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Nearly 17 Meters tall and open to public since June 2003, Mahua Waterfall (local name: Air Terjun Mahua), which is 26 KM away from Tambunan town, is gaining popularity as one of the top destinations of Sabah interior. I visited Mahua days ago and strongly recommend this beautiful waterfall to those who drop by Tambunan. The GPS Location of Mahua Park is 5.796761, 116.408407 (see Location Map or Street View)
To go there, you need to drive 1.5 hours from Kota Kinabalu to Tambunan. Before Tambunan town, you will reach a roundabout with ginger and machete statue on it. Turn left to Jln. Ranau Tambunan (Ranau Tambunan Road), Mahua Waterfall is only 13 KM away. You will see a brown signpost to Mahua Waterfall shortly. Driving for about 6 KM, you will see the Mahua signpost again at a junction at the left, which leads to a 6-KM small road in Kg. Patau (Patau Village). The road is nicely paved so you don’t need a 4-Wheel drive.
In the beginning, you will pass by the beautiful paddy fields of the village. Drive slowly and keep an eye on the roaming dogs, buffaloes and kids along the road. Very often you would find village dogs sleep on the road and don’t even bother about approaching cars.
Then you will enter a hilly road with forest view of Crocker Mountain Range. I saw many Yellow Wagtail birds, the common winter visitors called “Beras Beras” (rice) in local Malay language, and some Ashy Drongo and Pacific Swallow birds perched on power lines too.
At the end of the road is the Mahua substation (of Crocker Mountain Range National Park) managed by Sabah Parks, where you buy entrance ticket. The opening hour is 8am-5pm daily. The following are the ticket rates for visitors to Mahua:
|18 years & above||RM3||RM10 (≈US$2.50)|
|Below 18||RM1||RM6 (≈US$1.50)|
|Below 16 (student)||RM0.50||RM6|
The start of 500-Meter walkway to Mahua Waterfall is just behind this building. You already can hear the sound of thundering waterfall at this spot. Mahua Waterfall receives about 1,600 visitors a month, making it the most popular attraction in Tambunan. Besides locals, it also attracts foreign tourists from Canada, USA, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Norway, Australia, Japan and Brunei.
Crocker Range is an important water catchment area. Water means life, so Mahua is a magnet for variety of fauna and flora. Like the 3-inch-big lacewing in photo above is new to me. Seeing my camera and tripod, the park janitor asked if I took photo for National Geographic. Haha.. if I answer Yes, not sure if they will charge me thousand$ for commercial filming.
Only a few Meters inside I found big mushroom to photograph. Mahua Park is more than just waterfall. I am so glad that I discover a natural eco-garden.
The walkway is under a mossy, shady and moist secondary forest, and such dim and damp environment promotes the growth of mushroom and fungus. The fungus above look like the skin of Chinese Bun (Bao) and Dim Sum. Edible?
Despite the hot day outside, the shady forest and running stream make the surrounding very cooling and refreshing. The temperature hovers around 23 degrees Celsius, as if I am in an air-conditioning room.
Normally I need to walk a long away on rugged jungle trail to see a waterfall. But the 500-Meter walkway to Mahua Waterfall is so short and easy, I didn’t even sweat.
The trail is quite flat and paved with cement. Watch out for the slippery mossy surface.
There are some hut shelters, benches, trash bin and toilet along the trail, very well-facilitated for picnic. But sorry, BBQ and fishing are not allowed here, as these activities are bad for the conservation. Most visitors come here for swimming, picnic, camping and other nature-based activities.
Not only human likes waterfall, you also can spot many insects and bugs wandering among the undergrowth, ferns and shrubs along the trail.
Finally I saw the majestic Mahua Waterfall from a distance.
There is a ladder leads to a viewing platform.
Here you go, the photo of Mahua Waterfall. The force of water is so strong that it pounds the pool and create a mini storm and earthquake around it. Even though I was more than 10 Meters away, my camera and I was bathed by wind of misty spray.
Mahua Waterfall is nearly 17 Meters (55 feet) tall. But don’t try to jump from the top to the pool, as the water is only about 1+ Meter in depth (I never swim there, it can be deeper during wet day so just be careful).
You can swim around the waterfall, but be cautious of the falling rock from top.
Huge Tree in Minduk Sirung Trail
If you are a tree hugger, you will thank me for telling you that there is a gigantic tree hidden in Mahua Park.
About 120 Meter before the waterfall, you will see a hanging bridge at your right, which leads you to a signage that reads, “Minduk Sirung Trail. Mahua ke Gn. Alab 12 KM”.
Minduk Sirung Trail is a jungle trail that connects to Mount Alab (Gunung Alab) substation about 12 KM away, another park in Crocker Range. Some avid hikers use this trail for jungle trekking from Mt. Alab to Mahua Waterfall (mostly descending trail).
Anyway, the big tree that I mentioned is only 1.5 KM away from the starting point. However, there is no clear signage along the trail. You will see many big trees on the way and wonder which one it is. But, when you see it, you know that’s the one, as it is SOOooOOoooo…. BIG!
The trail is a bit steep in first 1 KM and lurked with blood-sucking leeches, so you better wear proper hiking shoes and anti-leech sock.
Accommodation & Meals
If you want to overnight in the park, you may book a room with Mahua Rainforest Paradise (located at park entrance), which has 12 bedrooms and a restaurant. Camping and meals are also available. The accommodation fees range from RM30 to RM95 per night (≈US$7.50-24), you may Click Here to check out its rates.
Here is the contact info of the hostel next to Mahua Park:
Hostel: Mahua Rainforest Paradise
Company: Mahua Nature Holidays (S) Sdn. Bhd.
Phone: +60 16 8403969, +60 19-8203198, +60 19-8203198
The owner of hostel also runs a restaurant near the park, which sells common food (e.g. fried rice / noodle, noodle soup, bread) and hot & cold drinks from 9am to 5pm every day. The prices of food are about RM5 to RM10, drink is RM1.50 to RM4, and they serve no pork. If you want to picnic there, BBQ gazebo is available for rent in full-day (RM45), half-day (RM30), and quarter-day period (RM15).
Photos taken in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo
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Known as Butod locally, Sago Grub or Sago Worm is a delicacy, as well as the most disgusting food of Sabah. Junk food always look good, but it does ugly things to your body. Sago Grub is the opposite, it’s an ugly but nutritious food. However, it’s a test of bravery to put this wriggling bug into your mouth.
Butod is the larvae of Sago Palm Weevil, a species of snout beetle that consumes sago palm during its infancy. Sago Grub can grow fatter than the little finger and looks like a giant maggot. This creamy yellow color and fat worm is rich in protein and sold at US$0.25 each (RM40 – 45 per Kg), quite expensive, but still a hot selling item in local market.
According to Dr. Arthur Chung, an insect expert, adult Sago Palm Weevil is also consumed in Sabah. The rusty red colour adults are usually grilled or roasted, with the hard and spiny parts, and unsavoury guts removed before eating.
The best place to collect sago grubs is in sago palm, as they feed on starchy pith of decaying sago palm tree, before they are mature and transform into beetle after 2 months.
Just chop the sago trunk to look for butod in the spongy internal of the palm. Farmers also deliberately cut some opening on fallen sago tree, to attract female weevils to lay eggs inside. They could harvest up to 100 butod per trunk after 1 to 3 months.
Sago Grub is white. I notice it’ll turn yellowish or brownish after being exposed to ultraviolet. Sago grubs can die fairly quick under direct sunlight and dry place. Keep them in shade, preferably with pieces of damp sago wood, and they can survive for a few days.
Sago Palm is an important crop of Sabah. Sago Grub is supposed to be a pest because it burrows and eats voraciously into the heart of sago palm, and cause the tree dies. However, sago grub is a highly sought after food that brings good money. You can see the statue of Sago Palm Weevil at the entrance of Rumbia Information Centre. There is no other insect in Sabah that is “commemorated” by such a big statue.
In Sabah, though everyone knows about Sago Grub, not many are actually eating this soft-bodied larvae. Bugs seem to be doing filthy things all the time. Just look at fly and cockroach that make people sick. So it might be a bad idea to eat bugs. Anyway, sago grub is very clean because it only feeds on and live inside sago pith.
According to what I read on the Internet, sago grubs have been described as creamy tasting when raw, and like bacon or meat when cooked. I wanted to try out the live and cooked sago grubs and see if it is true. Now I can tell you that the taste of both is not bad, and I can assure you that sago grub has no funny smell or taste. No, it doesn’t taste like chicken.
Tasting Live Sago Grub
Every human has insectophobia to some degrees. We can’t never be friends with bugs. Even if I love to photograph bug, that doesn’t mean I want to lick it. Anyhow, I always want to experience eating live sago grub at least once. Probably I think this is a big achievement as high as the Medal of Honor.
To eat live sago grub, hold its head with two fingers, because you won’t eat its hard chitinous head, and to avoid its pincer biting you. I squeeze its head to kill it first, so it won’t wriggle in my mouth later and to suffer from a painful death. Then I take a bite at its neck and chew. You can watch the following video if you want to see action:
In first bite, the juicy worm “bursts” in my mouth, and I can feel its creamy gut flows all over my tongue. OMG, that’s so gross! I just try not to think that I’m eating a bug, or I would throw up. The taste of raw butod is like coconut milk with a bit of sweetness. The skin is tough and chewy. Though I don’t think that it’s delicious, the taste isn’t terrible at all. In fact, it’s quite bland.
Cooking Sago Grubs
Swallowing squirming sago grubs may look way too savage. No problem. You can fry, boil, or grill it, then eat it with knife and fork. Personally I think cooked butod tastes much better. It’s so easy to cook butod. You will know how after watching the video below:
According to a research by Oxford University, Sago Grub contains significantly more vitamins, unsaturated fat, and minerals, but much less cholesterol than other common meat such as chicken and beef. Therefore, Butod is an excellent alternative source of protein.
The simplest way to cook sago grubs is to stir-fry them in a pan, until they are totally dry and turn crispy. The first step is to wash and clean the butod with water.
Next step is quite cruel. You tear an opening on their bodies, with finger or knife, so they won’t expand and “explode” while being fried. The yellow soft stuff gushes from the cut is the fat. Butod is packed with oil like a natural energy bars. The locals believe butod oil can thicken their hair.
Then pour all the butod into the pan and stir fry them slowly with small fire. For better flavor, you may add a pinch of salt or MSG. If you think that is too plain, you can cook them with onions or other vegetables, basically it’s same as how you cook other meat.
Do you see the oil in the photo above? It’s all from the sago grubs! The smoke smells really, really good and appetizing, like butter.
Researchers describe insects as “micro-livestock” that emits 10 times less greenhouse gas than farting cows. The author of “Bug Chef Extraordinaire”, David George Gordon, says, “Insects are the most valuable, underused and delicious animals in the world.” Eating bugs comes with hundreds of benefits, but people don’t eat bugs for only one reason, it is disgusting. Well, I can give men a superb reason to eat Butod. It’s good for men. *wink wink*
After stir-fried, the butod becomes crispy and taste like fried fish skin, with a hint of prawn, quite nice. It goes well with beer. Dipping it with a bit of cheese would make it more yummy (I haven’t tried that though).
If you are interested in munching some sago grubs, you may visit Sago Festival (Pesta Rumbia in local language), which is held in Kuala Penyu annually.
During the festival, the ticket for Sago Buffet is available for a few bucks only. Buy one and you can try different kinds of sago food, which includes cooked sago grubs.
There are many tourists who are keen to try sago grubs. The ticket is always sold out fast.
Sago grub is also widely eaten by people of Sarawak, Southeast Asian countries, and Papua New Guinea. Sago grubs are commonly sold in weekly open air market (Tamu) in rural area of Sabah.
However, whenever I want to share butod with my friends, 9 out of 10 them would run away, and one passes out. Actually most Sabahans haven’t tried this delicacy yet. Hope the young generations will be educated that butod is great stuff and nobody should be afraid of eating it.
As one of the Four Asian Tigers, Thailand is far ahead in food industry. You can buy butod in package and tin from their supermarket and even order them online! Here are some product shots for your viewing pleasure.
Yes, you can eat worms like snack. Do share with your friends!
Let’s open a can of worms, shall we?
Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo
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