Flying back home via Singapore

It’s not exactly Borneo but we changed planes in Singapore on our flights and spend a night and a day there. It’s a popular gateway to the island and definitely worth checking out, especially if Kuching and Kota Kinabalu still felt too small and you need a proper city after 4 weeks in the rainforests of Borneo. ;)

The Merlion statue in Merlion Park

We didn‘t have much time in Singapore so we stuck to the Downtown Core and Little India.

Marina Bay Sands

From Changi International Airport we flew to Dubai and onwards to Frankfurt less than 2 weeks ag, and I already miss South-Eastern Asia and Borneo.

Changi Airport

Kinabalu National Park

Kinabalu National Park lies a 2h bus ride from Kota Kinabalu and many people visit the park to climb 4095m Mount Kinabalu, which is possible without any special equipment. The trip requires warm clothes, a guide and bookings for the expensive accommodation near the summit (RM450 pp) though.

Mount Kinabalu, view from park HQ

We didn‘t intend to climb the mountain when we started from KK and thus had neither warm clothes nor bookings. When we arrived there and saw the impressive mountain I considered climbing it and we asked for cancellations but there were none and everything was fully booked so we just followed our original plan and checked out some of the trails around park HQ. It is located at a height of about 1800m and it’s already pretty cold up there (~18°C the day we were there), I even had to wear a pullover in the beginning! For the summit you definitely need a jacket and some people suggested bringing gloves — not my cup of tea anyway. ;)

Tree lizard

We walked through the maze of very short trails around HQ and then took the Liwago Trail (5.5km) to Timpohon Gate where the summit trail starts. On our way back we took the power station road. The trail follows a small river through the rainforest and it has many steep sections where you have to watch your step and concentrate on the path instead of the surrounding forest. Most likely this is why we found very little wildlife. The vegetation was interesting though, it differs from the other National Parks we have been to. There are many ferns and mosses and other plants we hadn‘t seen before.

The spires of Mount Kinabalu

Accommodation at park HQ is managed by a private company and extremely expensive (RM160 for a bed in a dorm, wth!). There is a cheaper option outside the park, on the other side of the road, but we decided to head back to KK in the evening.

Some snake we found on the Liwago Trail

Viewpoint next to the road, close to Timpohon Gate

Me near the end of Liwago Trail

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park

The 5 small islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park can be reached from the jetty in downtown Kota Kinabalu by a 30 minute boat ride, just pick one of the 8(!) somewhat chaotic boat companies and wait for their next boat.

Me at the western tip of Manukan

The 4 smaller islands have good beaches and are are very popular with day trippers from the city, especially on weekends. Most people come to relax on the beach or for some snorkeling. There are showers, changing rooms and basic restaurants on all of them and at least 2 have a small scuba diving base. You can also rent snorkels, masks and fins. While the sand on the beaches is great, the water is very shallow and the ground is a bit rocky which can be annoying, especially at low tide. Sea urchins hide between the corals so watch out. The water is pretty clear and the coral and snorkeling are ok, but many corals are damaged and if you watch people you‘ll know why.

We visited 3 of the islands: Manukan, Manutik and Sapi. Sapi and Manutik are very small and the trails on them are only a few hundred meters long, but still we encountered three water monitor lizards on the trail at Manutik, two of which were about 2m long and really impressive.

juvenile water monitor at the beach, Sapi

Bees and South China Sea, Manukan

We liked Manukan best. This island is larger with good snorkeling at one spot (south of the eastern tip) and deeper water without rocks near the jetty that allows for swimming without worrying about crashing into corals. It also has a good 1.5km jungle trail to a view point at the western tip. Park staff said the trail was closed and we had to take the paved jogging trail to the viewpoint. Accidentally we still took the trail on our way there and I have no idea why it should be closed. It was a good and interesting but very hot trail through spiky palm trees (Sago palms I guess) and we encountered another monitor lizard on it. Watch out for the large bee hive on an overhanging tree about 1km into the trail, it’s in the first spot that allows an open view of the South China Sea, towards the north. On the way back we took the paved jogging trail which was less interesting.

Water monitor in the jungle, Manukan

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