hike was over. Everything is easy from this point on.

The forested top of Lugas Hill

The forested top of Bukit Lugas

Taking a break after the steep climb

Taking a break after the steep climb

We continued our climb after the short break. This part of the hill is quite densely forested. We walked in the shade for another 150 Meters, then we arrived to a fern path with soft and spongy ground.

Walking through the wood

Walking through the wood

The fern indicates the soil on the hill isn’t fertile. After walking near the end of 150-Meter fern path, we came to an open space, where we could see the exposed yellow rocky peaks of Lugas Hill.

The fern path on Bukit Lugas

The fern path on Bukit Lugas

At this point, what remained was only a 200 Meters ridge walk on the hill. The trail was quite narrow, so I walked slowly and carefully, as if I wanted to avoid awakening a sleeping dragon.

double hump of Bukit Lugas

You can see the double hump of Bukit Lugas from here

Climbers stood on three high points of Bukit Lugas

Climbers stood on three high points of Lugas Hill

Part of the trail is only wide enough for one climber. I can’t afford to miss a step. I avoid looking at the edges or my feet would turn jello. Luckily, the iron bars and rope support gave me peace of mind.

Start of the ridge of Bukit Lugas

Start of the ridge of Bukit Lugas

Anyway, the trail on the ridge isn’t very steep. Just be careful and you shall be fine.

Climbing over the steep section

This is the only real climbing section on the ridge.

The only problem is the hot sun. Heatstroke is a greater risk than falling, so do apply sunblock lotion and bring enough drinking water.

Enjoying the view on Bukit Lugas

Enjoying the view on Bukit Lugas

You can see two climbers on top of the hill

Two climbers on top of the hill

I’m not sure why the top of Lugas Hill is almost bald. Probably it is too steep that all plant falls off, just kidding.

deep drop at the sides

It’s a deep drop at both sides. Doesn’t look forgiving..

falling from hill

I would end up like this if I’m not cautious.

You can bring children to climb with you, as long as they listen to instruction and not running around.

Iron bars and rope support to prevent falling

Iron bars and rope support to prevent falling

Going to the highest point

Going to the highest point

On the top, I could have a panoramic view of surrounding green hills and plantation. It took us about 1 hour 16 minutes to finish the climb.

Approaching the peak of Bukit Lugas

Approaching the peak of Lugas Hill

Reaching the top

Reaching the top

The hill is composed largely of sandstone with interbedded mudstone and dominated by Acrisols and Cambisols soil. The soil is of type Lokan Association (Thanks Dr. Arthur Chung for the info).

Group photo on the highest point

Group photo on the highest point

Descending from Bukit Lugas

Descending from Bukit Lugas

At last we descended and took less than an hour back to the starting point. The whole tour takes only 8 hours (includes road trip hours).

How to get there

The starting point of Lugas Hill is highly accessible by paved road. It is about 103 KM away from KK and 23 KM from Tambunan town. When you reach Tambunan town, take the Tambunan – Keningau highway, pay attention when you see the milestone with blue label that reads “27 KM Keningau”. You shall see the Bukit Lugas signpost at your left shortly. The GPS coordinate is 5.515174, 116.274475 (see Location Map).

Bukit Lugas looks scary but interesting

Bukit Lugas looks scary but very easy to climb

Bukit Lugas is part of Kampung Kitou (village) and not a park. However, you need to hire a local guide to climb with you. Just call one of the cellphone numbers below to book a guide before you go:

Disclaimer: Listing of guides’ contact here is FYI only, it doesn’t mean that I recommend them.

lady climbers on Bukit Lugas

Yay! we make it!

The guide fee per group is MYR30 (about USD$7.50). A guide can take up to 10 people. If a group of 10 climbers share a guide, it’ll cost only MYR3.00 per person, so bring more friends with you.

Things to Bring

Wear a pair of comfortable hiking shoes and bring the following things:

  • Drinking water
  • Raincoat / Umbrella
  • Snacks such as energy bar
  • Walking stick
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunblock lotion
  • Jacket (it’s chilling in early morning of Tambunan highland)
  • Insect repellent
Aerial view of Bukit Lugas

Aerial view of Bukit Lugas

Photos taken in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Serinsim, a different face of Kinabalu Park

Misumpak Waterfall and its pond

A family is having a hard time to plan a holiday trip at a destination that makes everyone happy.

Grandfather: “I want to learn some local history and legend.”
Mother: “How about a BBQ feast?”
Father: “Let’s climb a mountain.”
Son: “Camping and jungle trekking will be fun!”
Daughter: “I love swimming in river.”

Location of Serinsim and Kinabalu Park

Location of Serinsim (Sorinsim) and Kinabalu Park

Finally they decide to visit Serinsim (or Sorinsim) in Kota Marudu, which has all these. There is no second place in Sabah where we can find river, waterfall, forest, cave, mountain and historical site in one park.

Signage to different attractions inside Serinsim

Signage to different attractions inside Serinsim. It’s ok if you can’t read Malay. I’ll tell you what they are later.

Serinsim is a substation in northern part of Kinabalu Park, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site of Malaysia. Lies between the Serinsim and Kanarom rivers, the river of Serinsim is straight from the undisturbed rainforest and mountain, so its water is crystal clear and almost as good as Spritzer.

Kanarom River in Serinsim (Sorinsim)

Kanarom River in Serinsim (Sorinsim)

You may be familiar with the mountainous zone in Kinabalu Park HQ in Kundasang highland. Serinsim is at opposite side of HQ, which is dominated by lowland rainforest, shows different face of Kinabalu Park. Most locals only come here to enjoy the cooling river, without knowing that Serinsim has the following special attractions:

1. Mount Nombuyukong (Gunung Nombuyukong)

With a height of 1,603.57 Meters, Mt. Nombuyukong is 976 Metres lower than its sister peak, Mt. Tambuyukon, the third highest mountain of Malaysia. Mount Nombuyukong can be conquered within a day.

Mount Nombuyukong in Serinsim

Mount Nombuyukong in Serinsim

» Read about the challenging climb to Mt. Nombuyukong…

2. Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

Gua Kelawar is a small cave about 200 Meters long, and it is for the adventurous you who like the idea of exploring the unknown. *Hint:* many creeping critters in the darkness. I saw rare mushroom and endemic begonia outside the cave.

Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar) of Serinsim

The rocky wall of Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar) in Serinsim

» Read my scary story inside Bat Cave…

3. Misumpak Waterfall

Serinsim is more than a park for swimming and picnic only. Do a jungle trekking to visit the 12-Meter Misumpak Waterfall. Soaking in its cooling ponds will be one of the best nature experience, I promise. You would see hornbill, civet, red leaf monkey, orangutan and other wildlife on the way.

Misumpak Waterfall and its pond

Misumpak Waterfall and its pond

» Read more about Misumpak Waterfall…

4. Gambaliu, the Tallest Man in the World

According to the local legend, a giant named Gambaliu lived here about two to three thousand years ago. With a height of 24 feet, Gambaliu is taller than giraffe. He was a gentle and helpful giant. However, what his people did after he died was sort of… heartless.

Tomb of Gambaliu, the tallest man

Tomb of Gambaliu, the tallest man

» See the Tomb of Gambaliu…

5. Sigunting Graveyard

Sick of those cliche movies about superheroes saving the mankind? Let’s hear the story of real Sabah hero, Si-Gunting, who fought British imperialism for 7 years.

Graveyard of Sigunting, a Sabahan hero

Graveyard of Sigunting, a Sabahan hero

» Read more about Sigunting…

6. Deer Farm

About 120 Meters from the hostel (Asrama Kanarom) is a 0.5-Acre of fenced and forested Deer Farm. The best time to visit is the feeding time at 2pm, the time about 10 Sambar deers show up for jackfruit, tapioca leaves, banana, and fruits given by the Park.

Deer Farm of Serinsim

Deer Farm of Serinsim. Visitors can walk up to the tower for better view.

Below is the trail and layout map of Serinsim. Please note that for most jungle trekking activities, you are required to hire a guide from the Park, which can be arranged easily one day in advance.

Trail map to different attractions in Serinsim

Trail map to different attractions in Serinsim. Translation: Pejabat = Office, Galeri = Gallery, Pondok = Gazebo, Pelawat = Visitor, Tapak Perkhemahan = Camping Ground, Tandas Awam = Public Toilet, Dapur = Kitchen, Sungai = River, Sg. = River, Anak Sungai = Small River, Jalan Raya = Road, Jambatan Kerata = Bridge for Car, Air Terjun = Waterfall, Makam = Grave, Puncak = Peak, Kem = Camp, Ke = To

Accommodation

Three chalets and one hostel are available to accommodate three families and 24 people respectively in the Park. Below is a quick comparison of the price. The rate is as of July 2017, and GST tax is included.

Accommodation Type Rate per Night
Camping Adult: MYR5.30 (≈USD$1.32)
Below 12: MYR2.15 (≈USD$0.53)
Hostel (Asrama Kanarom) Adult: MYR42.40 (≈USD$10.60)
Below 18: MYR31.80 (≈USD$7.95)
Chalet 1 Chalet: MYR318.00 (≈USD$79.50)
1 Room: MYR106 (≈USD$26.50)

Notes: Check-out time is 11:00am. Non-halal food such as pork is forbidden in the accommodation. The accommodation is not well-maintained. Before you unpack your luggage, make sure everything in your room is functioning (e.g. water supply, light, air-cond). Just in case anything is broken, you can change to other room quickly.

Asrama Kanarom Hostel

Asrama Kanarom Hostel is a dormitory-style one storey building which has four bedrooms, common toilet + bathroom and kitchen. Each room has 6 bunk beds, so this hostel can host about 24 people.

Asrama Kanarom Hostel in Serinsim

Asrama Kanarom Hostel in Serinsim

Interior of Asrama Kanarom Hostel in Serinsim

Interior of Asrama Kanarom Hostel in Serinsim

The fee for each bunk bed in hostel is MYR42.40 for adult and MYR31.80 for kid (below 18 years old). The room has air-conditioner, and pillow and blanket are provided. It’s an economic choice for budget travelers and student group who don’t mind to share room.

Bunk beds in Asrama Kanarom Hostel

Bunk beds in Asrama Kanarom Hostel

The kitchen has gas stove, cooking and dining utensils for use by the guests. Electricity and water supply are available all time.

Kitchen of Asrama Kanarom Hostel

Kitchen of Asrama Kanarom Hostel

However, there is no private bathroom. Guests can share the common unisex toilet and bathroom. Sorry, no water heater for a hot shower, but you can boil hot water in kitchen like what I did.

Toilet cum shower room, cooking area, utensils and refrigerator in Asrama Kanarom Hostel

Toilet cum shower room, cooking area, utensils and refrigerator in Asrama Kanarom Hostel

One nice thing about this hostel is that it’s located next to the starting point of trail to all nature attractions.

Chalets

There are three chalets in the Park. You can book the whole chalet for MYR318 per night, or rent a room for MYR106. Each chalet has three rooms (two of them are single bed). Each chalet is limited for 6 people. For additional guests, you need to pay extra MYR30 per person.

3 chalets in Serinsim Substation

There are 3 chalets in Serinsim Substation

Chalets of Serinsim

Chalets of Serinsim

Each room has an attached bathroom cum toilet. Heater for hot shower is not available. Soap and towel are provided for the guest. Every room has air-conditioning.

Chalet of Serinsim (or Sorinsim). At the left is Mt. Nombuyukong

Chalet of Serinsim (or Sorinsim). At the left is Mt. Nombuyukong

Bedroom, living room and kitchen of Serinsim Chalet

Bedroom, living room and kitchen of Serinsim Chalet

Camping

Camping ground is also available to those who desire a more nature experience. For adult, the camping fee per night is MYR5.30 and MYR2.15 for child below 12. You can rent a camping tent for MYR30/day at Sabah Parks office, or bring your own.

Camping ground of Serinsim

Camping ground of Serinsim

Gazebo and benches at camping site

Gazebo and benches at camping site

The campsite is just next to the river. There are gazebos, benches, public toilet and kitchen nearby that area.

Campers in Serinsim

Campers in Serinsim

Kitchen near camping ground

Kitchen near camping ground

There is no lighting at night, so you better bring your camping light and torchlight.

Barbecue party at the hostel

Barbecue party at the hostel

There is no TV, karaoke and night life in the park, so you will get bored in the evening. Do plan some fun activities for the night, for example, board games, BBQ party, strip poker, watch movies on laptop.

Gaming in the hostel (Asrama Kanarom)

Playing Uno in the hostel (Asrama Kanarom)

By the way, Kota Marudu is famous for its maize. You can buy some along the way and grill it, it’s delicious.

Layout Map of Serinsim Substation

Layout Map of Serinsim Substation

Don’t be impressed by the facilities listed in the map above. Everything in Serinsim is basic, nothing 5-star. For example, the so called soccer field is just a grassland. The restaurant never opens and there is no gallery.

How to get there

Serinsim is about 32 KM from Kota Marudu town and 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City (capital of Sabah). This substation is now highly accessible after asphalt highway is complete in 2013. The GPS coordinate is 6.293915, 116.707986 (see Location Map).

Asphalt road to Serinsim in Kota Marudu

Asphalt road to Serinsim in Kota Marudu

In the past you needed a 4-wheel drive to get in. That might be the reason why Serinsim is one of the least explored parks in Sabah. There is no bus goes directly to Serinsim.

Marak-Parak Village and Sorinsim Village before Serinsim

You will pass through Marak-Parak Village and Sorinsim Village before you reach Serinsim

You also can go to Serinsim from Poring Hot Springs, the 46-KM road is in good condition.

Signage at the entrance. Translation: Welcome to Kinabalu Park, Serinsim Sub-Station, Kota Marudu

Signage at the entrance. Translation: Welcome to Kinabalu Park, Serinsim Sub-Station, Kota Marudu

Things to Note

For a better travel experience at Serinsim, please take note of the following:

  1. There is no restaurant in the Park. You can prepare your own food in their kitchen, buy food from villages nearby (The shops are usually roadside residential run by villagers with signage such as Gerai Makan (Food Stall) or Kedai Runcit (Grocery Store)), or drive 30 minutes to Kota Marudu town looking for restaurant.
  2. The mobile line coverage is none or poor in the Park. My Maxis line got 0 bar. Celcom may work. Anyway, let’s prepare to be offline there.
  3. Bring insect repellent. There are mosquitoes in shaded area during dusk and dawn.
  4. There is a grocery shop and cafe outside the park entrance.
  5. Most area in Park has no light. Bring a torchlight if you would move around in the Park at night, especially campers.
Sabah Parks office and car park of Serinsim (Sorinsim)

Sabah Parks office and car park of Serinsim (Sorinsim)

Entrance Fee

The following is the ticket fee to enter the park. They only accept cash in Ringgit Malaysia (MYR).

Item Fee / Rate
Conservation Fee Malaysian: MYR3.00
Foreigner: MYR15.00
Below 18: MYR1.00 and MYR10.00 respectively
Ticket counter at the entrance of Serinsim (Sorinsim)

Ticket counter at the entrance of Serinsim (Sorinsim)

Serinsim is managed by Sabah Parks. For more information about Serinsim, you may browse www.sabahparks.org.my or call the head office of Sabah Parks in Kota Kinabalu at +60 88-523500.

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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