Category Archives: Mountains

Malubang, a beautiful fishing village in Pitas

stargazing in Pitas

When I was on a quest to explore the legend of Supirak, I found myself another wonderful seaside vacation at Malubang Village (Local Name: Kampung Malubang), a remote fishing village in Pitas near the tip of northern Sabah. Spend a few days there and you will experience a simple village life without electricity, Wifi, water heater, air-conditioner, asphalt road, etc.

Malubang Village (Kampung Malubang) in Pitas, north of Sabah

Malubang Village (Kampung Malubang) in Pitas, north of Sabah

Kampung Malubang (Malubang Village)

Malubang Village is located at a beach in Marudu Bay. Most villagers are Sulu people who mainly work as a fisherman. Every morning you can see their fishing boats depart for fishing trip.

Every house owns a boat in Malubang Village

Every house owns a boat in Malubang Village

Malubang is facing Kudat town and Tip of Borneo is clearly visible at the horizon. In fact, Kudat is less than an hour away by boat, and Banggi Island takes about 20 minutes.

A fisherman repairing his fishing net

A fisherman fixing his fishing net

a well in Malubang

Some houses are still using well for water supply

Though tourists seldom come here, the friendly villagers are ok with outsiders taking a stroll in the village. They are shy but smile a lot. It’s a small fishing village with about 30 houses. Foreigners would find the fence-less stilt houses there interesting.

A house with colorful hanging clothes in Malubang

A house with colorful hanging clothes

During my visit, there was an open house wedding reception (of Mizrul and Mastura) in the village. They were kind to invite me to have lunch with them and watched them dancing and celebrating.

Married couple Mizrul and Mastura

Married couple Mizrul and Mastura

Group photo with the shy and friendly village girls

Group photo with the cute village girls who dressed up for wedding function

This village is a close community, in contrast to city. I confess I don’t know most of my neighbours and never visit their home too. May be it’s not only me.. Nowadays kids in same neighbourhood don’t mix around. In old days, I went cycling, fishing and climbing tree with my young neighbours, so Malubang brings back memory.

I enjoyed every moment in Malubang. The only thing I don’t like is that a lot of rubbishes washed up to the shore there.

Supirak Legend

Supirak Island and its surrounding legendary rocks are the main attractions of Malubang (as well as Pitas district). Legend says Supirak Island was a ship turned into a rock due to a curse by mother to her ungrateful son.

Cruising around Marudu Bay

Cruising around Marudu Bay

At Malubang, you can charter a small boat easily (for less than MYR80) to visit these island and rocks around the bay, as every villager owns a boat (life vest may not be provided).

Rocks and wells of Supirak legend

Rocks and wells of Supirak legend

Besides Supirak Island, there are many other places of interest in Pitas, to name a few, traditional fishing platform named Bagang, long-nosed monkey in mangrove forest of Bengkoka River, and Esplanade Bengkoka. Due to limited tourism facilities and lack of promotion, Pitas isn’t a popular destination.

Accommodation

Malubang Homestay is the only accommodation in Malubang Village. At the edge of Malubang, the lodge is a longhouse style accommodation with 6 Rooms. The rate is MYR40 to MYR50 (about USD$10 to 12.50) per room per night. It could be fully booked during peak season such as school holiday.

Malubang Village, the Malubang Homestay is under the yellow pointer

Malubang Homestay is the blue building under the yellow pointer

Rooms of Malubang Homestay

Rooms of Malubang Homestay

Each room is big enough to fit a group of 3 to 4 people, and it comes with attached bathroom cum toilet, beds, and fan. You can cook in common kitchen area, but you need to bring your own cooking utensils.

food served in Malubang Homestay

What we ate in Malubang Homestay

Please note there is no restaurant in the village. You can request the lodge to prepare the meals for you (Fee per head: Breakfast MYR4.00, Lunch MYR10.00, High Tea MYR2.00 and Dinner MYR10.00).

Enjoy meals with sea view

Enjoy meals with sea view

Everything in this lodge is basic. Power supply is only available from 6pm to 6am (by power generator), which provide lighting and sufficient electricity to charge your phone and camera.

The view in front of Malubang Homestay

The view in front of Malubang Homestay

But hey, the nice sea view makes up for it, and beach is less than 20 Meters away. Some beach resorts want guests to pay thousands for such view. The little rocky island at the left is Bum-Bum with a half-completed jetty (lack of fund to finish).

Malubang Homestay and its beach

Malubang Homestay and its beach

There was no mosquito net in the room. To prevent mosquitoes eating me, I had to position the standing fan to point to my bed to blow those buggers away.

Malubang Homestay in Pitas

Malubang Homestay in Pitas

For booking, you can contact Mr. Moktar at cellphone: +60 19-8212597 (Whatsapp available). Moktar is Orang Sungai married with 5 kids. He starts the lodge in 2008. The GPS location of Malubang Homestay is 6.956184, 117.060140 (see Location Map). Moktar also can arrange the tour and boat transfer to visit the attractions nearby.

Crab feast, a treat by Moktar!

Seafood feast, a treat by Moktar!

Most guests are families from Pitas and Kota Marudu. Moktar will be happy to receive some international tourists. He understands that his lodge could be better, so he plans to improve his accommodation.

Fat crab with juicy meat

Fat crab with juicy meat

When we were ready to check-out, Moktar was missing in action for nearly an hour. Then he suddenly showed up and brought a covered plate, with mysterious smile on his face. He cooked us a big plate of yummy and steaming fresh crabs. Thank you Moktar! You are such a nice guy.

Sunset

Malubang Homestay is facing west, so you can enjoy watching giant yolk sinks into sea every day. I need not to say more.

Beautiful sunset at Malubang

Beautiful sunset at Malubang

Magic hour of Pitas

Magic hour of Pitas

After dusk, the brightest thing at night here is the city light of Kudat at the horizon. Power line hasn’t reached this village yet.

Fishing

You might think that this peaceful fishing village becomes even quieter after nightfall. Wrong. Many villagers, both young and old, are busy fishing at the jetties at night. FYI, Malubang Village is famous for fishing giant squid (Sotong Gergasi), which can weigh up to 6 Kilograms and abundant from Oct to Feb every year. Now I understand why every visitors brought a fishing rod.

Local anglers got busy after sunset

Local anglers got busy after sunset

Malubang is so lucky to have 3 jetties that extend a few hundreds Meters to the sea, so the people can fish anytime, even during low tide. I didn’t bring a fishing rod, so I was just busybody and check out what they caught. There were mainly stingray and fishes, some are over 2 Kg, quite big.

anglers and the caught

Many locals come to Malubang for fishing holiday during weekends

FYI, my Maxis mobile phone got one bar of signal at the end of the jetty, enough for me to check Whatsapps and emails.

Milky Way

It’s quite windy in the evening. I felt so relax laying on the platform of jetty and enjoyed the sea breeze. The sky was full of stars and shooting stars appeared almost every few minutes, some are quite big and last 4 or 5 seconds.

stargazing in Pitas

Pitas is a good place for stargazing

That’s crazy that by 7:30pm I already could see Milky Way spanned across the sky like a silver belt. I didn’t know Pitas is an excellent place for stargazing.

Kampung Pansuran

I also walked around Kampung Pansuran (Pansuran Village), a smaller fishing village about a stone’s throw from Malubang Village. Most residents there are Bajau Sama people.

View from Kampung Pansuran Village

View from Kampung Pansuran Village

Visit the water village of Kampung Pansuran

Visit the water village of Kampung Pansuran

The villagers there are also equally nice and friendly. They were busy with fish caught and dried some of them under the sun to make dried seafood.

A young fisherman in Kampung Pansuran Village

A young fisherman in Kampung Pansuran Village

Dried fishes on boardwalk of Kampung Pansuran Village

Dried fishes on boardwalk of Kampung Pansuran Village

They still use traditional fishing methods such as fishing net and fishing line. Pitas is famous for its dried seafood.

Dried stingrays and fishes

Dried stingrays and fishes

Talking about village life, you might visualize I become a shirtless muscle guy playing soccer and laugh with the local kids, a cliche scene common in many movies. No, I didn’t do that, LOL.

Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou)

To make sure I didn’t miss out any attraction near Malubang Village, Moktar took me to Bukit Mondou, a small hill only a few minutes drive from the village.

Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou) in Pitas

Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou) in Pitas

Though Bukit Mondou is the highest point in Malubang, it is less than 80 Meters high, and it took us less than 30 minutes to reach the top. The trail is mostly flat and not challenging at all.

Climbing Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou) in Pitas

Climbing Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou) in Pitas

However, the trail is not tourist-friendly and covered by long grasses. Please don’t go there alone.

view of Berungus from the top of Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou)

You can see Berungus from the top of Mondou Hill (Bukit Mondou)

The view on top of Bukit Mondou is nice, as you can see Supirak Island and have a panoramic view of Malubang and Marudu Bay.

How to get there

From Kota Kinabalu City (KK), you need to drive about 5 hours to reach Malubang Village. The first 3 hours drive from KK to Pitas town is on 140 KM of paved road in good condition. The last 60 KM further north from Pitas to Malubang Village will be a bumpy 2-hour ride on gravel road.

road trip from Pitas to Malubang Village

The distance from Pitas town to Malubang Village is about 60 KM

Therefore, you need 4-Wheel Drive to enter this remote place. Though small sedan such as Kancil also can make it, it’ll be a pain to move around the potholes, mud ponds and uneven surface. The GPS Coordinates of Kampung Malubang is 6.956184, 117.060140 (see Location Map).

Gravel road from Pitas town to Malubang Village

Gravel road from Pitas town to Malubang Village

It’s advisable you stop by Pitas town to have lunch and fill up the gas tank. For first timer, avoid to drive there at night because there is no street light along the way. Please also note that Uber and GrabCar aren’t available in Pitas district. Internet and mobile phone coverage are limited in most part of the journey.

Moktar pointing at Kudat town

Moktar pointing at Kudat town

Shopping for dried seafood (e.g. dried shrimps, salty fishes) in Pitas

Shopping for dried seafood (e.g. dried shrimps, salty fishes) in Pitas

Btw, one the way home, you may buy some dried seafood from the roadside stalls around Pitas, for great bargain.

Photos taken in Pitas, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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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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