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

View of Nombuyukong Peak from Mt. Tambuyukon

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

View of Mount Nombuyukong behind the chalet in Serinsim park

View of Mount Nombuyukong behind the chalet in Serinsim park

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

Summary of Mt. Nombuyukong

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. Nombuyukong in the cloud

Peak of Mt. Nombuyukong 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 Nombuyukong

Trail Map of Mount Nombuyukong

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. Nombuyukong

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

The peak of Mt. Nombuyukong 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 Nombuyukong

Second junction to Mount Nombuyukong

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. Nombuyukong

Approaching the summit

summit of Mount Nombuyukong

It’s me on the summit of Mount Nombuyukong

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

signage on top of Mt. Nombuyukong

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. Nombuyukong

View from the peak of Mt. Nombuyukong

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 of final budget to you.

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukong

Certificate for climber who conquers Mount Nombuyukong

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)

When 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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Ruhiang Hill (Bukit Perahu) and Ship Rocks

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

Does Noah’s ark really exist? I don’t know, but I was told that near Tamparuli town, there are rocks that resemble a vessel stranded on a hill named Bukit Perahu (also known as Ruhiang Hill). I guess that’s how Bukit Perahu got its name, as Perahu means Boat and Bukit means Hill in Malay language.

Bukit Perahu (or Ruhiang Hill) next to Tamparuli town

Bukit Perahu (or Ruhiang Hill) is next to Tamparuli town (left)

Many also say the top of Bukit Perahu has one of the most spectacular views of Mt. Kinabalu (highest mountain of Malaysia).

Majestic Mount Kinabalu and Bukit Perahu

Majestic Mount Kinabalu and Bukit Perahu (lower left)

One day I finally managed to get up early in the morning, headed to Tamparuli, which was 30 KM away from Kota Kinabalu City, then climbed up there.

Sea of cloud on Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill)

The beautiful sea of cloud will disperse after the sun comes up, so you better reach the peak as early as possible.

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

Hikers relax and enjoy the morning view on Bukit Perahu

What they said was true. The scenery is so exceptional that I climbed it again the following week with my drone to photograph some aerial shots.

Awesome family shot on Bukit Perahu (Ruhiang Hill)

Their friends want to climb Bukit Perahu after they see this awesome family shot

During good weather in early morning, you would see Mt. Kinabalu like floating on sea of cloud. Someone come very early to catch the sunrise around 6am for the best view. If you go late, say after 8:30am, the sea of cloud would disperse and envelope Mt. Kinabalu.

Family climbing Bukit Perahu

This family photo tells you that the climb is not overly challenging.

Bukit Perahu is only 300 Metres high. The hiking distance to the top is about 800 Metres and normally takes about 35 minutes, depend on your fitness. Some section of the trail is a little steep, and you need to watch out for the slippery soil trail especially after rain. Anyway, the climb isn’t very challenging.

trail to the peak of Ruhiang Hill

The total distance to the peak is about 800 Meters

The Climb

The starting point of the climb is near to the roadside in Tamparuli (later I tell you how to get there). It’s a public area and you aren’t required to pay any entrance fee. The trail is well-marked and there are many hikers around in the morning, so you won’t lose your way.

Bukit Perahu is also a popular paragliding spot

Bukit Perahu is also one of the best paragliding sites.

Looking from far away, Bukit Perahu is a cone shaped hill with gentle slope, but the route is a bit steeper than we think.

trail to the peak of Bukit Perahu

Left: start of the trail. Right: Most part of the trail looks like this, with boulders scattered on soil path

The first 200 Metres is gravel path that leads to the uphill path. There were many boulders in or next to the uphill trail, and I had to move between rocks sometimes. Do expect some human traffic during weekends, as everyone uses the same trail for ascend and descend.

cross with description about crucifixion walk of Jesus

Roman Catholic uses the route to the peak as the Way of the Cross (or Stations of the Cross). You will see 14 crosses along the way, with photo and description about the suffering of Jesus Christ carrying a cross to his crucifixion.

The local Catholics make this trail the Station of the Cross (or Way of Sorrows). Along the trail you will see a total of 14 cross signage with picture and text depicting Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion.

Climbing Bukit Perahu

Most of the time you walk under the shade.

Most of the time the dense trees shaded me from sunlight, and the cool morning breeze stopped me from overheat, so it’s quite a pleasant walk.

Green surrounding around the peak

Very green surrounding around the peak

You can use the ropes connected to wooden posts next to the trail for support. However, don’t totally trust it, as the rope would detach from the flimsy metal ring on the posts.

rope support along the trail

The trail has rope support to move up.

After moving higher up, I could see Tamparuli town and surrounding hills with lush forest, the more I ascended, the nicer the view.

Gazebo in the midway

Gazebo in the midway

I took a short break in a gazebo next to cross No. 10. I was halfway there.

Last 200 Meters to the peak

Last 200 Meters to the peak

You are only about 200 Metres away from the peak, when you see cross No.14 and the big cross next to it.

14th cross and the big cross

When you see the 14th cross and the big cross, you are only 200 Meters away from the peak

After the last cross, I reached an open area with soil trail pounded solid by thousands of footsteps of hikers.

Almost reaching the hilltop

Almost reaching the hilltop

The view on top of Bukit Perahu

The view on top of Bukit Perahu

On the hilltop were some relaxing hikers enjoyed the panoramic view of Tamparuli town, rolling green hills and Mt. Kinabalu.

Hikers enjoying the scenic view

Hikers enjoying the scenic view

Hawkers on the peak

The hawkers sell stuffs from early morning to 9 or 10am on the peak

Hungry? Thirsty? A few hawkers were selling drink, snacks and fruit (the prices are higher, consider the labour work to carry these things up to the hill, e.g. a tin of 100Plus sold for RM3.00).

Drink, snack, chips and fruit for sale on the hill

You can buy some drink, snack, chips and fruit on the hill

Bird eye view of Tamparuli from the top of the hill

You can have a bird eye view of Tamparuli from the top of the hill

Mount Kinabalu far away

The only shade you can find on hilltop.

The Boat Rocks

I tried to locate the two boat rocks that earn Bukit Perahu the name.

Looking for the boat rock

Looking for the boat rock

The smaller one is nearer and the entrance is at the left hand side (when you face Mt. Kinabalu).

One the way to the smaller boat rock

On the way to the smaller boat rock

It’s quite an easy walk on a small trail and I saw the boat rock within 10 minutes. It really looks like the front of ship (bow).

rock that looks like a sinking ship

This rock looks like a sinking ship

The bigger one is another story. The entrance is at the right. When I asked the locals for direction, they looked concern, as if it’s a bad idea. They warned me that the trail is not in good condition.

Azlan clearing the bush that blocks the trail

Azlan clearing the bush that blocks the trail

I just proceeded anyway and walked into the wood, just after 15 Metres a dense bush was in my way, I was stuck. Luckily, Azlan, a local from Tamparuli, came to “rescue” by using his machete to clear the trail.

On the way to the biggest boat rock

On the way to the biggest boat rock

I followed Azlan to pass through the dense wood and narrow steep trail. Azlan climbs this hill regularly so he knows the place really well. In fact, he is the one who opens the trail to the big boat rock. He said he had cleared the trail in Jan but the undergrowth flourished again.

Azlan, the one who opens the trail to the huge boat rock

Azlan is the one who opens the trail to the huge boat rock.

After 23 minutes of painfully slow move on steep and slippery trail, Azlan stopped at a big rock and said “It’s here.” I didn’t see any boat rock. He added, “You are on top of the boat rock. You need to descend to the side to have a better look.”

Big boat rock

Big boat rock

He is right. At one side, the boat rock looks like the hull of a cargo ship. I don’t really recommend you visit this rock due to safety. If you must go, bring insect repellant.

huge boat rock

This boat rock is really huge. Did you see the “snake head rock”?

Then we descend to another side. From this angle, the rock really looks like a ship that has 3 layers of decks. Two ladies, Zoom and Farah were following us, I included them in the photos so you can see the scale.

Closer look of the boat rock

Closer look of the boat rock

Azlan is a civil servant working in Tuaran. Though he is 52 years old, he remains very fit and climb Bukit Perahu up and down 5 times to train for climbathon (mountain race).

How to get there

When you reach Tamparuli town, which is about 30 minutes by car from Kota Kinabalu City, turn to Jalan Tamparuli Togop Road (see Street View map) beside the police station,

The starting point of the hike next to the road

The starting point of the hike is next to the road. Note the signage that reads Puncak St. Veronica

Just follow the road for about 300 Metres, the starting point will be at at your left (see Street View map, GPS Coordinate: 6.131424, 116.273830). If you come in the morning during weekends, you would see many cars parked at the roadside.

Toilet at starting point

Toilet is available at starting point (RM0.20 per entry)

At the starting point, there is a sign that reads “Laluan Jalan Salip ke Puncak St. Veronica” (translated as: Way of the Cross to St. Veronica Peak). There is a house there so be quiet. You can use their toilet for RM0.20 (put the coin into the tin can).

Photos taken in Tamparuli, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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