Sulphurous springs (Tawau Hills Park)

Every Sabahans know Poring Hot Springs, but few know that Tawau also has hot springs, in fact, more. The least famous and most beautiful springs hide deep inside Tawau Hills Park. In 2006, I tried to go there but the heavy rain overflew the river and cut off the trail.


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However, the idea of exploring Tawau sulphurous springs was always on my mind. Finally I made up my mind and went to Tawau Hills Park early this month. In the park, you only need to walk about 3.2 KM by following the “Kolam Air Panas” trail, which will be a jungle trekking for about an hour. Since I walked very slow to enjoy and photograph around, it took me 3 hours to get there. Later I will blog about the interesting creatures and plant I saw on the way. When you see the suspension bridge at 1.5 KM, you are halfway done then. Just follow the signage to proceed.


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When I saw the “KAP 0 MTR” (Kolam Air Panas 0 Metre), I thought I had reached the hot spring and I smelled something like rotten egg (sulphur) in the air.


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But I only saw a river looked like photo above. It was a bit different from the beautiful hot spring photo I saw on the leaflet, though this site had a big rock too.


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Probably I needed to go further. But very soon there was no trail and signage for me to proceed, seemed like I had reached the end.


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Not sure if this was the site, I walked around and saw something like a sulphur pond. Well, quite a big disappointment, I guessed perhaps it was not the right season. I snapped a few photos and didn’t stay long. When I returned to the park and showed the photos to the park guide. He said there was not a hot spring! I was really pissed off and almost shouted why there was no trail and signage. He kept on denying that’s their fault and insisted the trail and signage were there, making me more angry. May be it has been a long time the park didn’t check the condition.


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Anyway, I had to go back again in second day, as it was late. On the second day, I came back to look for the trail and it was really not there. Luckily I knew the hot spring was along the river, so I tried to walk further up along the river. Finally I found the hot spring was only about 200 Metres away, but that took me more than half an hour to walk through the dense wood and hilly landscape. You know it is the right place if you see it, as it looks so beautiful and different. I never saw anything like this.


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First thing you will see is the “snowy white” stream from the sulphurous spring. The white color is the result of sulphur sticking and deposited in the stones and river for long period of time. It is so unreal and pretty. Compared to crowded and commercialised Poring hot springs, this spring is unspoiled and so pristine.


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“Wow!” was my only response. I was excited and explored around. In the flowing water, I saw hair-like sulphur threads. They moved with the current, like water weed.


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The water in sulphurous spring is crystal clear with cyan color due to the minerals, a calm and shallow pool under a mass body of silicified rock.


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The sulphur deposit blankets in the calm water is in cotton-like shape.


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Most photos you see here would be the only collection on the Internet. Before I came, I searched the Net and didn’t find many photos, so I was surprised by what I saw.


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I grabbed a small pieces of the sulphur deposit to take a closer look. It is very soft like semi-liquid jelly, like a small amount of sulphur particles being held loosely by water.


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Another angle of the spring. The water is calm and shallow. I would like to take a dip but I didn’t want to stir up the bottom and destroy the look. I photographed around happily. The locals believe the spring water can cure skin diseases.


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There were some yellowish sulphur foam floated on the water. It is something creamy and sticky when touched.


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Above the spring is a mass body of silicified rock, with a few trees grow on its thin layer of soil on top. I don’t know what you think it looks like. I felt that it was “staring” at me, a bit scary…


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See the bubbles and stirred sand above? An evidence that thermal process is still active. The fart smell is from the conversion of dissolved sulphur in water to H2S by anaerobic bacterial activity, which suggests the water is from deep underground.


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Very little is known about this sulphurous spring. In fact, I dug the library to find out some information for writing this blog. People should learn more about this attraction and promote it as a geotourism site.


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There was no fish in the spring but I saw some unknown small bugs, with many legs, swam in this acidic spring (pH 3.68-4.10). Anyone knows what they are?


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The sulphur in the stream turns boulders and stones in the water into white colour (sulphur-coated boulders).


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The water is lukewarm (25-30 C) because it mixes with the river water (That is why I do not call it a hot spring). The scientists say the chemicals from the sulphur spring has very minor effect to the river so it won’t pollute the water.


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Moving further up along the river and you will see other sulphurous springs.


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Here is another sulphurous spring at the river. You can tell easily from the sulphur-coated stones.


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There are about 10 sulphurous springs along this 100 Meter stretch of river, but they are smaller and less impressive than the first one. I hope you are impressed. In future I will blog about the real “hot” springs of Tawau.

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