Category Archives: Sabah

Climbing Mount Nombuyukon (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 panoromic view of rolling mountain range. Then I noticed Mt. Nombuyukon (Gunung Nombuyukon), 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 Nombuyukon Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

View of Nombuyukon Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

Compared to Mt. Tambuyukon (2,579M), Mt. Nombuyukon’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 Nombuyukon anyway.

View of Mount Nombuyukon behind the chalet in Serinsim park

View of Mount Nombuyukon behind the chalet in Serinsim park

Managed by Sabah Parks, Mt. Nombuyukon 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 Nombuyukon in one trip.

Summary of Mt. Nombuyukon

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. Nombuyukon in the cloud

Peak of Mt. Nombuyukon 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 Nombuyukon

Trail Map of Mount Nombuyukon

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. Nombuyukon

Junction to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukon 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. Nombuyukon is a mini version of Mt. Tambuyukon. Whatever hardship you experience in climbing Mt. Nombuyukon, 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. Nombuyukon 6.5 KM away

The peak of Mt. Nombuyukon 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 Nombuyukon

Second junction to Mount Nombuyukon

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. Nombuyukon

Approaching the summit

summit of Mount Nombuyukon

It’s me on the summit of Mount Nombuyukon

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

signage on top of Mt. Nombuyukon

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. Nombuyukon

View from the peak of Mt. Nombuyukon

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 to you.

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukon

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukon

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)

If 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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Bat Cave of Serinsim: Home of Thousands Worm

Climbing to the cave

Whenever you see people go caving in a movie, you know something terribly wrong is gonna to happen next. Soon they would find some skeletons laying around, then they become the dinner of some unknown monster, or accidentally awaken a thousand-year-old demon. To most, cave is a dark and hideous world full of creepy and creeping dwellers.

going to Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

Hendrick is my guide who took me to Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

On the other hand, exploring cave is thrilling to the adventurous hearts, as one may expect to find treasure inside. Well, you can make a fortune from saliva and dung. I meant the edible bird nest (US$2,000 per Kg) and guano fertilizer (good quality as it’s rich in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium), which are the real treasure from a cave. To me, whether it’s a monster or Batman inside, cave is always a mysterious place that draws me.

Dense rainforest of Serinsim Park

Dense rainforest of Serinsim Park

In Sabah, only a handful of caves are really huge, for example, Gomantong, Madai, and Japanese War Tunnel. Most other so-called caves listed in tourism brochure are more like crevices between boulders less than 20 Meters deep, with some smelly guano, noisy bats and stinky cockroaches that wait to be screamed at.

Therefore, at first I didn’t expect much from the Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar) in Serinsim Park (in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia). When I checked it out, I was really excited to see something new and special. And for the first time, the video of this cave is available online.

Going to Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar)

Gua Kelawar (translated as Bat Cave) is located in Serinsim Park (or Sorinsim), a substation at the north of Kinabalu Park about 130 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City (KK). In the park, you need to walk 5.5 Kilometers (one way) on a jungle trail to reach the cave, and you must be escorted by a guide. You can request Sabah Parks (management of Serinsim) to get you a guide. The guide fee is MYR60 (about USD$15), you can hire one guide for your group and share the cost among yourselves.

Guide clearing the trail

Guide clearing the trail

A round trip is 11 KM in distance. FYI, I departed around 7:30am and arrived the cave about 11:30am. You better go in the morning, so you can come back before nightfall. Do bring water, packed lunch and raincoat with you. Dry bag is optional but good to have because you will cross two rivers. Hendrick is my guide. Though he looks very serious in my photos, he is really friendly and helpful.

Genat, a friendly village dog wanted to follow us but stopped by a river

Genat, a friendly village dog wanted to follow us but stopped by a river

A village dog named Genat (means flash or lightning in Dusun language) was following us. Genat was always running 10 Meters in front of us. He would stop and wait if we were too slow. Sometimes he would go missing in action, then suddenly pop out of the wood next to us. According to Hendrick, Genat had followed the tourists to the peak of Mt. Nombuyukon (Height: 5,550 feet!) a few times. Sadly, after 3 KM, he was stopped by a river. After barking at the river for a few minutes, he headed back to village in disappointment, poor dog…

Interesting plant in jungle

Interesting plant in jungle

The jungle trekking is not so tough. The first 3 KM is mostly flat area, with some short walk on gentle slopes, followed by a walk on undulating terrain for the last 2.5 KM. Blood sucking leeches are present in this warm and humid rainforest, so you better wear a leech socks. I saw some interesting mushroom and plant along the way, and happy to see two hornbills flied over the canopy.

Different type of fungi in Serinsim Park

Different type of fungi I saw. Note the mushroom at upper left is like having a drop of blood on it.

Hendrick is a very responsible guide who has been guiding tourists since 2006. I’m sure whatever shit happens to me, he will make sure I go back in one piece. He is 44 years old and a Dusun lives in Serinsim Village.

Crossing the Serinsim River

Crossing the Serinsim River

We had to cross a few streams and two rivers. One of the streams is called Thomas River, because a white man missionary died there during World War II. The rivers are about 2 to 3 feet deep (Be careful of the uneven depth). To avoid getting wet, I crossed with my underwear only lol.

Bull eye fungus (edible)

Bull eye fungus (edible). Some local girls use its “jello” as hair conditioner or facial mask

After we crossed the second river named Sungai Serinsim Gibang, Bat cave is only 200 Meters away.

Outside the Cave

As we were approaching the Bat Cave, I could smell the ammonia of the guano. This is a bat zone, evidenced by their dropping on the vegetation.

Mushroom near the Bat Cave

Mushroom near the Bat Cave

Interesting rock formation near the cave

Interesting rock formation near the cave

Then we saw a beautiful rocky knoll, which is about 20 Meters high and mainly constituted by dark colored conglomerate.

Rock wall that looks like man-made structure

Rock wall that looks like man-made structure

Dark rock wall before the Bat Cave

Bat Cave is behind this dark rock wall

My first impression of that knoll is – it looks like a rock castle of a vampire, and something belong to another world.

Begonia at cave area

Begonia at cave area

Though I was near to Bat Cave, I was so enticed by the peculiar surrounding, so I spent more time around to explore more. The cave area is a flourishing zone for begonia. More than 190 species of begonia are found in Borneo and more than half are endemic species.

A small cave outside Bat cave

A small cave outside Bat cave

Colorized rocks in a small cave

Colorized rocks in a small cave

Probably due to some chemical reaction, the bat dropping “dyed” some rocks into green, orange and purple colors.

Rock wall outside Bat cave

Rock wall outside Bat cave

Mold-like substance on the rocks

Mold-like substance on the rocks

Some rocks seem to have mold growing on them and turn whitish.

The spot where the rebel Sigunting slept

The spot where the rebels slept

More than a hundred years ago, this place was one of the hiding places of Sigunting and his followers, a guerilla group who rebelled against the British colonial government.

Exploring the Bat Cave

The entrance to Bat Cave is about 12 Meters above the ground and doesn’t look inviting. Frankly I was a bit scared because I had 0 info about this cave, and didn’t know what was waiting for me inside.

Climbing to the cave

Climbing to the cave

Hendrick and I climbed over some boulders with bare hands and came to a 15-feet aluminium ladder that led to the opening of the cave. The aluminium ladder was covered with mud and probably bat shit, quite disgusting, but I didn’t plan to flinch once I started.

Hendrick standing at the entrance of Bat Cave

Hendrick standing at the entrance of Bat Cave

The smell of guano got stronger, and from the loud volume, I could tell there were a lot of bats in the cave.

Narrow passage to Bat Cave

Narrow passage to Bat Cave

After I climbed up the ladder, in front of me is a narrow passage that is only 4 to 7 feet wide, enough to cause some panic attack to those with claustrophobia (Fear of Confined Spaces).

Near the entrance of Bat Cave

Near the entrance of Bat Cave

I entered the tunnel. It’s quite steep, with 30 to 50 degree of slope. I moved up slowly on pile after pile of rocks with uneven surface, and had to use the rock wall as support. Hendrick was about 10 feet behind me. I worried some loose rocks would be freed by my footsteps and hit his face, so I asked him to stay closer.

Earthworms crawling everywhere

Earthworms crawling everywhere

Even though it wasn’t raining outside, the cave was really wet with water dripping from the top. Thanks God we reached a relatively flat and wider area after 25 Meters. It gets really dark and dingy, so I turned on my torchlight, then I noticed something like snake crawling next to my foot.

Earthworms all over the cave

Earthworms all over the cave

It’s a… no, thousands of big and long earthworms everywhere! Most of them are over one foot long, with disgusting red segment rings. Aren’t earthworms living underground? I can’t explain why they lay around on exposed rocks from the ground to the wall as high as 10 feet.

Big earthworms in Bat Cave

Big earthworms in Bat Cave

There were some cockroaches ran away from my light. Compare to earthworms, they are like a minority in this cave.

Cockroaches lurking in the dark

Cockroaches lurking in the dark

My spidey sense kept pressing me to leave the cave, but I ignored my tingling goosebumps and moved further in and faced another steep climb.

Deep layer of guano

Deep layer of guano

When I looked up and pointed the light to the top, Oh-My-Gosh, I saw a dense dark cloud of restless hanging bats. Their echolocate may have detected intruders, so they jittered. The deeper I went in, the more intense and louder the bat screeching, it’s getting almost unbearable. I knew for sure that I was not welcomed.

Bat dropping on the ground

Bat dropping on the ground

Thousands of bats in the cave

Bat tornado on top of my head

Suddenly they all took off and flied in panic. It’s like turning on a giant fan and create a strong turbulence of air in the cave (I’m not exaggerating here). My heart was thumping like crazy.

Rock wall of Bat Cave

Rock wall of Bat Cave

I didn’t see any stalagmites and stalactites, so this is not a limestone cave I guess. After walking for another 20 Meters, we came to an edge of a 10-feet drop to a trench filled with guano. I could see light at other end of the cave. I estimate this cave is about 200 Meters long.

Guano pool near the end of cave

Guano pool near the end of cave

I had no idea how deep is the guano pool, so I better didn’t try to walk over it for the sake of safety.

Deep inside the Bat Cave

Deep inside the Bat Cave

Hendrick says I’m the first tourist who goes inside Bat Cave. I would not recommend you to try this, as it carries some risk. It is not a touristy cave which have boardwalk for you to explore the cave illuminated by colorful light. If you really want to explore, bring a very powerful torchlight or LED headlamp.

Yellow bat dropping, brown dirt stain and red blood stain (leech bite) on my pants

Yellow bat dropping, brown mud stain and red blood stain (leech bite) on my pants

My body is full of stains of bat dropping, mud and leech bites. This is the filthiest trip that I have experienced so far, but fun.

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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