Category Archives: Forest

Serinsim and something about Sabah Rivers

Enjoying the flowing water of river

Serinsim (or Sorinsim) is a nature park and substation in northern part of Kinabalu Park (in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia). Once you enter Serinsim, you can tell its main attraction is the river because many families swim, camp or picnic at the river side.

Camping ground and picnic site of Serinsim

Camping ground and picnic site of Serinsim

Serinsim lies between the Serinsim and Kinarom rivers. Kanarom River (Sungai Kanarom in local language) is just 10 Meters away from the car park near the park entrance. The river is unpolluted and straight from the fully protected forest, so swimming in this crystal clear and cooling water is like bathing in mineral water.

Cooling and clean water of Kanarom River

Cooling and clean water of Kanarom River

During weekends and school holiday, many locals come to frolic in the wide and shallow river, which is kid friendly and not swift. I met a family who drove 130 KM from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) to this place.

Sungai Kanarom River

No lifeguard around so swim at your own risk

Another reason Serinsim becomes a local family choice is due to the cheap entrance. For example, a local family of parents with 3 children spends less than 10 Ringgit to enjoy the Chlorine-free river. If they go to theme park such as Sunway Lagoon, it can cost them half a thousand Ringgit (but of course the facilities there are far more better and fun).

gazebo and benches at riverside

There are a few gazebos and benches at riverside

The amenities in Serinsim are fairly basic. They have changing rooms cum toilet and gazebos with benches and table near the river. The place is not crowded as it is far away from big city and not a popular tourist destination.

family and kids swimming in river

Many families come here to swim during weekends and school holidays

Sabah is blessed with many clean rivers. According to a report of the Department of Environment (DOE) in 2013, about 42% of the 473 rivers in Malaysia were under stress of pollution. In some urban area, the only clean source of water is from the tap.

Cute sisters coming from Kota Kinabalu City

Cute sisters coming from Kota Kinabalu City

However, this can change, especially downstream that are under constant environmental threats by poorly-managed development and farmland, rampant illegal sand mining, and indiscriminate dumping. More and more rivers turn into milk tea color, or worse, smelly blackish bacteria soup.

Colorful rocks in the river

Colorful rocks in the river

Ask the elders who have lived in KK for over half a century, they can share their childhood stories of swimming and fishing in crystal clear water of Sembulan River. But look at this river now, it’s so filthy and has become a conveyor belt to transport floating rubbish to our sea.

floating on the river

Most locals come to Serinsim to swim during hot day

While posting the photos of Serinsim here, I also share some random fun facts about our rivers.

River is Good for our Health

Nobody says swimming is bad, unless you swim in dirty water. Indeed, swimming can serve as a medicine, stress reliever, therapy, exercise, immunity boosters, etc. all good for physical and mental health.

clean natural river in emerald color

The sign of a clean natural river is its emerald color

“Natural waters are full of life, biological energy from plants and different creatures, minerals, enzymes, and many other beneficial substances. Swimming in natural waters has been prized as a therapy for many health problems for centuries.” – moulindebeny.com

swimming in river

Sabah is lucky to have so many clean rivers

The funny thing is – except human and apes, almost every other mammals can swim instinctively, that includes heavy elephant and cats which hate water.

Freshwater Ecology is Magnificent

Even if we close our eyes, our ears would still expose to many conservation messages about Loving our Ocean, to name a few, don’t eat turtle eggs, shark is endangered, plastic kills our marine lives, corals are under threat. Furthermore, we are always awed by the amazing photographs, videos and experience in diving, and determine to protect our marine ecology. Good.

get your feet wet

When you visit Serinsim, make sure you get your feet wet

However, compared to ocean, very little is said about river conservation. I would see news about beach cleaning occasionally but not river cleaning so far. To be fair, we have Tagal system (No Fishing) to protect fish stock in Sabah rivers, but it mainly targets at over-fishing.

You know, no water, no life, so no river, no wildlife. Our rivers have been supporting many iconic Borneo wildlife such as Proboscis Monkey and Bornean pygmy elephants. They help our tourism to rake in a lot of cash, so we know it’s imperative to take care of their well-being.

Clean water of Kanarom River

Clean water of Kanarom River

However, we forget the animals live in the rivers. Populations of freshwater species have declined by 76% since 1970, a lot faster than land or marine animals. I was told by my aunt that 50 years ago, the river was so clean that she saw something like sponge corals.

In Sabah rivers, there are 150 native freshwater fish species and 36 of them are endemic (24% of native species), according to the paper titled “A working checklist of the freshwater fish diversity for habitat management and conservation work in Sabah, Malaysia, North Borneo”.

Kanarom River teeming with fishes

Kanarom River teeming with fishes

Did you know friendly Irrawaddy Dolphins, monster Largetooth Sawfish and child-eater Tapah Catfish were used to be common in Kinabatangan, the longest river of Sabah? But now what is left are only some interesting stories about them among the villagers.

Some fishes of Borneo rivers are eco treasure too. A giant empurau fish from a Sarawak river was sold for a whopping RM7,900 (nearly USD$2,000). The market price of empurau ranges from RM400 to RM1,000 (USD$100-250) per Kg.

Tyre buoy is in the shop near to park entrance

Tyre buoy is available for rent (MYR5.00) in the shop near to park entrance

Though Sabah has no empurau, our Ikan Pelian (Malaysian Mahseer) is doing well too, it is priced for RM80 to RM100 (USD$20-25) per Kg. Both Empurau and Ikan Pelian are belong to same species (but I’m not sure if they are different sub-species).

Therefore, rivers shouldn’t be treated as less important than ocean. Time to do more to save our rare and endemic fishes. River pollution is currently threatening the survival of many rare species. Rivers are more prone to pollution, as they are smaller water bodies than the ocean. One selfish act of a company or village can compromise the health of a river.

Forest & Rivers

If forest is the lung of our planet, then river is the blood capillary of nature. Protecting our forest comes with two significant outcomes, clean air and water, which we can’t live without.

Enjoying the flowing water of river

Enjoying the flowing water of river

Humid tropical rainforest can add water to the atmosphere (through transpiration) thereby forming more cloud and bring more rain. The forests in Southeast Asia can influence rain patterns in south-eastern Europe and China. Lose of moisture due to deforestation can lead to drought.

Furthermore, forest (especially riparian vegetation) can filter sediments and other contaminates (e.g. pesticides, fertilizer, chemical waste) from the water in the soil before it reaches rivers.

The warning sign that reads, Fishing is prohibited in this river. Fine: RM5,000.00 - RM50,000.00

The warning sign that reads, “Fishing is prohibited in this river. Fine: RM5,000.00 – RM50,000.00”

Forest also regulates the flow of water. The leafy canopy of forest intercepts rainfall, slowing its fall to the ground and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers. Therefore, the water from undisturbed forest is in high quality.

Misumpak Waterfall

If the river in Serinsim is too ordinary to you, and you want to see rivers in true wilderness, you can try jungle trekking to Misumpak Waterfall.

Interesting fauna and flora along the jungle trail to the Misumpak Waterfall

Interesting fauna and flora along the jungle trail to the Misumpak Waterfall

The distance to this 12-Meter waterfall is 6.5 KM one way. Normally a return trip takes about 9 hours.

Bud of rafflesia

Bud of rafflesia, the largest flower in the world

You must hire a guide to go with you. This can be arranged easily with the park. The guide fee is RM90 (about USD$22) per group, and one guide can take up to 5 people.

rare and special fungus

An expert told me that this fungus is very rare and special but I forget its name.

You will cross a few rivers and streams on the way so be prepared to get wet. The water quality will impress you, it’s so clean that it’s almost transparent. You would not see the water if it does not move and reflect.

Dense rainforest of Serinsim

Dense rainforest of Serinsim

As the forest is in pristine condition, leeches are lurking everywhere. You can wear anti-leech socks if you are not keen to donate some blood.

Misumpak Waterfall

Misumpak Waterfall is about 12 Meters high

The waterfall is far away and the trail isn’t tourist friendly. Unless you are really interested in appreciating the beautiful fauna and flora of rainforest, I don’t really recommend it.

Fresh water from Kinabalu Park

Chilling fresh water from Kinabalu Park is the cleanest in Sabah

Anyway, you will be rewarded by cooling waterfall ponds. Very, very few people venture so deep into Serinsim, so you can have all these for yourself.

Crystal clear pond of Misumpak Waterfall

Crystal clear pond of Misumpak Waterfall

Misumpak Waterfall

Misumpak Waterfall is 6.5 KM away from the park entrance

Entrance Fee

The following is the ticket fee to enter the park:

Item Fee / Rate
Conservation Fee Malaysian: MYR3.00
Foreigner: MYR15.00
Below 18: MYR1.00 and MYR10.00 respectively

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Climbing Mount Nombuyukong (1,603.57 Meters)

View of Mount Nombuyukon behind the chalet in Serinsim park

In a dreadful climb to Mount Tambuyukon, the third highest mountain of Malaysia, I rested on a high ground where I could enjoy a panoramic view of rolling mountain range. Then I noticed Mt. Nombuyukong (Gunung Nombuyukong), which has a pointy peak like a witch hat. I was bewitched by its beautiful tit tip and wanted to climb it since then, and I did, after 6 years.

View of Nombuyukong Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

View of Nombuyukong Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

Compared to Mt. Tambuyukon (2,579M), Mt. Nombuyukong’s height at 1,603.57 M is less intimidating and can be conquered within half-day. Since it’s on the same mountain range with higher Mt. Tambuyukon, technically it’s a peak, but people call it Mount Nombuyukong anyway.

View of Mount Nombuyukong behind the chalet in Serinsim park

View of Mount Nombuyukong behind the chalet in Serinsim park

Managed by Sabah Parks, Mt. Nombuyukong is located in Serinsim Park substation (in Kota Marudu) at north of Kinabalu Park. The park is highly accessible by paved road and about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK), the capital of Sabah, Malaysia. Currently, this mountain is not well-known, and most climbers are hardcore adventurers from Peninsular Malaysia, who would try to conquer Mt. Tambuyukon and Nombuyukong in one trip.

Summary of Mt. Nombuyukong

Height: 1,603.57 Meters (5,261 feet)
Starting Point: Serinsim Park, Kota Marudu. GPS: 6.292631, 116.707422 (see Location Map) (130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City)
Hiking Distance to Summit: 6.47 KM one way (You will use the same route to ascend & descend)
Time: Return trip (nearly 13 KM) normally takes 9 or more hours

Peak of Mt. Nombuyukong in the cloud

Peak of Mt. Nombuyukong in the cloud

Difficulty: 3.5 out of 5 (I’m a seasoned hiker)
Temperature: about 27°C. On the Peak: 20-24°C
Minimum Cost of Climbing: MYR59.80 (Malaysian) or MYR146.00 (Non-Malaysian) per adult (approximately USD$15 and 35 respectively). More details on this later.
Notes: Register and pay first before climbing. Sabah Parks requires climbers to start climbing before 7:00am, and you must hire a guide from them.

The 6-min video below will show you how the climb looks like:

How soon you reach the summit is depend on your fitness and “style”. For example, I started climbing at 7:00am, reached the top at 1:15pm, and return to the park at 6:20pm (a total of 11 hours & 20 minutes!). I was slow because I stopped a lot to take photos.

The Climb

The following is my climbing log. You can click any photo in this article to enlarge it.

Trail map of Mount Nombuyukong

Trail Map of Mount Nombuyukong

Start of Climb

I met my guide, Mr. Hendrick, at the starting point of the climb, which is just behind my hostel (Name: Asrama Kanarom) in Serinsim Park. After a short briefing, we started the climb at 7:00am. Please note you will pass through 6 gazebos along the way (about one for every 1 KM)(Pondok is Gazebo in Malay language). I use them as markers here.

Starting Point→Gazebo No.1

We reached Gazebo No.1 (Pondok Damar) at 7:25am.

Junction to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

Junction to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong after 400 Meters

Gazebo No.1: Pondok Damar, 1,000 Meters to Gazebo No.2. (Pondok = Gazebo)

Gazebo No.1: Pondok Damar, 1,000 Meters to Gazebo No.2. (Pondok = Gazebo)

The trail is mostly flat in the beginning and under the shade of lowland rainforest. Mt. Nombuyukong is a mini version of Mt. Tambuyukon. Whatever hardship you experience in climbing Mt. Nombuyukong, multiple it by 3 and that’s what you will face on Mt. Tambuyukon. Both look quite alike in terms of vegetation and trail condition.

Gazebo No.1→Gazebo No.2

We reached Gazebo No.2 (Pondok Seraya) at 7:45am.

Gazebo No.2: Pondok Seraya, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.3

Gazebo No.2: Pondok Seraya, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.3

The peak looks so far away, even for car. But sorry, no shortcut such as cable car and helicopter.

Mt. Nombuyukong 6.5 KM away

The peak of Mt. Nombuyukong is about 6.47 KM away

With a few gentle slopes, this trail section is relatively flat and a bit muddy. Next to Gazebo No.2 (Pondok Seraya) is a portable toilet (squat type) with a broken door.

Earthstar mushroom (Geastrum sp.)

Earthstar mushroom (Geastrum sp.) looks like miniature orange before mature (left). When mature (right), the outer layer of its fruiting body splits into segments which turn outward creating a star-like pattern and reveals a smooth, grayish-brown and egg-like spore sac. Then it waits for rain drops on its central pore to force a jet of spores out through a small opening in the middle. They are generally not toxic but inedible.

Gazebo No.2→Gazebo No.3

We reached Gazebo No.3 (Pondok Gaharu) at 8:36am.

Gazebo No.3: Pondok Gaharu, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.4

Gazebo No.3: Pondok Gaharu, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.4

Walking in mixed hill dipterocarp and lowland rainforest

We walked in mixed hill dipterocarp and lowland rainforest in the beginning

There are about 300 Meters of steep trail, and the trail is relatively flat after that.

Second junction to Mount Nombuyukong

Second junction to Mount Nombuyukong

The popular version of Kinabalu Park is its mossy and foggy montane forest in cooling Kundasang highland. In Serinsim, you will see different face of Kinabalu Park, which is dominated by lowland rainforest and mixed hill dipterocarp abundant with tall trees under warm and humid environment.

Tall tree in Serinsim Park

Tall tree is common in Serinsim Park

As we were in higher altitude, we were rewarded by soothing breeze and cooling air.

Gazebo No.3→Gazebo No.4

We reached Gazebo No.4 (Pondok Menggilan) at 9:50am. We were only 2.3 KM away from the summit now.

Gazebo No.4: Pondok Menggilan, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.5

Gazebo No.4: Pondok Menggilan, 1,000 Meters to gazebo No.5

The trail was getting more undulating, and we started to feel like real climbing.

Trail after 3rd gazebo

Trail after 3rd gazebo

Things I saw between 3rd and 4th gazebo

Things I saw between 3rd and 4th gazebo

From Serinsim Park, you also can walk two days to the Musang Camp about 18 KM away, the last campsite on Mt. Tambuyukon. The distance is longer but less challenging than the standard summit trail to Mt. Tambuyukon, according to Hendrick.

Gazebo No.4→Gazebo No.5

We reached Gazebo No.5 (Pondok Aru) at 11:03am.

Gazebo No.5: Pondok Aru, 1,000 Meters to last gazebo

Gazebo No.5: Pondok Aru, 1,000 Meters to the last gazebo

After 200 Meters of flat trail, we ascended on a gentle slope to the ridge. The trail 200 Meters before Gazebo No.5 is quite steep.

Big waterfall next to Gazebo No.5: Pondok Aru

Big waterfall next to Gazebo No.5 (Pondok Aru)

As we were deep inside the jungle, we saw the holes dug by wild boar, heard woodpecker pecking the wood, and spot a herd of red leaf monkey on the tree. This is a healthy rainforest, so inevitably there are some leeches. Just put on anti-leech socks and you shall be fine.

Beautiful trees and rainforest

Beautiful trees and rainforest

Hendrick said if we were lucky, we would see Orangutan, Pygmy Squirrel, Clouded Leopard and Tufted Ground Squirrel.

Interesting plant along the trail

Interesting plant along the trail. The water of mountain creek is so cold and fresh to drink

Gazebo No.5→Gazebo No.6

We reached Gazebo No.6 (Pondok Wasai) at 11:48am.

Gazebo No.6: Pondok Wasai, 720 Meters to the peak

Gazebo No.6: Pondok Wasai, 720 Meters to the peak. (Puncak = Peak)

This section is the most difficult part of the climb. Minimal rope support is available along the steep or narrow trail.

The hardest part of the climb

The hardest part of the climb begins

Summit trail with rope support

Summit trail with rope support

We started to see green moss, lichen and algae on the tree barks and ground, a characteristic of lower montane forest (cloud forest) in mountain region.

Gazebo No.6→Summit

We reached the summit at 1:15pm!

Steep gravel trail

Steep gravel trail

The last 720 Meters to the summit is mainly steep trail with loose soil and gravel, and flanked by dense undergrowth.

View after the last gazebo

View after the last gazebo

There is a camping ground about 200 Meters before the summit. Some climbers camped there so they could catch the sunrise next morning.

Trilobite Beetle (family Lycidae)

Trilobite Beetle (family Lycidae) feeds on rotten wood. Its bright color warns predators of its distastefulness.

The Summit

Finally we were standing on the peak about 1,603.57 Meters (5,261 feet) above sea level.

Approaching the summit of Mt. Nombuyukong

Approaching the summit

summit of Mount Nombuyukong

It’s me on the summit of Mount Nombuyukong

It was windy and cooling up there, with dense cloud passing by the peak swiftly.

signage on top of Mt. Nombuyukong

You can see Kota Marudu, Kota Belud and Poring from the peak

On the summit, you can have a bird-eye view of Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, and Poring. However, sometimes the peak is enveloped by fog then you would see nothing.

Upper Left: pine tree on the peak, Upper Right: marker of ending point, Lower Left: highest point, Lower Right: Sayat-Sayat flower

Upper Left: pine tree on the peak, Upper Right: marker of ending point, Lower Left: highest point, Lower Right: Sayat-Sayat flower

View from the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

View from the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

After taking enough photos and selfie, we descended at 1:53pm and reached the park at 6:20pm (a total of 4 hours 13 minutes).

How to Climb

Easy, just go to the Sabah Parks office in Serinsim Park, register and hire a guide one day in advance.

Item Fee / Rate
Climb Permit Malaysian: MYR31.80
Foreigner: MYR106
Student below 18: MYR12.75
Insurance MYR7.00
Certificate (optional) MYR5.30
Mountain Guide MYR90 (can guide up to 5 people)
Conservation Fee Malaysian: MYR3.00
Foreigner: MYR15.00
Below 18: MYR1.00 and MYR10.00 respectively

Since the Park requires climber to depart at 7:00am, it’ll be easier if you stay in the park. The accommodation fee for adult range from MYR42.40 (per bed in hostel) to MYR106 (per room of chalet) per night. I leave the math of final budget to you.

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukong

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukong

Contact of Sabah Parks

For further info, you may contact Sabah Parks:
Tel: +60 88-523500 (KK Head Office)
Website: www.sabahparks.org.my
E-mail: sabahparks@gmail.com / sabahparks@sabah.gov.my
Facebook: Sabah-Parks-122393837931233

If you plan to stay in the park, you should call in advance to check if the accommodation is fully booked, especially during school holiday.

What to Bring

The most important of all is to wear comfortable hiking shoes that work well for muddy and slippery trail.

  • Packed lunch
  • Water
  • Raincoat / Poncho
  • Camera & spare batteries
  • Energy bar
  • Insect repellent
  • Anti-leech socks
  • Toilet paper
  • Walking stick
  • Torchlight (in case you come back really late)

When you go back to KK, you may try using the new highway (asphalt road in great condition) that takes 46 minutes to reach Poring. The view is scenic when you pass through small villages and mountain along the way.

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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