Tag Archives: environment

Serinsim and something about Sabah Rivers

Enjoying the flowing water of river

Serinsim (or Sorinsim) is a nature park and substation in northern part of Kinabalu Park (in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia). Once you enter Serinsim, you can tell its main attraction is the river because many families swim, camp or picnic at the river side.

Camping ground and picnic site of Serinsim

Camping ground and picnic site of Serinsim

Serinsim lies between the Serinsim and Kinarom rivers. Kanarom River (Sungai Kanarom in local language) is just 10 Meters away from the car park near the park entrance. The river is unpolluted and straight from the fully protected forest, so swimming in this crystal clear and cooling water is like bathing in mineral water.

Cooling and clean water of Kanarom River

Cooling and clean water of Kanarom River

During weekends and school holiday, many locals come to frolic in the wide and shallow river, which is kid friendly and not swift. I met a family who drove 130 KM from Kota Kinabalu City (KK) to this place.

Sungai Kanarom River

No lifeguard around so swim at your own risk

Another reason Serinsim becomes a local family choice is due to the cheap entrance. For example, a local family of parents with 3 children spends less than 10 Ringgit to enjoy the Chlorine-free river. If they go to theme park such as Sunway Lagoon, it can cost them half a thousand Ringgit (but of course the facilities there are far more better and fun).

gazebo and benches at riverside

There are a few gazebos and benches at riverside

The amenities in Serinsim are fairly basic. They have changing rooms cum toilet and gazebos with benches and table near the river. The place is not crowded as it is far away from big city and not a popular tourist destination.

family and kids swimming in river

Many families come here to swim during weekends and school holidays

Sabah is blessed with many clean rivers. According to a report of the Department of Environment (DOE) in 2013, about 42% of the 473 rivers in Malaysia were under stress of pollution. In some urban area, the only clean source of water is from the tap.

Cute sisters coming from Kota Kinabalu City

Cute sisters coming from Kota Kinabalu City

However, this can change, especially downstream that are under constant environmental threats by poorly-managed development and farmland, rampant illegal sand mining, and indiscriminate dumping. More and more rivers turn into milk tea color, or worse, smelly blackish bacteria soup.

Colorful rocks in the river

Colorful rocks in the river

Ask the elders who have lived in KK for over half a century, they can share their childhood stories of swimming and fishing in crystal clear water of Sembulan River. But look at this river now, it’s so filthy and has become a conveyor belt to transport floating rubbish to our sea.

floating on the river

Most locals come to Serinsim to swim during hot day

While posting the photos of Serinsim here, I also share some random fun facts about our rivers.

River is Good for our Health

Nobody says swimming is bad, unless you swim in dirty water. Indeed, swimming can serve as a medicine, stress reliever, therapy, exercise, immunity boosters, etc. all good for physical and mental health.

clean natural river in emerald color

The sign of a clean natural river is its emerald color

“Natural waters are full of life, biological energy from plants and different creatures, minerals, enzymes, and many other beneficial substances. Swimming in natural waters has been prized as a therapy for many health problems for centuries.” – moulindebeny.com

swimming in river

Sabah is lucky to have so many clean rivers

The funny thing is – except human and apes, almost every other mammals can swim instinctively, that includes heavy elephant and cats which hate water.

Freshwater Ecology is Magnificent

Even if we close our eyes, our ears would still expose to many conservation messages about Loving our Ocean, to name a few, don’t eat turtle eggs, shark is endangered, plastic kills our marine lives, corals are under threat. Furthermore, we are always awed by the amazing photographs, videos and experience in diving, and determine to protect our marine ecology. Good.

get your feet wet

When you visit Serinsim, make sure you get your feet wet

However, compared to ocean, very little is said about river conservation. I would see news about beach cleaning occasionally but not river cleaning so far. To be fair, we have Tagal system (No Fishing) to protect fish stock in Sabah rivers, but it mainly targets at over-fishing.

You know, no water, no life, so no river, no wildlife. Our rivers have been supporting many iconic Borneo wildlife such as Proboscis Monkey and Bornean pygmy elephants. They help our tourism to rake in a lot of cash, so we know it’s imperative to take care of their well-being.

Clean water of Kanarom River

Clean water of Kanarom River

However, we forget the animals live in the rivers. Populations of freshwater species have declined by 76% since 1970, a lot faster than land or marine animals. I was told by my aunt that 50 years ago, the river was so clean that she saw something like sponge corals.

In Sabah rivers, there are 150 native freshwater fish species and 36 of them are endemic (24% of native species), according to the paper titled A working checklist of the freshwater fish diversity for habitat management and conservation work in Sabah, Malaysia, North Borneo.

Kanarom River teeming with fishes

Kanarom River teeming with fishes

Did you know friendly Irrawaddy Dolphins, monster Largetooth Sawfish and child-eater Tapah Catfish were used to be common in Kinabatangan, the longest river of Sabah? But now what is left are only some interesting stories about them among the villagers.

Some fishes of Borneo rivers are eco treasure too. A giant empurau fish from a Sarawak river was sold for a whopping RM7,900 (nearly USD$2,000). The market price of empurau ranges from RM400 to RM1,000 (USD$100-250) per Kg.

Tyre buoy is in the shop near to park entrance

Tyre buoy is available for rent (MYR5.00) in the shop near to park entrance

Though Sabah has no empurau, our Ikan Pelian (Malaysian Mahseer) is doing well too, it is priced for RM80 to RM100 (USD$20-25) per Kg. Both Empurau and Ikan Pelian are belong to same species (but I’m not sure if they are different sub-species).

Therefore, rivers shouldn’t be treated as less important than ocean. Time to do more to save our rare and endemic fishes. River pollution is currently threatening the survival of many rare species. Rivers are more prone to pollution, as they are smaller water bodies than the ocean. One selfish act of a company or village can compromise the health of a river.

Forest & Rivers

If forest is the lung of our planet, then river is the blood capillary of nature. Protecting our forest comes with two significant outcomes, clean air and water, which we can’t live without.

Enjoying the flowing water of river

Enjoying the flowing water of river

Humid tropical rainforest can add water to the atmosphere (through transpiration) thereby forming more cloud and bring more rain. The forests in Southeast Asia can influence rain patterns in south-eastern Europe and China. Lose of moisture due to deforestation can lead to drought.

Furthermore, forest (especially riparian vegetation) can filter sediments and other contaminates (e.g. pesticides, fertilizer, chemical waste) from the water in the soil before it reaches rivers.

The warning sign that reads, Fishing is prohibited in this river. Fine: RM5,000.00 - RM50,000.00

The warning sign that reads, “Fishing is prohibited in this river. Fine: RM5,000.00 – RM50,000.00”

Forest also regulates the flow of water. The leafy canopy of forest intercepts rainfall, slowing its fall to the ground and releasing it slowly into streams and rivers. Therefore, the water from undisturbed forest is in high quality.

Misumpak Waterfall

If the river in Serinsim is too ordinary to you, and you want to see rivers in true wilderness, you can try jungle trekking to Misumpak Waterfall.

Interesting fauna and flora along the jungle trail to the Misumpak Waterfall

Interesting fauna and flora along the jungle trail to the Misumpak Waterfall

The distance to this 12-Meter waterfall is 6.5 KM one way. Normally a return trip takes about 9 hours.

Bud of rafflesia

Bud of rafflesia, the largest flower in the world

You must hire a guide to go with you. This can be arranged easily with the park. The guide fee is RM90 (about USD$22) per group, and one guide can take up to 5 people.

rare and special fungus

An expert told me that this fungus is very rare and special but I forget its name.

You will cross a few rivers and streams on the way so be prepared to get wet. The water quality will impress you, it’s so clean that it’s almost transparent. You would not see the water if it does not move and reflect.

Dense rainforest of Serinsim

Dense rainforest of Serinsim

As the forest is in pristine condition, leeches are lurking everywhere. You can wear anti-leech socks if you are not keen to donate some blood.

Misumpak Waterfall

Misumpak Waterfall is about 12 Meters high

The waterfall is far away and the trail isn’t tourist friendly. Unless you are really interested in appreciating the beautiful fauna and flora of rainforest, I don’t really recommend it.

Fresh water from Kinabalu Park

Chilling fresh water from Kinabalu Park is the cleanest in Sabah

Anyway, you will be rewarded by cooling waterfall ponds. Very, very few people venture so deep into Serinsim, so you can have all these for yourself.

Crystal clear pond of Misumpak Waterfall

Crystal clear pond of Misumpak Waterfall

Misumpak Waterfall

Misumpak Waterfall is 6.5 KM away from the park entrance

Entrance Fee

The following is the ticket fee to enter the park:

Item Fee / Rate
Conservation Fee Malaysian: MYR3.00
Foreigner: MYR15.00
Below 18: MYR1.00 and MYR10.00 respectively

Photos taken in Kota Marudu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

Climbing Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Mountain Wakid

If you want to feel on top of the world and enjoy some breathtaking view, climb a mountain! For hikers who only want a day trip to conquer a mountain that is not too high to be overwhelming, but also not too low to be unexciting, Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid in Malay language) in Tambunan is for you then. Even if you live in Kota Kinabalu City (KK), which is 80 KM away from Tambunan, you can finish the climb and back home on the same day.

Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid) at the roadside near Tambunan

You can see Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid) at the roadside near Tambunan

Sabah is mountainous with over half of its land above 1,000 Meters above sea level, and Mt. Kinabalu is not the only beautiful mountain. No two mountains look the same. Standing at 1,372 Meters (4,501 Feet), Mount Wakid is distinctly different from other Sabah mountains that I climbed before. It’s also about the same height as Ben Nevis (1,346 Meters), the highest mountain on island of Great Britain and a popular destination that attracts about 100,000 ascents annually.


Wakid is a bamboo basket used by villagers to carry fruits & vegetables until today.

According to locals, in the past, an Odu-Odu (grandma) went to Mount Wakid to harvest some forest produces. She disappeared, so every villagers were searching for her on the mountain. However, villagers couldn’t find her except her wakid (a bamboo basket used by native to collect fruit & vegetables). That’s how Mount Wakid got its name.

Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

View of Mount Wakid (Gunung Wakid) from the road

When you head to Tambunan town from KK, about 10 KM before the town, you could see Mount Wakid prominently at the left of the road. Its long and crooked crest running parallel to the hilly road, like the spine of a dragon. No wonder the locals believe a Tombuokar (dragon) is living in this mountain. Every time I looked at this “crouching dragon”, it was like calling me to have a ride on its back. The most unique characteristics of Mount Wakid is – it is chartreuse in color.

Climbing Mt. Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Mount Wakid is located in the state land of Kampung Sunsuron (Sunsuron Village). Its hill forest is kept intact to protect this mountain as a water catchment area. The villagers see Mount Wakid as an important source of water to irrigate their crops. It is only in Nov 2015 that they started promoting their “backyard” mountain as an attraction.

Group photo of climbers

Group photo of climbers (with Mt. Wakid behind us, note the red arrow)

Yes, 1,372-Meter is quite an enormous height for a day climb. But no worry, we started our climb from Sunsuron Village, which is located at 780 Meter above sea level, so we only need to ascend less than 600 Meters (1,969 feet) to reach the top. Sound easy but remember three rules of mountaineering, which state, “It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks.”

Trail map and elevation profile of our climb to Mount Wakid

Route map and elevation profile of our climb to Mount Wakid. You can download the KML (for Google Earth) or GPX (for GPS device such as Can-Am Garmin Montana 650T GPS 715002081) file of the route map to see full detail.

Here is the summary of the climb. The total distance of return trip is 9.75 KM. We hiked 5 KM via the new Jinkung Trail to the summit (GPS of the Highest Peak: 5.770667, 116.369209; see Location Map), then descend via the 4.75-KM Standard Trail back to Sunsuron Village.

Pass by the village on the way to the summit

Pass by the village on the way to the summit

We departed from Sunsuron Village at 8:30 AM, reached the summit at 12:30pm and came back at 4pm. If possible, you should move as early as 7am. Though Tambunan has cooling weather (about 25ºC / 77ºF), it’s still pretty warm in the afternoon.

Waving at the cute kindergarten children

Waving at the cute preschool children

In the beginning, we walked through the village houses and the local schools, before we entered the plantation at the edge of the village.

Lovely children of Tambunan

Awww….♥♥♥! These lovely local children will melt your heart

We passed by a preschool and the kids were so excited to see us. They screamed and waved at us, so adorable. Actually their smiles are the most memorable part of my climb.

Scenic countryside view along the way

Scenic countryside view along the way

After 10 minutes, we exited the residential area and passed through the farmland and grassland outside the village.

The clean river from Mt. Wakid

The clean river from Mt. Wakid

In the first 3 KM, we walked on flat ground most of the time. We only came across a few gradual slopes. It wasn’t challenging but we needed to be vigilant, especially at the narrow and slippery soil trail on the slope. We took a short break every 1 KM.

Mount Wakid is far ahead

Mount Wakid is far ahead

When we walked in paddy fields and meadow in open space, the sun was baking us. It’s so warm and I saw no farmer working in the field. Luckily I brought an umbrella so I just used it. Other climbers may think that I’m a wuss. Anyway, I think it’s a good idea because the shade reduces the heat and keeps me comfortable.

Crossing the creek

Crossing the creek

We crossed a few creeks without getting wet. The water is cold and super clean. I saw some “salad rivers” because the water is planted with a lot of leafy green “Sayur Hong Kong” (Watercress), which is commonly used in salad and sandwiches. As we moved deeper to backcountry zone, the forest was getting denser.

Jingkung Trail

We arrived the starting point of Jingkung Trail around 11:15am and prepared for the last 1 KM push to the summit. Jingkung Trail is a new summit trail which is longer and more challenging than the standard trail. This route is thrilling for veteran hikers who want more adventurous experience.

The start of challenging Jingkung Trail

The start of challenging Jingkung Trail

However, Jingkung Trail could be quite tough and risky for inexperienced climbers, though all our newbie team members made it with some efforts. The trail is fairly steep, and we have to use our hands to move up some near-vertical route. We joked with one another that this trail should be named as the “Spiderman Trail”.

Jingkung Trail to the summit

Jingkung Trail to the summit

Mount Wakid is a new destination, so the trail is 100% nature and have no climbing aid such as ladder, handrail, boardwalk and trail signage. Our guide setup rope support in a few difficult spots. You would be happy to know that there is no leech all the way.

The last 1 KM trail to the top is quite steep

The last 1 KM trail to the top is quite steep. It’s Mr. Jingkung in the photo at the right

Someone says, “Climbing is action, it’s about doing, acting, trying. Words don’t get you up a vertical rock face or to a remote mountain summit.” That’s right, either you are up there, or you are not. Talking won’t take you there. I love the moment of keeping my mouth shut and fight my way up with crystal clear goal, as I believe action speaks louder than words.

Reaching the first high point

Reaching the ridge

As I was approaching the top at crawling speed, the trees became shorter and sparser. I knew I was near when I saw light on top. Then we we were welcomed by a PVC banner which meant we had reached the ridge and the summit wasn’t far away. I was gasping for breath and glad that the hardest part was over.

View from the mountain

View from the mountain (behind the PVC banner)

The Peaks

Here we were on the ridge of Mount Wakid. At this altitude, I expected to see lower montane forest with mossy environment. Instead, the top of Mt Wakid is dominated by a dwarf tree called Pokok Tagai locally. Its yellowish green leaves form the beautiful cap of Mt. Wakid.

The top of this mountain is covered with shrubs only 1 to 6 Meters high

The top of Mount Wakid is covered by these evergreen shrubs only 1 to 6 Meters high

Special Thanks to Dr. Arthur Chung, Dr. Reuben Nilus and John Sugau for the identification of the vegetation. According to them, these trees are Kerangas forest with berungis trees (Baeckea frutescens) and bracken fern (Pteridium esculentum), and part of the forest was burnt in 1983.

The chartreuse color / yellowish green vegetation on the top

The color of Mt. Wakid is a big contrast with adjacent mountains

I googled and learned that the leaves and flowers of berungis tree can be harvested for medicinal uses and to make a refreshing herbal tea. All aerial parts of the plant are credited with antibacterial, anti-febrile and haemostatic properties. However, the local community doesn’t seem to use this plant.

Two distinct forest of Mt Wakid, the darker lowland rainforest and lighter heath forest near the top

You can see two distinct forest of Mt Wakid, the darker lowland rainforest and lighter heath forest (Kerangas) near the top

We walked along the narrow ridge. After 10 minutes, we arrived the summit of Mt Wakid marked by a trig station. There are six peaks on Mount Wakid, and the highest peak is called Peak No.3. We celebrated the moment by taking a lot of photographs.

The highest peak of Mt. Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Everyone made it to the highest peak of Mt. Wakid (Gunung Wakid)

Climbers are often asked why they climb. We would reply, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand,” so you have to climb a mountain to find the answer. When asked “What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?”, George Mallory, an English mountaineer, said, “It is no use… What shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem… What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy… We do not live to eat and make money.”

View of Sunsuron Village from the mountain

View of Sunsuron Village from the mountain

Therefore, if money can’t buy you any happiness, go climb a mountain! I also can’t explain why it’s cheerful, probably mountain is nearer to heaven. From the ridge, I can see that we are surrounded by rolling hills, lush forest, gorge and valley, what a spectacular view.

Moving on to the next peak of Mt. Wakid

You could see the dense undergrowth of Pteridium esculentum (Esculentum means edible), commonly known as Austral bracken or simply bracken.

We continued moving to the next peak along the spine of Mount Wakid. By the way, Mount Wakid has a secret that our guide doesn’t want me to share it online. You can ask them if you climb.

Group photo on the Cross Peak

Group photo on Peak No.1

It’s an easy hike. Within 20 minutes, we reached Peak No.1, which has a big cross erected. Every year before Good Friday, the local Catholic paid homage to Jesus Christ by carrying a big cross to this peak, but now this annual activity is moved to Kolindasan Hill.

Local Christians would climb to this Cross Peak on Good Friday

Another group photo on Peak No.1 but facing different side.

If treated well, mountains give us clean water and fresh air, or they will hit back with flood and landslide. I’m glad that the forest on hills and mountains of Tambunan are in good condition, making Tambunan one of the greenest districts in Sabah. It’s sad that the Signal Hill of KK, which was used to be a lively hill with dense jungle, now has became a “Condo Hill”.

The following video is a good overview of our climb.


Next we were on our way descending to Sunsuron Village via the Standard Trail, which is about 4.75 KM in distance. Climbing up a mountain isn’t easy, but climbing down is more difficult. It’s advisable to bring packed lunch to the peak, so you can restore your energy level after eating.

Descending to Sunsuron Village

Descending to Sunsuron Village

Though the Standard Trail is less challenging than Jingkung Trail, there are a few steep sections that need rope support, which our mountain guide has provided. Even if it was drought season and the soil was fairly dry, I still found it hard not to slip.

Small Kolopis Sunsuron Waterfall

Small Kolopis Waterfall

The descending wasn’t easy, but it was faster and less tiring. We arrived Kolopis Waterfalls near the foothill after an hour. It’s a cascading waterfall with the small and deep waterfall in upstream and the big one 10 Meters downstream.

Big Kolopis Sunsuron Waterfall

Big Kolopis Waterfall

The big Kolopis Waterfall is a great spot for abseiling. A few of us couldn’t resist the temptation of clean mountain stream and decided to take a dip in the cold water.

Swimming under Kolopis Sunsuron Waterfall

Swimming under Kolopis Waterfall

Mountains are water towers of the earth because they provide 60 to 80% of the world’s fresh water. It’s quite amazing that Mount Wakid has flowing water after many dry months. Forest can do the magic of holding and releasing the water slowly.

Camping site at the foothill

Camping site at the foothill

Not far away from the waterfall is a camping site next to a stream. For those who want to enjoy the nature more, they can join the 2-day camping tour which includes mountain climbing, camping, abseiling at waterfall (by certified climbers) and night walk. A toilet is constructed for this campsite recently.

tall bamboo trees

Tambunan is also known as the Valley of Bamboo

During the climb, you would see bamboo everywhere, that’s why Tambunan is called the Valley of Bamboo. In Malaysia, there are 80 species of bamboo, and some can grow more than 20 Meters high.

Picnic next to Sunsuron River

Picnic next to Sunsuron River

Finally we arrived the farmland of Sunsuron Village at the end of the climb.

Crystal clear water of Sunsuron River

Crystal clear water of Sunsuron River

There were a few local farmers having their lunch at the riverside. They are so friendly that they even invite us to join them. Their food is really fresh and yummy.

River side picnic with local food

River side picnic with local food

In this trip we see not only the beauty of mountain, but also the beauty of clean rivers. Tell me, how often you see river as clean as the one shown in photos here?

Enjoying drink with the villagers at the river side

Enjoying drink with the villagers at the river side

A toast to Tambunan, a land free of pollution.

How to get there

To climb Mt. Wakid, you can appoint a mountain guide to bring you to the summit. The guide fee is RM70 (≈USD$17) per head. A certificate costs RM10 (≈USD$2.50). You can get a guide through the following contact, or hire one via Sunsuron Homestay.

E-mail: jingcom2004@yahoo.com
Tel: +60 13-8991857 (Mel)
Facebook: GunungWakid
Instagram: @gunungwakid
See More Photos of Mt. Wakid

For safety, you should get a guide to follow you. The trail is not well-marked, so you can lose your way easily like the grandma. There was a Korean who lost in the mountain. Luckily he was found and saved. If we only found his iPhone, we would have to rename this mountain to Mount iPhone.

Things to Bring

It’s warm during daytime, so you don’t really need extra warm clothing. The most important thing is to wear a pair of good hiking shoes. Below is a list of recommended items to bring:

  • Bottle of Water (min. 1 Litre)
  • Raincoat / Poncho
  • Snack / Energy Bar
  • Packed Lunch
  • Climbing Rope
  • Walking Pole
  • Optional: Swimwear

Photos taken in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo