Climbing Bukit Lugas (Lugas Hill) in Tambunan

Miss Tambunan
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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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