Mount Kinabalu is a nature resort destination in Malaysia, located about 90km away from KK City on the Crocker Range highlands facing Sabah's west coast. This geographical region is home to the highest mountain in Southeast Asia (archipelago) - Gunung Kinabalu, a stunning massif that overlooks a rainforested valley rich with plant and wildlife species endemic to Borneo.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, Mount Kinabalu is Sabah's most popular tourist attraction, featuring natural hot springs, tea plantations, rafflesia flowers, village homestays and even a dairy cattle farm. A wide range of hotels provide visitor accommodation around the park and Kundasang town.
The Kadazan-Dusun people who live here have long revered Mount Kinabalu as a sacred resting ground for the spirits of their dead ancestors. 'Kinabalu' is widely belived to have been derived from the Kadazan words 'Aki', which means 'ancestor', and 'Nabalu', which means 'mountain'. For centuries, the imposing masiff watched over the villages as they cultivated the valleys.
Collective stories told from one generation to the next inspired supernatural beliefs while imbuing the mountain with a sense of awe and fear. Kinabalu itself was tightly guarded; outsiders were prevented from scaling its walls for a long time. In 1851, Sir Hugh Low, one of the first British colonial administrators in the Malay Peninsula and famed naturalist, conquered the peak with the agreement of locals.
His climb was accompanied by a guide who brought a host of charms; subsequent climbs by others invoked meticulous ceremonies to appease mountain spirits. Over time, the superstitions subsided in favour of tourism, and today, a single ritual is conducted annually by local female shamans (called 'Bobohizans') who offer up cigars, betel nuts, sirih leaves, lime and rice (as well as seven slaughtered chickens).
Mount Kinabalu is located in Sabah state, which is part of East Malaysia and geographically, the northern sphere of Borneo. The mountain lies on a northern point along the Crocker Range, a mountainous region in the east that forms the backbone of Sabah. Its impressive structure can be seen from as far as the cities and towns that skirt the eastern shores, including Kota Kinabalu (90 km away).
The closest towns around the mountain are Kundasang and Ranau, both of which have great views of the massif on a clear day. Outlying rainforest regions around the mountain have been gazetted as substations and part of the national park. Mount Kinabalu is reputedly the most ecologically diverse mountain in Southeast Asia, with an incredibly high incidence of floral and faunal endemics.
A staggering 326 species of birds, which is almost half of those described from Borneo, have been recorded from Kinabalu Park and its adjacent regions, including Serinsim and Poring. The vast biodiversity and sheer beauty of its landscape has accorded Mount Kinabalu with a World Heritage Site listing by UNESCO, with many more new botanical and biological treasures awaiting discovery.