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Rafflesia – the Biggest flower in Sabah

Rafflesia keithii

After the hunt for rafflesia pricei in Tambunan, this time I targeted at the biggest rafflesia in Sabah, rafflesia keithii, which grows in elevation of about 400 Metres. The rafflesia garden of Kg. Kokob (Kokob Village), which is only 9KM away from Ranau town, is my most recommended site, coz it is more accessible and save me the trouble of hour of jungle trekking. To get there, just take a mini-bus in bus terminal of Ranau town, and the ticket is about RM2 to 3 one way. Every driver knows where is Kokob.

Junction of Kokob Village

Usually they will put up a banner at the roadside if there is any blooming. The blooming time of rafflesia is unpredictable and the flower can last less than a week. In fact, it starts to show sign of withering in 4th day. You should ask the bus driver to drop you right in front of the garden. I was dropped in the village function, so I had to walk 500 M uphill, where the fierce village dogs roamed. They didn’t seem to welcome tourist, so it was quite scary. At the end you will see a “Y” function, just take the one at the right and you will reach the garden shortly.

Way to Rafflesia garden

Surprisingly, the sign pointing to a house. The moment I stepped in, Pauline, the daughter of the owner (Mr. Kundong Ransiki), came out of the house for me, as if she always kept an eye at the door. Before that, I was told that the villager cut the rafflesia and plant it there. As a matter of fact, the rafflesia garden behind the house is a natural habitat certified by Sabah Parks in 2006. She brought me to the garden behind the house and introduced a bit about rafflesia. Entrance fee is RM10 for Malaysians, RM20 for foreigner (someone said you can try to negotiate for RM15). At the entrance, you can see some Tetrastigma vines, the host of rafflesia.

Rafflesia garden

Rafflesia flower blooms here, in average, once every 1 or 2 months. Before you go, you can call +60 17-8380878 or 088-875114 to confirm if there is any blooming. On the guest book, I could see many names of foreigner tourist$. Wow, I hope rafflesia can grow in my backyard too, so I can “goyang kaki” (doing nothing) and collect money. Actually they also take care of the rafflesia, like watering them in dry season. I saw an umbrella in the garden. She said she used it to cover the flower when raining. Even so, sometimes the flower can’t make it.

Guest book

Their garden is very small and grown with many bamboo. You can smell something like dead rat and hear flies flying around. That’s the bad smell of rafflesia to attract flies to transport its pollens for pollination. That’s why it has a nickname “corpse flower.”

Rafflesia garden

Just look around, you would find some reddish-brown cabbage-like buds on the ground. Those are what will turn into rafflesia flower, after 9 to 15 months, even longer than bearing a human baby! However, the wildlife such as rodents would eat this juicy bud and kill it. Moreover, the logging also pushes rafflesia to extinction. As rafflesia is protected species in Sabah, you could be jailed for cutting it.

Rafflesia bud

Boardwalk is built to prevent the flowers from eating the tourists. Just kidding, the boardwalk prevents the over-excited tourists will come to the flower and crush the fragile buds under the soil. You know lah, Malaysians got very itchy hands and they love to touch thing even if they don’t plan to buy it. The petal is also sensitive to touch that causes it turns black.

Boardwalk

Here you go, the photos of blooming rafflesia keithii, which is about 80cm in diameter and biggest flower in Sabah. Rafflesia keithii was named after Henry George Keith. When he discovered this magnificent and stink flower, he gave it to his wife, Agnes Keith. The flower was so smelly that she couldn’t bear it. So she moved out of the house and spent a few months living in upwind. Later she wrote a book that called “the land below the wind.” Yeah, not a funny joke.

Rafflesia keithii

Rafflesia keithii also can be found in Poring, Crocker Range and Tenom Agriculture Park. But Kokob is the most accessible place. When I enjoyed watching the flower, some Japanese tourists and locals started to flow in. Some came with big travel bus.

Rafflesia keithii

Rafflesia keithii

Beauty doesn’t last forever, so is rafflesia. After a few days, it will wither and dry up totally. Anyway, no worry, I saw 2 to 3 buds that would bloom in next 1 or 2 month.

withering Rafflesia

Damn… the chee-bye raining days are coming again. don’t know if I can go outing again. 🙁

Related post:
Rafflesia Pricei
Twin blooming of rafflesia

Photos taken in Ranau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Rafflesia flower

rafflesia pricei

I have been waiting for the blooming of Rafflesia flower. I went to Tambunan Rafflesia Information Centre in August last year, but came back empty-handed (I mean no photograph). Rafflesia is the biggest flower in the world and out of 15 species, only 3 species are found in Sabah. You also can find rafflesia flower in Sumatran, Peninsular Malaysia, Java and Philippines.

Rafflesia arnoldii species, with 90 cm in diameter, is the biggest flower in the world. Too bad it does not live in Sabah. I am tired of hearing tour operators advertise we have the biggest flower. Just to get the fact right.

Tambunan Rafflesia Information Centre

Tambunan Rafflesia Information Centre is about 80 KM away from Kota Kinabalu city. However, you will be driving on a long uphill road with many turns. Unless you own a powerful 4-wheel, otherwise you will need about 2 hours to arrive there. There is an exhibition hall that shows some info of rafflesia species. They open at 9am daily and close at 3pm. So don’t be late.

Tambunan Rafflesia Information Centre

Only Rafflesia pricei, about 30 cm in diameter (max. 45 CM) and second largest species in Sabah, is found in the Tambunan forest reserve about 1,200 – 1,400 Meters above sea level. Daily sighting is not guaranteed and in fact consider rare. many small brownish protuberances (bud) of rafflesia can be seen on the forest ground. The seed will need 6 to 7 months to grow! Rats and other animals would feed on this juicy bud thereby adding the rate of fatality. It is difficult than bearing a human baby.

Rafflesia bud

Rafflesia is a parasite plant that hosts on the vine of Tetrastigma. Rafflesia is a single flower that has no stem, no leaf and no root, and it is smelly like rotten meat. Rafflesia pricei is not as smelly as Rafflesia keithii. But when I get very close and sniff, I still can smell something unpleasing. Rafflesia relies on this smell to attract insects such as fly, to carry on the pollination.

Rafflesia protuberances

Photo above shows the reddish-brown cabbage-like protuberances of rafflesia. As you can see, they grow on a vine. Few months later, their flower will bloom in the night, showing their fleshy petals (perigone lobes) like the picture of rafflesia pricei below. The whole plant is a bit soft and look like plastic flower. I like its beautiful white spot pattern. I was so excited, coz this is my first time seeing a blooming rafflesia.

Blooming Rafflesia

Last Saturday there were two blooming of rafflesia pricei, one was 3 days old, another one 6 days. I was very lucky because one of the blooming rafflesia is only 10 minutes walk into the forest, and there was no forest leech due to the dry season now. The worst experience will be walking in the trail for an hour and get annoyed by the little blood sucking slimy leeches throughout the trekking. The extra water, raincoat and leech sock that I carried were needless.

Rafflesia

When I was busy photographing the rafflesia, the park ranger kept on asking if I would use the photos for filming. If the photos are for commercial use and I photograph it for very long, I would have to pay RM3,000 (USD900) for such purpose. According to him, a Korean even paid RM2,500 (WOW!) to picture this magnificent flower. Rafflesia pricei is pricely to photograph then. Well, I drove here for 2 hours and paid RM50 entrance fee, there was no way I would take two shots and left. I was done with the priceless moment anyway.

Withering Rafflesia

Just for your info, the blooming flower will last only 1 to 5 days. On 6th day, the petal will dry up and the whole plant will totally wither in next few days. By the time you are reading this, the pretty rafflesia flower that I saw last week should have gone. Give the centre a call to confirm if there is any blooming, before you visit. By the time I left, there were 2 tourist buses came in, the travel agent is quite well-informed I guess. When there is no blooming, the whole place is like yours.

twin blooming of rafflesia
twin blooming of rafflesia
Above: rare twin blooming of rafflesia pricei. The flowers show sign of withering after 5 days.

For other two species, rafflesia keithii, with 80cm in diameter, is the biggest species in Sabah. You can see them in Poring, Crocker Range, Tenom Agriculture Park, and Lohan. If I am not mistaken, Keith, the person that discovered rafflesia keithii, is the husband of Agnes Keith, the author who named Sabah “The land below the wind.”

Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, with 20cm in diameter, is the smallest but the rarest rafflesia that can only be found in eastern slope of Trus Madi range and Lutong Mountain in interior Sabah. If you are able to show me its blooming, I will not hesitate to pay you handsomely!
Rafflesia tengku-adlinii
Above: Rafflesia tengku-adlinii found in Maliau Basin.

Due to forest clearing for logging and agriculture, sighting of rafflesia is something depends on luck. Hope we can find the way to grow them in nursery. In fact some villagers are unhappy to see rafflesia. They would remove it to prevent their land is gazetted as protected forest reserve. And I also hope Sabah Parks can create a web page that announces the blooming of rafflesia, so more tourists will come for the sighting. I have no doubt the interest is strong.

Blooming Info

Sighting of blooming rafflesia needs luck. To avoid disappointment, before you visit Tambunan Rafflesia Centre, you can check for blooming information with Sabah Forestry Department:
Facebook: sabahforestrydepartment (they will update their Facebook if there is blooming)
Tel: +60 19-5383992 (mobile), +60 88-899589 (office)
Email: rafflesia.info@gmail.com

Related posts
Biggest flower in Sabah
Twin blooming of rafflesia

Photos taken in Tambunan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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