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Guide to Climbing Mt. Trusmadi (Mt. Trus Madi)

Mount Trusmadi

Mount Trus Madi (or Mt. Trusmadi) is the second highest mountain (2,642 Meters or 8,668 ft) of Malaysia. Albeit 1,453 Meters lower than Mount Kinabalu (4,095 Meters), climbing Mt. Trusmadi is more challenging, so it offers a thrilling experience for adventure seekers. Many tourists who have conquered Mt. Kinabalu are also keen to give it a try. If you are physically fit and exercise regularly, you would find Mt. Trus Madi is very climbable even though the trail is less tourist-friendly.

The peaks of Mt. Trus Madi

The peaks of Mt. Trus Madi

The facilities of Trusmadi have improved tremendously in past few years (especially the Tambunan side), so it has become a hot destination. Mt. Trus Madi is located in Trus Madi Forest Reserve (Code: FMU-10 = Forest Management Unit No.10), so you need to apply entry permit from Sabah Forestry Department for the climb. This article provides the most complete and updated information to help you planning the climb.

Overview of 3 Summit Trails to Mt. Trus Madi

Climbing Mt. Trus Madi can be done in 2 to 4 days, depends on the trail you pick. There are three summit trails that lead to the highest peak of Mt. Trus Madi, i.e.:

  1. Kaingaran Trail in Tambunan
  2. Mannan Trail in Keningau
  3. Mastan Trail in Sook
Location map of Mt. Trus Madi & starting points of 3 summit trails

Location map of Mt. Trus Madi & starting points of 3 summit trails

These trails have different climbing distance, starting point, road accessibility, level of difficulty and facilities on the mountain. Picking the trail is your first step to plan the climb. Kaingaran Trail (Tambunan) is the most popular choice because its climbing distance is shorter (4.9 KM) and the facilities are the most developed. Mannan Trail (Keningau) is the second best choice. Though the climb takes 4 days, the view along the trail is more beautiful and you don’t need a 4-Wheel Drive.

The following table is a comparison of three trails (can click to enlarge):

Table: Comparison of 3 summit trails to Mt. Trus Madi

Table: Comparison of 3 summit trails to Mt. Trus Madi

Since these three summit trails are connected to one another on the summit, you also can choose to ascend and descend to different points for more fun. For example, you can climb up the mountain via Kaingaran Trail from Tambunan, but climb down via Mannan Trail to Keningau, if you are able to arrange your return transport waits at other end.

Below are more detail reviews of three summit trails to Mt. Trusmadi:

1. Kaingaran Trail

Kaingaran Trail is the oldest and most developed trail. I climbed Mt. Trus Madi via this trail in year 2010. However, the climb is much more enjoyable and easier nowadays because of upgraded trail and accommodation.

Kaingaran Trail of Tambunan

Kaingaran Trail of Tambunan

Climbing Distance: 4.9 KM (require 2 day 1 night)
Location: Tambunan District
Starting Point: 27 Km (2.5 hours drive) from Tambunan Town (mainly gravel road. The last 6 KM road trip needs 4-Wheel Drive)
Accommodation: Mirad Irad Base Camp (foothill), Rest House (at 2.9 KM of mountain trail)

Mirad Irad Base Camp of Mt. Trus Madi in Tambunan

Mirad Irad Base Camp of Mt. Trus Madi in Tambunan

You can spend one extra night at Mirad Irad Base Camp of Mt. Trus Madi (7 KM before starting point (20 min drive) and 900 Meters above sea level), if you want to start your climb very early in next morning. The accommodation at Base Camp can accommodate 24 people, and camping (Fee: RM10) is allowed. The room rate is RM20 per night per person. Please note you MUST book 1 month in advance.

Starting point in Tambunan (Kaingaran Trail)

Taman Kitingan: Starting point in Tambunan (Kaingaran Trail)

If you start your climb on day 1 from Kota Kinabalu City (KK), you need to drive about 4 hours from KK to starting point in Tambunan, very likely you will start your climb around noon, which is kind of late. That’s why some climbers prefer to stay an extra night in Mirad Irad Base camp or hotel in Tambunan.

Plank walk & boardwalk in summit trail at Tambunan (Kaingaran Trail)

Plank walk & boardwalk in summit trail at Tambunan (Kaingaran Trail)

The first 3 KM of Kaingaran Trail is boardwalk. It’s leech-free and makes climbing more like hiking.

Taliban Point of Mt. Trus Madi

Taliban Point, which is named after OKK Taliban, the 1st native chief of Tambunan and has nothing to do with terrorist.

Toilet in summit trail to Mt. Trus Madi

Toilet in summit trail to Mt. Trus Madi

One of the shelters in Kaingaran Trail (Tambunan)

One of the shelters in Kaingaran Trail (Tambunan)

Summit trail to Mt. Trus Madi (Kaingaran Trail, Tambunan)

Summit trail to Mt. Trus Madi (Kaingaran Trail, Tambunan)

Mt. Trus Madi Rest House (only available for Kaingaran Trail)

There is only one accommodation on Mt. Trus Madi and about 2.9 KM away from the summit. The Rest House has 5 rooms, each with 4 bunk beds, and able to host 20 people at a time. The fee per person is RM20-RM100 per night per bed. The amenities are quite basic, water supply and lighting are available.

Rest House on Mt. Trus Madi

Mt. Trus Madi Rest House looks like a long house

Accommodation on Mt. Trus Madi

Accommodation on Mt. Trus Madi. Guide and Porter camp under the Rest House if the rooms are full.

Rooms of Rest House on Mt. Trus Madi

Bunk beds in Rest House. It costs RM20-100 per night per person.

Kitchen of Rest House

Kitchen of the Rest House. only tour operator can cook.

Toilet of Rest House

Toilet of the Rest House

Mt. Trusmadi Rest House, the only accommodation on Mt. Trus Madi

Rest House on Mt. Trus Madi

The following video gives a good overview of Kaingaran Trail, with a lot of aerial views of Mirad Irad Base Camp, Mt. Trusmadi Rest House and the summit:

The next two trails are relatively new and located in Keningau District (Sook is a sub-district of Keningau).

Mastan (left) and Mannan (right) Trails at Keningau District

Mastan (left) and Mannan (right) Trails at Keningau District

There is no accommodation in Mastan and Mannan Trails, so you will need to bring your own camping and cooking gears. This means you need to carry more weight, making the climb tougher. You can hire porters to share your burden. The camping fees are RM3 and RM5 for Malaysian and foreigner respectively.

2. Mannan Trail

Though Mannan Trail takes the longest time (4 day 3 night), many adventurers love its scenic view and pristine route. Another advantage is – you don’t need a 4-wheel drive to travel to the starting point.

Mount Trus Madi

View of Mt Trus Madi from Kg. Sinua (KM2.4 point to summit)

Climbing Distance: 11.6 KM (require 4 day 3 night)
Location: Sinua Village (Kampung Sinua), Sook (Keningau District)
Starting Point: 103 KM of paved road (3 hours drive) from Keningau Town. Good road condition. No need 4-Wheel Drive.
Accommodation: Camping and Resting Platform only

K.S. Khiong Point (4,200M) of Mannan Trail

K.S. Khiong Point (4,200M) of Mannan Trail, one of the camping sites

The GoPro video below gives you a good idea of trail condition in Mannan Trail:

3. Mastan Trail

Mastan Trail is very “raw” and the least developed. I have very little information about this trail. Judging from the map, Mastan Trail is the shortest (4.3 KM) but the steepest. You see, Mastan Trail is only 600 Meters shorter than Kaingaran Trail (Tambunan), which has far better trail and facilities, of course most climbers will go for the more relaxing option.

Taman Bunga (Garden Peak) of Mastan Trail

Taman Bunga (Garden Peak) of Mastan Trail

Climbing Distance: 4.3 KM (require 2 day 1 night)
Location: Apin-Apin, Keningau District
Starting Point: 76 KM (4 hours drive) from Keningau Town. Bad road, accessible only by 4-Wheel Drive.
Accommodation: Camping

Toilets in Mastan Trail

Toilets in Mastan Trail

Some village folks there have been doing day climb via this trail. Anyway, if you have only 2 days and want to see the most of Mt. Trus Madi, you may ascend via Kaingaran Trail on day 1 and descend via Mastan Trail on day 2.

The Summit

The flora of Trusmadi is very diverse and fascinating, where almost 600 species of 160 families of plants have been recorded here. Remember to get your certificate if you make it to the top (RM10 fee applies).

Nepenthes Trusmadiensis of Mt. Trus Madi

Nepenthes Trusmadiensis is a pitcher plant endemic to Mt. Trus Madi

Nepenthes trusmadiensis is the natural hybrid between Nepenthes lowii and Nepenthes macrophylla, you would see it when you are close to the summit.

The peak of Mt. Trus Madi (2,642 Meters)

The highest point of Mt. Trus Madi (2,642 Meters)

View of Mt. Kinabalu on Mt. Trus Madi

You can see Mt. Kinabalu clearly on Mt. Trus Madi

When you reach the summit of Mount Trusmadi at dawn, if the weather is good, you will be mesmerized by a breath-taking view of Mount Kinabalu, which lies about 40 KM to the north.

View tower near the summit of Mt. Trus Madi

New! 5-Meter Viewpoint Tower 100 Meter from the summit of Mt. Trus Madi (at Jiran Point)

How much does the climbing trip cost?

The total fee varies greatly, depending on the trail and services that you select. Below is a list of basic fees (in Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)).

Malaysian Foreigner
Climb Permit 30 80
Entrance Fee 5 15
Vehicle Permit 100 100
Accommodation (1 night)* 100 100
Forestry Guide (2 days) 100 200
TOTAL: 335 (≈USD$95) 495 (≈USD$140)

*For Rest House only. Replace this with camping fee if you don’t use Tambunan trail

The final cost can range from RM400 to RM800 per person, after you include other variable and optional fees such as rental of 4-Wheel Drive (RM800/day per car), insurance, transport (gasoline), food & personal supplies, porter, certificate (RM10), etc. You can save more money by going in group, so you can split the cost on transportation and guide fee.

Enjoying the mountain view from the tower

Enjoying the mountain view from the tower

If you have more questions, you may contact the Forestry Officers listed below:

1. Tambunan

Contact Person: Mr. Saleh Intang, District Forestry Officer (“DFO”) of Tambunan
Address: Pejabat Perhutanan Daerah Tambunan, Peti Surat No 64, 89657, Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 88-899589
Fax: +60 88-899588
E-mail: saleh.intang@sabah.gov.my

2. Keningau / Sook

Contact Person: Mr. Azman Said, District Forestry Officer (“DFO”) of Keningau
Address: Pejabat Perhutanan Daerah Keningau, Peti Surat No 88, 89007, Keningau, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 87-331203
Fax: +60 87-338721
E-mail: azman.said@sabah.gov.my

Tour Operators

If your budget permits, you should consider hiring a tour operator to arrange the climbing trip for you. The cost will be higher, but they will save you the problems on paperwork (permit), 4-wheel drive transport, camping, cooking, etc. I strongly recommend the following tour operators, who are experienced in adventure trips:

1. TYK Adventure Tours

Address: Block E, Lot 38, 2nd Floor, Damai Plaza IV, Luyang, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 88-232821
Website: www.tykadventuretours.com
E-mail: thamyaukong@gmail.com
Fax: +60 88-232827

2. Mount Trusmadi Travel & Tour Tambunan

Address: Lot No. 5, Kedai Tepi Sungai Tondulu, Majlis Daerah Tambunan, 89657 Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 87–771312
Mobile Phone: +60 19-8831568
E-mail: widuresorttbn@yahoo.com

By the way, currently Sabah Forestry Department only has 16 mountain guides. During peak season, they may not have enough manpower to guide the climbers. They would disapprove your climb in that case. Therefore, I advise you to register a few months before the climb, to secure the limited capacity.

Useful Slides

Most of the information here is extracted from the following slides by Sabah Tourism Board and Sabah Forestry Department. You may download them for further reading. Also special thanks to Mr. Tham Yau Kong and Mike Miki from TYK Adventure Tours for contributing the photos. (Note: some info is inconsistent in different slides. I’ll correct them once I confirm the details).

Overview of Mt. Trusmadi, e.g. photos of road condition, starting points, accommodations, facilities, itineraries.

Useful info for planning the tour, e.g. booking and reservation procedures, various fees (permit, entrance, forestry guides), application forms and checklist of Things to Bring.

This slide contains some latest photos of the trails.

Please feel free to leave your question in comment section below, I’ll try my best to answer.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Oxbow Lake and Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp

I bet you love the beautiful seas and rivers of Sabah. The flowing water invites you for a playtime. But when I say “lake”, you would feel different emotions, like calm, laid-back and peaceful. These are exactly how I describe the beauty of Tanjung Bulat, one of the largest oxbow lakes in Sabah. An oxbow lake was used to be part of a big river in U-shaped. As river changes course, a body of water is cut off naturally from the main river and forms a lake.

ready for river cruise on Kinabatangan
Pic: ready to depart

To go to Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake (see Location Map), you can take a 25-minute boat ride from Bukit Garam, which is a riverside village 75 Km from Sandakan City and accessible by road. For my tour, I took the boat from Balat Jetty of Deramakot Forest and the ride took about 2 hours.

Bukit Garam Village

visit Bukit Garam
Bukit Garam (literally means Salt Hill) is a small village at upstream of Kinabatangan River. We stopped there shortly to buy some stuffs before going to Tanjung Bulat. I saw power line but electricity wasn’t fully utilized. Almost every house has satellite TV, but every grocery stores have no light on, except refrigerators that keep the soda drink cold.

flood marker in house at Bukit Garam
Pic: the most interesting house in Bukit Garam

Bukit Garam is just next to Kinabatangan River (Sungai Kinabatangan), the longest river of Sabah, and it was flooded occasionally during heavy rain season. I even saw a house with water level markers of all major floods happened between 1963 and 2010.

river cruise on Kinabatangan River
Most of the land around Bukit Garam is clear for plantation, so very little forest cover is left. I noticed some tree replanting going on in a few sections of riparian to restore the forest along the river.

map of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
You can see from the diagram above that Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake has a small tributary that connects to Kinabatangan River. If the water level is high, our boat can send us straight to the camp. However, it’s dry season so we had to get off our boat, walked 450 Meters to the oxbow lake, then take another boat to the camp.

walking on forest of oxbow lake
The walk takes about 20 minutes on a soil trail. Luckily the staffs of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp helped us to carry our heavy luggage. The trees near the lake is so dense and tall. It’s part of a forest reserve where logging, hunting and farming are off limit.

Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake

muddy river bank of oxbow lake
It’s an easy walk and we came to an open area at the edge of Tanjung Bulat oxbow lake. This is the second Oxbow Lake I visit after Uncle Tan Camp in Danau Girang but the first time I was being so close to the lake. During rainy season, the Kinabatangan River will flood this lake and brings in fresh water.

silungapid tree
Pic: silungapid tree next to the lake

I admire the beautiful tree trunk of silungapid tree, which is abundant around the lake. This tree can survive the flood in wetland and its fruit is an important food source for proboscis monkey, the endemic monkey of Borneo.

little jetty of Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake
Pic: transit to another boat to jungle camp

When I was still busy enjoying the scenery, everyone was already waiting for me onboard. You may check out the short video below to know why I like this place so much:

boat ride on oxbow lake
For those of you who spent your childhood in outdoor, you would understand why lake holds such a special place in my memory. Every kids that time had a “secret” corner where they loved to hang around in group, and lake is the coolest place because we could swim and fish in it. Unfortunately, today most of my old-day nature playground has been cleared to make way for estate and agriculture.

going to Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
That’s why I was so excited to see that Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake is kept in near pristine condition. It’s like a hidden lake in a dense jungle and it’s huge. The lake surface is about 95 hectares, with depth up to 30 Meters.

oreintal darter (snake bird)
We saw 4 or 5 Oriental Darters (Anhinga melanogaster) on the way to jungle camp. Also known as Snake Bird, Oriental Darter spears fishes with its long and sharp beak. It’s a threatened bird species, but you can find a good number of them at Tanjung Bulat. Great egret is also common here.

Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp

Here is a brief but inspiring story about the camp. Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake is well-preserved as a marvelous destination because of one fisherman, Mr. Malik, who started the jungle camp in year 2010. Malik is born 40 years ago in a fisherman family of Orang Sungai community. He was used to swim (that time had no crocodile) and fish in this lake since he was six. During that time, fishes were plentiful and wild elephants were everywhere.

oxbow lake
Pic: Tanjung Bulat Oxbox Lake

However, over the three decades, the well-being of the lake was gradually compromised when people used destructive fishing methods such as poisoning, and the forest was encroached for plantation. The situation became so severe that the lake got no fish for a year, so Malik decided to protect his beloved lake from further deterioration. We both share the similar childhood so I fully understand his sentiment.

photo with Malik
Pic: photo of me and Mr. Malik (right). He looks serious but he is a friendly guy who is passionate about his work.

The lake and its adjacent land is a 450-hectare area under multi-layer land title of State Government, oil palm company and villagers, so Malik had to work with the authorities and different parties to conserve the oxbow lake. Some villagers were so unhappy initially.

stand of tall trees at Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake
With the support of native chief, Tanjung Bulat was included as part of the 1 Village 1 Product Rural Campaign and helped the village won the national and international championship in Gerakan Desa Wawasan (Rural Vision Movement). And villagers saw the fishes coming back, so they turn from against to acceptance. Now the fish stock gets a 60% recovery.

Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
Back to our tour. Within 10 minutes, Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp was in sight. The wooden building with stilts in the photo above is the dining and activity hall. The camp is built on high ground so it is safe from flood even during wettest season.

settle down in Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp

lake view at Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
Located in high point, the camp overlooks Tanjung Bulat oxbow lake. Every visitor is automatically drawn to this hall for this panoramic killer view. I would say Tanjung Bulat has one of the most spectacular lake view in Sabah. Without other man-made structure at the lake, it’s a 100% wilderness.

oxbow lake of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
You can see half of the lake from the camp. At the left of photo above is an isolated (almost) forest surrounded by the lake. It’s mainly marshland with dense wetland trees, which is a little paradise for birds, reptiles and arboreal animals.

fish farm and oxbow lake
Pic: fish farm with black and red Tilapia (freshwater cichlid fish). Two Little Herons were fighting there for this prime fishing spot. The highly sought after seafood such as udang galah (giant river prawn) and Freshwater Gobi also found in this lake.

cloud reflection on Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake
The weather was so good and we could see the reflection of cloud on the lake surface. I was completely immersed myself in this tranquil environment as if the clock had stopped ticking.

monitor lizard
Pic: a 2-Meter monitor lizard that wanders near the camp. Monitor lizard always avoids human contact so it isn’t a threat (except infant).

crocodile in oxbow lake
There is also a 3-Meter crocodile living in the lake. It is wary of the human presence and keep a distance from our camp. It always patrols in the water, and its movement is so slow that it looks more like a floating log. We like this croc so much that we name it “Dicky”.

meal time
After we checked in, a tasty lunch buffet was already waiting for us, and it’s really nice to enjoy our meals next to a lake.

panjaram a.k.a. UFO cake
Pic: Panjaram Pancake, a famous local snack of Bajau people

We had fried noodle, chicken wings, tomato fish, local vegetables (fern) and a deep-fried pancake called panjaram (a.k.a. UFO Pancake).

chilling out at Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
We were supposed to have a river cruise in late afternoon to check out the crocodiles, proboscis monkey and other wildlife around the lake, but it was raining dog and cat. So I just grabbed a coffee, enjoyed the nice breeze and view. It was so relaxing that I fell asleep. During dusk, I saw Rhinocerous and Oriental Pied Hornbills, Brahminy Kites and Blue-eared Kingfisher. I also heard screeching of proboscis monkey in the forest across the lake. Tip: bring a binocular for more excitement.

Accommodation and Amenities

Though the accommodation of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp is basic, it is clean and comfortable. We got mobile phone network coverage. The signal is weak but we can call and text the outside world.

accommodation of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
The camp can fit about 15 people at a time. Electricity by generator is available from 7am to 9pm. You can even ask them to on it until 11pm. But noisy generator is too near the camp so it’ll be off during bedtime.

beds with mosquito net
Pic: our bed with mosquito net. It was warm during daytime but cooling at night. We all had a good night sleep.

toilet and bathroom
Toilet and bathroom are only 15 Meters away. The water from the lake is crystal clear. Malik told us that he used stones, sand and cotton to filter the water, a simple but effective technique he learnt from a Japanese engineer. The water of the lake looks murky, but it is almost as clean as the tap water, because it’s from the upstream of Kinabatangan River.

toilet and bathroom of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp
The toilet and bathroom are clean and basic too (no funny smell). Hot shower is not available but you will love the freshness of having a cold shower in hot day. As there is no lighting, you better bring a flashlight so you can find your way to toilet in the dark.

Tree Planting

Since the camp started 5 years ago, over 500 trees were planted to contribute to the Corridor of Life project. Basically it’s a long term conservation effort to restore the forest along the riparian of Kinabatangan River, to connect the fragmented forests, so the wildlife can use the forested river bank to move freely to other forest for food and mates.

tree replanting area
The next morning we were brought to the tree re-planting area just behind the camp, to plant some trees before we left. Many trees have grown tall over years and some have bear fruits. This dense wood also becomes home for some birds such as Hooded Pitta. During fruiting season (especially in August), orangutan would be sighted here.

planting trees for Corridor of Life
Actually the staffs had done the hard work for us. They cleared an area for the tree planting. All we needed to do is to dig two holes and planted two seedling. The common trees chosen for replanting are Pokok Bayur and Asam-Asam (wild mango), which provide nesting place and food for orangutan respectively.

planting a tree
As a city folk who seldom uses hoe, it’s no easier than I think. The soil is held firm by many tree roots. Just digging two small holes already made me sweated in the morning. Anyway, I’m glad that I’ve left some green footprints, a perfect way to end my journey here.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

To visit Oxbow Lake Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp (or Danau Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp), you can book the tour with Aseh Travel & Tours, a licensed travel agent which practices Responsible Tourism.

Below is the contact of Tanjung Bulat Jungle Camp:
E-mail: tgbulat_junglecamp@yahoo.com
Hotline: +60 12-8656773
Website: kinabatangantbjc.blogspot.com

more photos on Flickr
For more photos of Tanjung Bulat Oxbow Lake, you may check out my photo album.

Photos taken in Kinabatangan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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