Category Archives: Mountains

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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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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