Kinabalu National Park, about 90 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu, is one of the world’s most significant natural environments.
The park is home to thousands of types of flora and fauna that are native to the area, and several hundred that are found only in the park.
As such, Kinabalu National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, the first in Malaysia. While its tourist trails are well-worn, the majority of the park is an unspoilt paradise for rare flora and fauna.
For those who aren’t keen on testing themselves on Mt Kinabalu’s slopes, there is still much to enjoy from a visit to the park.
The presence of Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South-East Asia, is one of the contributing factors to the wide variety of animal, bird, insect and plant life found in the park.
The terrain ranges from lush, green rainforest at the park’s lowest altitudes, while further up the mountain, rhodendron and coniferous forest is prevalent. At the highest altitudes, stunted plant growth and small marsupials survive in a harsh environment.
Orchids and carnivorous pitcher plants are among the park’s most famous plants, although they are rare along the park’s most worn tourist trails. However, they are all on display in a botanical walk near park headquarters, where visitors can view some of the area’s most beautiful flora.
The most famous of the pitcher plants endemic to Kinabalu National Park is Nepenthes raja, a giant pitcher plant whose bell can hold more than three litres of water. There are a number of other species of pitcher plants in the park, and these can be seen just off some of the tracks in the park.
Kinabalu National Park is also home to the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia, which blooms exceptionally rarely and then only for a matter of days.
Unlike most of its floral brethren, the Rafflesia emits a foul smell, reminiscent of rotting meat. The stench attracts flies and insects, which the plant then feasts upon.
With a diameter of up to one metres and a potential weight of 10 kilograms, the blooming of the Rafflesia is an event keenly awaited by botanists around the world.