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Tour to Deramakot Forest, a Well-Managed Forest of Sabah

pig-tailed macaque

We can’t eat our cake, and have it too. At least this is how most environmentalists see logging, which usually means the end of world to wildlife and ecosystem in that forest. Deforestation is really a threat to flora and fauna of Borneo. However, we can’t totally ban logging, like we can’t simply stop fishing for the purpose of conservation. Though Sabah government phased out logging in 2007, lumbering is still an important economy activity. Even USA, Canada and New Zealand export log.

forest of Deramakot
Pic: misty logged forest in Deramakot

What if, we can harvest the timber in a sustainable manner that minimize the impact to our environment? Deramakot, one of the Sabah forest is able to achieve that through Reduced Impact Logging (RIL). This is a great news because 70% of Sabah forest is commercial forest that allows logging.

Nevertheless, many conservation solutions only sound good on paper, so it’s better we see the reality with our own eyes, and that’s my goal to visit Deramakot Forest Reserve organized by Aseh Tours.

Deramakot Forest Reserve

Deramakot is a 55,507-hectare (equivalent to 66,000 soccer fields or 555 Sq. Km) lowland forest located in middle of Sabah and north of upper Kinabatangan River. Deramakot is also the first tropical rainforest in the world to be certified as well-managed forest under FSC™ certification (Forest Stewardship Council).

rainforest and oil palm
Pic: oil palm plantation at the edge of forest reserve

To reach Deramakot, we drove 237 Km from Kota Kinabalu City (190 Km if from Sandakan City) on paved and gravel roads. After we entered the final 70 km of bumpy gravel road, we saw oil palm plantation and secondary forest along the way. We also passed by some tree nurseries, logging camps and forest replanting zones.

timber log for auction
We saw pile of logs from Deramakot ready for public auction to international and local buyers. Each log is marked with ID that can trace its exact location where it was harvested. These logs from Deramakot can generate an annual income of about US$4 millions for Sabah. Some buyers such as IKEA do offer premium prices (15% to 20% more) for certified logs as compared to uncertified logs.

group photo at gate of Deramakot forest reserve
Pic: group photo at entrance to Deramakot Forest. We saw two Black Hornbill there.

Visitors are required to get the permit from Sabah Forestry Department to enter Deramakot. They welcome tourists who are accompanied by experienced tour guide. Strictly no walk-in visitor. We drove through four security gates which guards the forests (i.e. Ulu Sapa Payau, Tangkulap and Deramakot) of Yayasan Sabah and Sabah Forestry Department.

funny signboard for forestry staffs
Pic: a funny signboard for forestry staffs, which says (translated), “Satan’s Notice, Stop and Read: 1. Going home early huh? 2. Want to go ‘Happy Happy’? 3. Absent from work? 4. If so, go to Hell!” LOL

driving to Deramakot forest
After the last gate, we entered the Deramakot Forest Reserve. We saw no more oil palm and the road condition was much better. It’s possible to access the bumpy and gravel road to Deramakot by sedan or saloon cars during dry season. The road can turn muddy after rain so 4WD is a safer choice.

wildlife crossing sign
Pic: Warning about wildlife crossing. Note Michael Jackson at the right. LOL

We would run into heavy truck or wildlife in forest road, so we moved at a slow speed of below 40 KM/H. While driving, our tour guide was also keeping an eyes on the forest for wildlife and birds. We saw Barking Deer (Kijang) and long-tailed macaques on the way.

Buaya Darat River
Pic: a funny signboard of “Playboy River” (Sungai Buaya Darat), more photos here. This river does have crocodile.

Night Safari

We were losing daylight but Deramakot base camp was still hour away, so we just slow down, turned on the spotlight of 4WD and did a dusk drive along the way. Most animals here are nocturnal and we spotted common palm civet and two leopard cats. I also saw Badger and Sambar Deers in next day.

night safari on 4WD
In fact, Deramakot is one of the few places in Borneo where all 5 Bornean cat species are found (namely, Sunda Clouded Leopard, Bornean Bay Cat, Marbled Cat, Flat-headed Cat and Leopard Cat). Leopard Cat is almost a guaranteed sighting, but other 4 cats are in very low density. Clouded Leopard and Bay Cat are endemic to Borneo and highly secretive, but NHK filming crew managed to capture the former cat.

orangutan on the tree
You have 50 to 60% chance of seeing orangutan in the wild at Deramakot. About 792 orangutans dwell in this forest (statistics 1999). Too bad I didn’t see any, but their presence is evidenced by their nests left on the trees.

female Sambar deer
Pic: female Sambar deer

Other potential sighting of wildlife in Deramakot includes Pygmy Elephants, Banteng (Tembadau), Sun Bear, Binturong, Flying Lemur, Gibbon, Reticulated Python, Porcupine, Pangolin and Wild Boar. Anyway, this is not a zoo and the animals here are quite elusive and not used to human presence, so you will need some luck.

Malay badger
In 2010, the world’s most endangered otter species hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) was “rediscovered” in Deramakot when everyone thought it had extincted. To me, it’s quite surprising that so many rare wildlife can be found in a logged forest. Deramakot is a relatively new nature destination, we would uncover more gems when more people explore this forest.

Deramakot Lodge

We arrived Deramakot around 7:30pm and check-in to Deramakot Lodge. Please note this is not a hotel so there is no hotel staff welcomes you with a phony smile. We just collected the key from forestry staff and we were on our own. Though the accommodation is basic and not tourist-oriented, it is clean and comfortable.

Deramakot Lodge
Pic: This is the chalet where we spent two nights. Each chalet has 3 rooms (2 units of Double bed room and 1 unit of Queen bed room) and a living room (no TV though). They even have ramp for wheel chair. There is an old resthouse with 3 bedrooms (2 units of Double bed room and 1 unit of Triple bed room) but it would be reconstructed.

room of Deramakot Lodge
Pic: One of the room in chalet, with fan and air-conditioning. Every room has an attached bathroom with hot shower. Blanket, pillow, towel, soap and shampoo are provided. Electricity is available 24×7. Wifi is available during weekdays and there is no phone network coverage. There are another two chalets nearby, which have dormitory bedrooms with bunk beds, you can see their photos in my photo album. The lodges can host a total of 31 people at a time.

crested serpent eagle at Deramakot Lodge
The chalet is near the forest edge so you would find wildlife foraging around. I saw long-tailed macaques, crested serpent eagle and flying lizard near my chalet.

insects gather at light
At night the light at our balcony became a magnet for hundred of moth, beetles, katydid, cicada, etc. You can look at this photo and count how many they are. They are just everywhere. I had to close the door fast before they flied into the house. The bug also attracted a Brown Wood Owl looking for easy meals near our building.

watching video on RIL
Pic: watching video about Reduced Impact Logging

There is no canteen, restaurant, shop and room service in the base camp, so you have to prepare your own food, or you can request the forestry staffs to provide food catering (for a fee) like what we did. We had rice, vegetables, chicken, fish and fruit for every meal (quite delicious). We were quite well-fed actually. After dinner, we were invited by Sabah Forestry Department to watch a video about Reduced Impact Logging in Deramakot.

Reduced Impact Logging (RIL)

Now you may wonder why wildlife can do so well in a logged forest. Reduced Impact Logging (RIL) is the answer, as you might have expected. RIL is a very big topic and someone can write a book to talk about it. I’ll only scratch the surface here. To learn more, you can visit website of Deramakot.

flowering dipterocarp tree
Conventional Logging is destructive. Basically, the loggers just bulldoze everything to make way, cut down all valuable timbers and leave a mess behind. This unsustainable method hurts the forest so much that it needs 50 to 80 years to regenerate.

In contrast, RIL employs different harvesting strategies that leave the forest mostly intact, to a level that it only takes 25 years to regenerate. Moreover, logged forest of RIL will be left to recover for 40 years before next harvest (felling cycle).

fruiting fig tree
Pic: fig fruit is an important food source for orangutan and hornbill

To be more friendly to wildlife habitat and ecology of a rainforest, RIL doesn’t cut fruit trees and small trees (less than 60cm in diameter). It also leaves buffer zone for riparian, steep slope, watershed, and other elements that keep the forest healthy and stable. Though the logged forest is degraded to some degrees, it still remains very livable for local flora and fauna.

orangutan nest on the tree
Pic: orangutan nest on the tree

RIL also reduces the soil damage by 50%. This is crucial because top soil contains Mycorrhizal fungi community that acts as a root extension for indigenous trees to absorb water and nutrients more efficiently. This measure promotes faster forest restoration and cut the cost of rehabilitation from RM5,000 to RM300 per hectare! Besides, silviculture and tree replanting are carried out to keep the forest in good shape. Auditors of FSC will come to check the forest regularly for re-certification (or revoke).

Dawn Drive & Morning Walk

Morning offers the best photography opportunity to capture beautiful view of misty rainforest. We waked up very early and started our exploration by 4WD around 5am. Deramakot Forest is lively during dawn. We heard the loud call of Bornean Gibbons and bird chirping everywhere. Unlike the muggy city, the air here is refreshing and cooling.

dawn drive
I didn’t see any large area of exposed soil (a bad characteristic of traditional logging practices). Deramakot Forest Reserve is divided into 135 compartments for sustainable forest management and lumbering. About 75% of Deramakot must remain undisturbed or closed to forest management activities at any given time.

morning walk in Deramakot forest
To enjoy the fresh and clean air, we decided to get out of our car and took a leisure morning walk. According to biophilia hypothesis, humans have a psychological need for greenery and contact with nature is a basic human need. That explains why a walk in the wood is always a pleasant experience.

misty forest of Deramakot
Deramakot is an excellent bird watching site. We spotted or heard Rhinocerous hornbill, Asian Paradise Flycatcher (twice!), Buff-necked woodpecker, whiskered tree swift, Black-headed bulbul, Blue-eared kingfisher, Oriental dwarf kingfisher, Crested Fireback, Changeable Hawk-eagle, Racket-tailed Drongo, Yellow and Black Broadbill, White-crowned shama, etc. Black & Crimson Pitta, Great argus pheasant, Bornean Bristlehead and 8 species of hornbill also live here. Our guide says the “feature” birds here are Helmeted Hornbill and Wreathed Hornbill.

breakfast in the forest
Then we picnic under a shelter. Deramakot isn’t a destination for mass tourism and we were the only tourists there. I really enjoyed the secluded moment.

Jungle Trekking

Near the basecamp there are two jungle trails for you to see the forest logged by both Conventional & RIL methods. Each trail is about 1 to 2 Km and takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour of hiking, they are quite well-maintained and not challenging (but watch out for a few slippery and steeper areas).

jungle trekking in Deramakot
During our visit, it was dry season so the forest floor was covered by layer of dry foliages. Only a few tiny leeches were around so I didn’t even bother to put on my anti-leech socks. Not many wildlife was found though. I heard the flapping of a few hornbills above the canopy.

big tree in Deramakot forest
The forest seemed like a young secondary forest in good quality. Though they were logged before, there are still many standing tall trees that provide plenty of shade. Sivilculture is also in place to remove other competing plants such as climbing vines and scrubs that hinder the growth of timbers.

Darah-Darah the bleeding tree
Pic: Darah-Darah (Myristicaceae), a tree that “bleeds”

Along the nature trail are rich variety of big and small trees labeled with interesting local names like Ghost Durian (Durio grandiflorusurat), Worm Eye Smooth Leaf (Parashorea malaanonan), Thin-skinned (Memecylon edule), Bitter-Bitter (Eurycoma longifolia). I hope they can use info-rich signages that tell visitors the special use / story of each plant. For example, the sap of Paliu tree (Antiaris toxicaria) is used in making poison dart.

tree resin
Pic: When burnt, this resin smells like the incense in Buddhist temple

I’m not a plant expert and only can tell you that there are many species of famous timbers such as Seraya (Shorea), Kapur (Dryobalanops) and Keruing (Dipterocarpus) in Deramakot.

Camera Traps

For some fun, we collected four camera traps that were deployed in different wildlife hotspots in Deramakot forest a few months ago. Normally the camera trap is strapped on tree trunk one Meter above ground and the batteries can last about 3 to 6 months.

collecting camera trap

road sign to Whitehouse
Two of the camera traps were near to the road to “Whitehouse”, which is a building painted in white and has nothing to do with US President, haha.

elephant dungs on the road
The gravel road to Whitehouse is narrow and bumpy. We saw a lot of elephant dungs on the road. Whenever our car turned at a tight corner, my heart would beat faster, imagined that our car would bump into an elephant face to face. That would be a scary but exciting moment, but we saw more dungs instead.

After driving 27 Km, we arrived Whitehouse and found the place was raid by elephants. The Whitehouse was attacked! Don’t worry, Obama wasn’t there.

water tank punctured by elephant
Pic: the water tank was punctured by elephant tusk. I have no idea why they were so mad. Probably these elephants are the members of Republican Party in US.

looking at photos from camera traps
Unfortunately, one of the camera traps was broken and another one was out of battery. We downloaded the photos from other camera and had fun looking at those cheeky selfie by monkey, palm civet and wild boar.

wildlife captured on camera trap
Pic: wildlife captured on camera trap

Camera trap is a useful tool to monitor the number and types of wildlife. The shot is in color if taken during daytime, black & white if shot by infrared at night. The most commonly captured animals are mouse deer, barking deer, macaque and wild boar.

Going to Deramakot

Deramakot is a unique destination because it’s an eye-opening experience for tourists to witness the abundance of wildlife in a logged but well-managed forest. The positive news is the model of Deramakot will be implemented in 81% of other commercial forest (a total area of 1.8 million ha). Uncontrolled and unsustainable timber exploitation will become history.

junction to Deramakot Forest Reserve
Pic: Junction to Deramakot (another 70 KM on gravel road)

To enter Deramakot Forest, you need to write to Director of Sabah Forestry Department to apply for entry permit for yourself and your vehicle (fees apply). However, for safety concern, it’s quite likely that they will reject your application if you visit Deramakot without guiding by travel agent or tour guide. I think the last thing they want to hear is some clueless tourists being gored by a wild elephant or lose in jungle.

Therefore, I advise you to book a tour package to Deramakot through Aseh Tours. They will arrange everything for you, from permit, 4WD transport, food, accommodation to guide services. The fee is between RM2,000 to RM3,000 per person (for a 3 or 4 day trip).

Below are the contact of Sabah Forestry Department:

Sabah Forestry Department (HQ)

Address: Locked Bag 68, 90009, Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 89-242500
Fax: +60 89-671303 / 672579 / 669170
Website: www.forest.sabah.gov.my
Facebook: SabahForestryDepartment

Deramakot District Forestry Office

Tel: +60 89-278801
Website: www.deramakot.sabah.gov.my

more photos of Deramakot Forest Reserve
For more photos of Deramakot, please check out my photo album.

Photos taken in Tongod, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Loop Trail of Mt. Kinabalu, the Best Hiking Route of Sabah

Loop trail of Mt. Kinabalu

(Update: Mesilau Trail is permanently closed, and day hike to both Timpohon and Mesilau trails is no longer allowed) The space to climb Mt. Kinabalu is always full, so many tourists don’t have the chance to climb the highest mountain of Malaysia. Don’t be disappointed if you are one of them, because you still can try Loop Trail, which allows you to hike up to 2,745 Meters asl (asl = Above Sea Level), about half the height of Mt. Kinabalu (4,095M). The height of Mt. Kinabalu is not the reason why it’s listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The real treasure of Kinabalu Park is its high density of endemic flora & fauna, which you can see along the Loop Trail. I would say it’s one of the Best Hiking Trails in Malaysia.

The Loop Trail

Loop Trail is a day-trip easy to arrange and you won’t be under pressure to conquer the mountain. You only need to hire a Mountain Guide and pay a small fee. More on this later. Please note the Loop Trail (in orange color) in the 2D trail map below:
Loop trail map of Mount Kinabalu
You can pick one of the starting points for Loop Trail, namely, Timpohon Gate and Mesilau Gate, and both trails join at Layang-Layang after 4 KM (2.5 Miles) and 6.2 KM (3.9 Miles) respectively. At Layang-Layang, Loop Trail visitors have two options, (1) turn back to where they begin, or (2) proceed to another Gate. Loop Trail visitors are forbidden to take the Summit Trail after Layang-Layang, and no, you can’t camp in the shelter.

Timpohon Vs. Mesilau Trails

Timpohon Trail is shorter and easier, Mesilau Trail is longer but the view along this trail is more beautiful (EVERYONE says that). Timpohon Trail is mostly uphill trail so descending is fast and easy. In contrast, Mesilau Trail is a series of ascending and descending trails, so turning back is almost as challenging as going up. Anyway, it’s not mandatory to finish the loop trail. You are free to stop at any time and head home.

Below is a table that shows you 3 types of route you can do in Loop Trail:

Route Distance Remark
Timpohon Gate → Layang-Layang → Timpohon Gate 8KM (5 Miles) The Easiest route, take 3 to 5 hours.
Mesilau Gate → Layang-Layang → Timpohon Gate 10.2KM (6.34 Miles) Recommended route to get the most of Loop Trail. Take 5 to 7 hours. Tip: start the climb from Mesilau in the morning, for clear view of Mt. Kinabalu (would be covered by fog after 9am)
Mesilau Gate → Layang-Layang → Mesilau Gate 12.4KM (7.7 Miles) Hardest route. May need over 7 hours. You have to be very fit. Some trail runners do this loop as a training.

*The number of hours taken is highly dependent on your physical fitness.

Though Loop Trail ends at the altitude of 2,745 M (9,006 feet), you already reach a height taller than the second and third highest mountains of Malaysia, i.e. Mt. Trus Madi (2,642M) and Mt. Tambuyukon (2,579M)! Overall, along the trail there are shelters with toilet, water tank to refill water (it’s untreated water from mountain stream, use water purification tablet if you have sensitive stomach) and support such as stairway, hand rail and wooden plank. The trail is well-marked and there is no leech (a blood sucking critter), bear and Bigfoot.

view of forest

Things to Do

Besides hiking, the following are some fun activities to keep yourselves entertained during the walk:

  • Birdwatching: 17 endemic montane birds of Borneo live in Kinabalu Park, e.g. Chestnut-hooded Laughing Thrush, Friendly Bush Warbler
  • Flora & Fauna Watching: you will find exotic orchids and pitcher plant next to the trail. Some plant may look ordinary but they can’t be found in other parts of the world. Don’t pluck or collect anything. It’s an offense in national park.
  • Photography: The majestic landscape, lush forest, pretty flowers, etc. are good subjects for photo taking.
  • Or just sit and watch, enjoy the nature. A few squirrels will come near to you.

Temperature drops every 1°C for every ascending of 100M, so it’s cooler the more you move up. The temperature ranges from 16 to 25°C (61-77°F), but it can be quite warm in daytime, especially in a vigorous walk. Be warned though, the trail would turn into creek during heavy rain and the experience could be quite awful.

Registration and Fees

The climbing fee for Loop Trail is RM5 for Malaysian and RM10 (≈US$3) for foreigner. You MUST hire a Mountain Guide (from Sabah Parks) to go with you. The service of a Mountain Guide costs RM203 (≈US$57, rate of year 2015) per day and he can bring up to 6 climbers, which means you can share the guide fee with other hikers. For example, there is a group of 6 foreigners, each of them needs to pay RM10 climbing fee and share the cost (about RM34) of hiring one Mountain Guide, so each person only spends RM44 (≈US$12.22). If you go solo, you still have to pay the full amount.

visitor pass for loop trail trip
Pic: This is the tag (permit) for Loop Trail visitor. The tag for Summit Climber has photo of Mt. Kinabalu imprinted.

Kinabalu Park HQ
Pic: Kinabalu Park HQ. The registration and payment counter is behind this building, and you can hire transport to Timpohon Gate in the small office at the left.

If you start your Loop Trail from Timpohon Gate, you can register and hire your Mountain Guide at Kinabalu Park HQ. Passport or MyKad is required for the registration. Please note Timpohon Gate is 3.4 KM (2.1 Mile) away from Kinabalu Park HQ (by asphalt road) so you may want to hire a (one-way or return) transport to send you there. The phone number of Kinabalu Park HQ is +60 88-889888 in case you have more questions.

Mesilau - Kinabalu Park
Pic: Mesilau Gate and Sabah Parks are in Mesilau Nature Resort

If you plan to depart from Mesilau Gate, you better inform the Sabah Parks office there by phone (+60 88-871550) so your Mountain Guide will wait for you at Mesilau (as most of them stations in park HQ).

For those who can afford to pay more for a better experience, you may hire tour guide (from travel agent, someone who has good knowledge on flora & fauna). Please note all payment is by Cash Only.

Below are some photo walk-through so you know what to expect.

Timpohon Gate → Layang-Layang (4KM one way)

Timpohon Gate is the trailhead for Timpohon Trail, which is busier and shorter than Mesilau Trail. You will see many climbers start their summit trail here. Porters also use this path to carry supplies (e.g. tourist’s luggage, rice bag, gas tank, water tank) to the accommodation on mountain.

Pondok Timpohon
Pic: Timpohon Gate. You can buy snacks, drink and basic supplies (e.g. raincoat) in the building.

check point of Timpohon Gate
Pic: You need to show your tag (permit) to the Checkpoint at the left, before you hit the trail.

Carson Waterfall
After 300M, you will see Carson Waterfall at your left. If you see large volume of water, it might be raining in higher ground.

Kandis Shelter
Pic: the first shelter you will reach is Pondok Kandis (Pondok = Shelter), which is named after an edible but sour mangosteen (in Dusun language). At 1,981.7M asl, you are in the transition zone between lowland rainforest and montane cloud forest, where you start to see mosses, ferns, orchids, etc. Most of the time you will walk on the ground mainly consists of metamorphic rocks from here to Mempening Shelter.

Ubah Shelter
Pic: Ubah Shelter, the 2nd shelter at 2,081.4M asl, it’s named after wild guava tree. The signage says red leaf monkey could be spotted around there, but I never see one.

nature trail of Kinabalu Park
You can enjoy the scenery better than other climbers as you are not in a hurry to conquer the mountain. Just relax and enjoy the beautiful surrounding.

Lowii Shelter
Pic: 3rd Shelter, Lowii Shelter at 2,267.4M asl, which is named after Nepenthes lowii pitcher plant. You would see some pitcher plant such as Nepenthes tentaculata if you explore the bush next to this shelter.

distance marker along the trail
Pic: distance marker (in Kilometer) and trail map to show your current location.

Mempening Shelter
Pic: Mempening Shelter (2,515M asl), named after a species of Oak (family Fagaceae). In this shelter, you will hear many climbers start mumbling about the exhausting hike. You can tell them they are not even half way yet LOL.

mossy montane forest
At this point, you have entered the Montane Forest (Cloud Forest) above 2,500M, the surrounding will look misty and mossy, and so distinctly different from vegetation in lowland.

giant earthworm of Kinabalu Park
Pic: To survive the long trek, you have to to eat whatever you find along the trail, like the giant earthworm that comes out after heavy rain. Just kidding. If you are very lucky, you will spot Kinabalu Giant Leech, the predator of giant earthworm.

Layang-Layang Hut
Pic: The last shelter of Timpohon Trail, Layang-Layang Shelter at 2,702M asl, it’s named after a Bornean swiftlet (Collocalia dodgei). This is also where ultrabasic forest begins, which is made up of orange soil that is high in acidity, with high concentration of magnesium and zinc while low in phosphorus. You will see a lot of endemic plant from now on. Unfortunately, you will reach Layang-Layang junction within 10 minutes, where you need to turn back to Timpohon Gate or proceed to Mesilau Gate.

Mesilau Gate → Layang-Layang (6.2KM one way)

Mesilau Gate is 1,933M asl and located in Mesilau Nature Resort. This trail is longer and more challenging than Timpohon Trail, but you will be paid off by nicer view. Only a small number of climbers taking this trail to the summit, so it’s more pristine. The trail is also narrower and not that well labeled. A few sections are steep and slippery (after rain). You will be fine if you are careful.

Mesilau Nature Resort
Pic: Sabah Parks office and Mesilau Gate in Mesilau Nature Resort

Sabah Parks office in Mesilau
Pic: the registration and payment office is just next to Mesilau Gate

summit trail from Mesilau
Pic: start of Mesilau Trail. Enjoy the 6.2 KM hike!

mountain in fog
Pic: mountain and forest in fog

I only tried Mesilau Trail once and it was raining. It was so misty that I wasn’t able to take some good photos to show you. Please believe me that the scenery along Mesilau Trail is better than Timpohon Trail.

Schima Shelter
Pic: Schima Shelter, the 1st Shelter.

Bambu Shelter
Pic: Bambu Shelter, the 2nd shelter.

In average, there is one shelter for every one KM. All the shelters on Mesilau Trail are smaller and less developed than those on Timophon Trail.

bridge over West Mesilau River
Pic: bridge over West Mesilau River

Tikalod Shelter
Pic: Tikalod Shelter

trail marker
Pic: Don’t ask your guide how many KM left. You will always get the same answer, “We are near”. Read the distance marker.

Lompoyou Shelter
Pic: Lompoyou Shelter

nature trail in the forest
Pic: There are some viewpoints in open area. Too bad the view was obstructed by dense fog during my visit.

Magnolia Shelter
Pic: Magnolia Shelter

After 6KM, you will reach the Layang-Layang junction, where you should descend to Timpohon Gate or turn back to Mesilau Gate.


Layang-Layang is the meeting point of Timpohon and Mesilau Trails. The summit trail beyond this junction is off limit for Loop Trail visitors.

Layang-Layang Staff Quarters
Pic: Layang-Layang Shelter (left) and Staff Quarters

warning notice
Pic: warning to visitors without permit.

Layang-Layang Shelter
Pic: Layang-Layang Shelter. The Layang-Layang junction is less than 10-minute walk further up.

meeting point of Timpohon and Mesilau Trail
Pic: Layang-Layang junction

notice to non-summit climbers
Pic: final warning to climbers at Layang-Layang junction. You are not allowed to move further up if you don’t have the permit to climb Mt. Kinabalu.

signage at Layang-Layang junction
Pic: signage at Layang-Layang junction (Laban Rata and Gunting Lagadan Hut are the accommodation on the mountain)

Things to Bring

The following is a list of items you should bring. Try to pack light. When you climb a mountain, you can feel every Kilo of the weight. Also, wearing comfortable hiking shoes will help a lot (best if it’s water-proof).

  • Backpack (preferably with rain cover)
  • Water bottle (with water of course)
  • Pack lunch and snacks (no restaurant available on the trail)
  • Fleece or Windbreaker (It can be cold when it’s windy)
  • Raincoat (a Must-Have)
  • Sunblock lotion (UV on mountain is higher)
  • Walking pole
  • Camera (with spare batteries & memory cards)
  • Extra socks
  • Pain killer (for altitude sickness or knee problem)
  • Torchlight or LED Headlamp (just in case the sky turns dark before your trip ends)
  • Cash

Photos taken on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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