If you are not a Tawau’s local, it is a bit hard to find Tawau Hills Park (Taman Bukit Tawau), and there is no bus going there. Tawau Hills Park is a recreational and national park about 20 KM away from Tawau town. During weekend and Sunday, many families and youngsters would go there to swim and BBQ. The locals normally call this place “Abacca”, “Table”, “National Park”, “Taman Negara”, “No. 4 Gudang”, “四號麻房” (Chinese)… If you say “Tawau Hills Park”, they will look at you with a “Huh? What?” expression, like you ask for direction to another planet.
To get there from Tawau town, go to the road that leads to “Jalan Muhibbah” and “Jalan Air Panas” roads. You will come to a few roundabout until you reach the one like the picture below. Take the left turn, you will see a yellow sign “Old Folks Home” after 10 meters, go straight for a few KM, near the end you will reach a T junction that got a “Muhibbah Jaya” sign at your right, turn right, go straight for quite a long way, you will passby Taman Semarak, Sungai Tawau bridge, big Golden Hope signboard… then pay attention to your right side, you will see the “Taman Bukit Tawau” sign, follow the sign to drive for another 8 KM, you will arrive Tawau Hills Park.
There is not much information about this park on the Internet. I thought it was just a small park. It is a very very big national park, with the size of 28,000 hectares. You need to pay RM3.00 entrance fee to enter the park. Most people go there to swim and picnic. There is a restaurant inside the park too. If you look at the map below (from the leaflet printed by Sabah Parks), you can see that there are lot of places you can go.
The popular extra choices are jungle trekking 2.7 KM to Gelas Hill Waterfall, or 3.2 KM to Sulphur Hot Spring. If you are lucky, on the way you can spot wildlife such as clouded leopard, hornbills, pheasants, giant tree squirrel. You may want to wear leech socks. For those who are adventurous, they can take the 10++ KM jungle route to climb a mountain. I am not sure if you need to get a climb permit and hire a local guide in advance, you may call the park at +60-89-918827 for info. You can stay in their jungle lodge (RM40 per night) or chalet (RM200 per night), or even sleep in the tents in camping ground for RM5.00 per night.
I was not so lucky that day. The weather was bad. I wanted to go to the Gelas Hill Waterfall and Sulphur Hot Spring. Their staff said these trails were next to the river. If the river flooded, I would trap in the forest. I really wanted to go, so I checked with a life guard at the riverside. He said it was quite safe to go. When I planned to move, it started to rain heavily. Well, my mission failed so not many photos were taken. The only place I can go is the small Tawau Hills Waterfall in the park. Due to the heavy rain, the waterfall was very big and strong. Quite a view. I have taken a video clip and share it here. Too bad, hopefully I can come back again one day.
I got a leaflet which has useful information of Tawau Hills Park (accommodation, contact, etc.). You can Click Here to download it.
Photos taken in Tawau, Sabah Malaysia