Kinabalu National Park is arguably one of Sabah’s most popular nature attractions, enticing most visitors to Sabah to either climb the mountain, relish the park’s cool, fresh air, soak in the hot water springs or discover unusual plant and animal life.
The park is so diverse, not just in fauna and flora, but also in ways to explore it, that anything is possible; from a short, hour long visit, to spending 3 days or more and still not see it all.
Mt. Kinabalu’s ecosystems are very special with climatic zones ranging from tropical lowland forests to polar type summit zones.
This great mountain is an icon of natural history and successful conservation whilst maintaining its position as one of the most accessible of high mountains to climb. Many people visit the mountain on bird watching trips as the variety of bird life is extraordinary.
Rising to 4,095m it is one of the highest peaks in South East Asia, and the highest in Malaysia and Borneo. As part of the protected Kinabalu National Park of some 753.7 sq.km, its biological diversity has captivated scientists the world over.
The park was established in 1964 before the droves of tourists began to visit. Restrictions were put in place, which kept general visitation to only some parts and routes, which to this day has kept human activities in the area to a minimum, while still offering the visitor plenty to see.
Kinabalu National Park or Taman Negara Kinabalu in Malay, was designated Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site by UNESCO in December 2000 for its “outstanding universal values” and the role as one of the most important biological sites in the world.
Geologists reveal the story of the mountain began 40 million years ago, when the north-western area of Sabah was still submerged and part of the sea basin. At this time marine sediments were accumulating and forming layers over the earth’s crust.
Zones of weakness allowed molten granite material to be pushed upwards, at the same time forming what is now known at the Crocker Range and Trus Madi Highlands of Sabah.
In geological terms Mount Kinabalu is very young and was born only 1.5 million years ago when this mass of granite rock began to rise and break through the overlying crusts of softer rocks.
It is thought that 100,000 years ago the mountain was probably several hundred metres higher than today when ice-caps crowned the summit. Erosion by heavy rain and the tropical sun forced huge pieces of ice and glaciers to slide down the mountain scouring the shapes we can see today.
Kinabalu itself is still rising, one estimate is 5mm per year and the landslides on its slopes and rock debris beneath its peaks are evidence of the still-continuing erosion.
Together with the summit pinnacles, the other major feature of Kinabalu’s massif is the awe-inspiring chasm of Low’s Gully, falling almost 912m from the summit plateau.
Most of Kinabalu’s stunning flora and fauna is unique to the area and found nowhere else in the world. Such as the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world and certain Nepenthes (pitcher plant) and more than 1,000 species of orchids.