Mount Kinabalu Trek
We are currently offering a discount on this trip for the spring season of 2022, down from £875.00 to £675.00 per person. Please check the cost tab for inclusions and exclusions.
This six day adventure holiday includes climbing the mountain, rainforest trekking and an overnight in a local villages, and a visit to a jungle camp to learn junglecraft. You can select one of our scheduled dates or choose your own dates on the booking tab. You can also add in a wildlife safari or spend some time at the beach, contact us to build your own customised holiday.
One of the main attractions of climbing Mt Kinabalu is its accessibility. Climbers don't need any previous experience at high altitude, nor do they require any specialised equipment. However, weather conditions can change rapidly on the mountain. A clear, warm day can suddenly turn into heavy cold rain in a matter of minutes. Climbers must be well prepared for any eventuality. All bedding requirements are provided at Laban Rata or the nearby huts which are at 3300 m, so there's no need to take sleeping bags but a sleep sheet would be useful.
This trip can be done at any time of the year and is suitable for couples and small groups but is not suitable for young children.
The full itinerary can be seen on the itinerary tab of this page along with a detailed description of the climbing days on Mount Kinabalu, meanwhile the basic programme is as follows:
1. Pick up from hotel in Kota Kinabalu, drop off out of town and 4-5 hour trek to local village. Overnight in village
2. Trek all day under the forest canopy and through some primary rainforest to the jungle camp. Camping
3. Jungle bushcraft in the camp and then trek to a nearby for a village homestay.
4. Trek to village and transfer to Mount Kinabalu Park. Overnight in chalet with dormitory (private room optional)
5. Trek up the mountain to the Laban Rata hut.
6. Early start for summit day, trek back down the mountain and transfer to KK.
A full Packing list is on the Kit List Tab of this page.
Mount Kinabalu - The Youngest Mountain in the World Rising out of the Oldest Rainforest in the World
At 4,095 metres (13,435 ft) Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Borneo, and the highest point between the Himalayas and the snow-capped mountains of New Guinea. Lacking foothills, it appears to shoot straight up into the sky, it's jagged granite peaks floating above the clouds.
The mountain is "u" shaped, with bare rock plateaux at about 3,900 metres like two arms with the infamous Low’s Gully between which is over one kilometre deep in places. Few mountains can beat Mount Kinabalu for stark simplicity. It is set near the equator, rising straight out of the tropical rain forest, a continuous, clean, black, bare rock mass, to the summit. Because of its breathtaking isolation Kinabalu has its own climate, a constant flux of cloud and wind, rain and cold, and the warmth from the forests below.
Fitness on Mount Kinabalu
The effects of heat and humidity make this fairly easy but steep walk quite a challenge. For fitness training beforehand, we advise any exercise that works on the calf and thigh muscles since there are many steps to the hut.
The lower section on the first day is a steep path which is well trodden with regular water stops (pondoks) and many steps that meander ever upwards. There is no doubt that it seems never-ending, especially in the midday heat! Eventually the forest thins out and in the afternoon you may get some cloud and it will get cooler. The gradient eases and the walking becomes easier.
Coming down the mountain can be difficult after the strain on the leg muscles going up all of the steps the day before. Knees can certainly struggle with this so it's important to allow enough time. After the summit the descent to Laban Rata is quite quick, and after a breakfast you will want to get underway so as to reach the park gate by mid afternoon and take the transport to Kota Kinabalu.
Travelling in the Rainforest
The rainforest is a very clean and pure place to visit. The canopy offers excellent shade from the intense sun and traps moisture however it can be very humid and you will need to continually drink water. We travel using trails which have been the jungle arteries for the local native residents for thousands of years. Sometimes the paths can be muddy and slippery, there are logs to clamber over, and the terrain is up and down, but the movement is never fast.
We will carry little, and there will be lots of stops for drinking and cooling off in the streams. Travel in the jungle is up and down, a lot of hills and only the canopy above you and the impenetrable forest around you. Stand still for a moment and the animals will suddenly be seen and heard. The trails are wide enough for one person and it is important to stick together.
Mount Kinabalu Climate
As you would expect, the weather in the rainforest is warm and humid year round. Temperatures will usually be between 23-31degC with Relative Humidity ranging from 70-90%. Trips can be taken to the area at any time of year but usually, the best time is from March to May when the weather is generally a bit more dry and clear. Annual rainfall is in the region of 4000mm.
On Mt Kinabalu we ascend to higher and more exposed regions, breaking through the forest canopy and onto a rocky plateau. Up here early morning temperatures can drop to freezing level and you may see frost in shaded spots. In addition, we are also exposed to the wind. The wind speeds are likely to be 10-20km/h but can increase in excess of 50km/h at short notice and be accompanied by torrential rain.
A view of Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo, across the jungle.
Arriving on an airy bit of rock towards the summit of Mount Kinabalu.
6 day trip itinerary:
- 3D2N visit to some luxury in the Kawag Nature Lodge in Danum Conservation Area for relaxation and wildlife viewing.
- A visit to the tropical islands off the coast of Sandakan including glamping on Turtle Island or Libaran (or a bespoke diving trip to Sipadan Island).
- 2D2N visit to the Hibiscus Beach Resort, which is a stunning and idyllic boutique beach chalet set in a secluded cove on the Kudat peninsula on the northern tip of Borneo.
- 3D2N Big Fin Beach resort for snorkelling, diving, paddle boarding or relaxing at this private and secluded beach resort, just off the coast of Kota Belud, near Kota Kinabalu.
- 3D2N add-on trip to the Danum Valley Conservation Area, staying at the Danum Valley Field Centre, with guided treks through primary rainforest.
- 4D3N add-on with visits to the Sepilok Orangutan Centre and the Kinabatangan River for stunning wildlife safaris.
- 3D2N treat with a night at the prestigious and award-winning Borneo Rainforest Lodge in Danum Valley Reserve.
- Additional nights accommodation in Kota Kinabalu or for sightseeing and visiting the islands, staying in the Hotel Sixty 3.
Description of the Mount Kinabalu climb
Suggested wake up at 6-6.30 a.m and with bags walk back to the main reception area. Here it is possible to store left luggage. Proceed to Sabah Parks office next door and pay mountain guide fee and bus transfer and take the buffet breakfast at Balsam café. Collect the simple packed lunch for climb (suggest bringing your own snacks in addition, chocolate and peanuts are good energy foods).
After meeting your allocated guide (a porter is available for hire if required, ask your guide – approximately 80 myr per 10 kg), proceed to park bus and transfer 15 mins up to start of the 5.5 km trail to Laban Rata where you present your pass for check in – please keep this with you at all times.
The trek is steep, sweaty and strenuous so start wearing t-shirt and shorts. The trail is designed to conserve it and is a combination of wooden and natural steps. Bring at least 1 litre fluid container so as you can fill up as you climb. Approximately every 1 km or so there is a water station – this is untreated from the mountain top and does not usually cause any problems. If you prefer to treat it you can or buy expensive bottled water at Laban Rata.
Expect to trek for 5-6 hours today and for 5.5 km and usually after 4 hours, as you enter the montaine or moss forest, it will start to rain, don’t forget to enjoy the changing flora and fauna and ask your guide to show you the unique pitcher plants!
Upon arrival at Laban Rata @ 3,300 m you will be allocated your room at the check in desk. Go and shower asap as you will get cold quickly. Some of the lodges have hot water but even the ones that do cannot guarantee it. You can rent towels at reception for 10 myr.
Buffet ‘all you can eat’ dinner at Laban Rata restaurant between 5.30-7.30 p.m. Eat as much as you can as you need it. Usually early to bed as you will be up at 2-2.30 a.m the next morning. Your guide will suggest the exact time based on your speed reaching Laban Rata. Beer is for sale but this is not recommended.
The hostels are noisy so if you have brought ear plugs use them this evening. It is normal to experience some tingling sensation in the fingers, excess flatulence, mild headache, nausea, more need to urinate and being short of breath – these are all signs of mild altitude sickness. On rare occasions some climbers experience more severe problems and must descend. One of the best ways to limit altitude sickness is to stay hydrated – so drink plenty and do not confuse the need to go to the toilet more often as a sign that you are already well hydrated.
At 2 a.m in the morning you will be wondering why YOU choose to do this trek as you wake up and try to have a light breakfast. Your guide will be waiting and after refilling with water you begin the 3.5 km to the summit in time for sunrise. On rare occasions if the weather is deemed too dangerous the climb will be shut – you may wait one or two hours to see if this changes but the head guide’s decision is final.
The first 1km is a steep combination of steps and rock; some climbers prefer to start in shorts and t-shirt if the weather is not too cold as you will soon get warm again. Follow the guides speed and you will make slow but gradual process and usually any feelings of nausea pass after about 30 mins. After 45 mins you will reach the first of a number of rope sections, these are here to help pull yourself up some steeper sections, you will be in the dark and will not see much but even so the rock face is steep but not dangerous.
You will then emerge onto the true granite outcrop that is the mountain and with luck you will start to see some wonderful views especially if there is moonlight. At km 6.5 you will show your pass at the final hut and water refill station. From here it is a combination of steep and gradual as you climb towards the final 4,095 m mark. If you are not at the very top for sunset you can still enjoy as you climb and reach the summit after the crowds have left.
The weather at this stage is impossible to predict and this will dictate what and how much of your clothes you decide to use. With a strong wind and cloud cover it can be below freezing and miserable, without it will above zero and reasonably pleasant.
It is highly recommended that you DO NOT use your gloves until after the rope sections to keep them dry and warm. Also take your battery out of your camera before you start to save the temporary drain of its power caused by the cold and altitude. Normally 30-60m mins at or around the summit is enough for most people. Do not arrive too early at the summit as pre-dawn is the coldest part of the night.
When you are ready to begin the return to Laban Rata and the second breakfast. Don’t forget to enjoy the views. It is at this point that most minor injuries take place to do not rush; there is still a long way to go. Have a second big breakfast, collect any belongings that you have left in your room and start to head back to park h.q. Do not wait too long as you will lose momentum.
Expect 4-5 hours, maybe less for your return time; at start gate show your pass and your guide will find the bus to return to park h.q. Congratulations! At park h.q a light lunch/high tea awaits. Collect any left luggage and say farewell to your guide with any tip or gratuity you would like to give him (suggested $10 US per person minimum). Meet your transfer driver at the front office – this will usually be the same driver as you came with – if not look for a signboard with your name on it.
Upon drop off at hotel, end of service, we hope your climb was a success!
Mount Kinabalu trek and jungle trip discounted price £675.00 (spring 2022)
(based on pick up and drop off at your hotel in Kota Kinabalu.
- Mount Kinabalu accommodation at a chalet at the base of the mountain and in the Laban Rata hut on the mountain (dormitories with bedding).
- Local mountain guide
- All local transfers starting and ending in Kota Kinabalu
- Overnight in the local village with meals
- Activities and meals at the jungle skills camp
- Meals on the mountain as follows:
Day 1: Dinner (western and asian buffet) at Balsam restaurant in park HQ.
Day 2: Buffet breakfast at Balsam café, and simple packed lunch for climb (suggest bringing own snacks in addition, chocolate and peanuts are good energy foods), buffet dinner at Laban Rata restaurant between 5.30-7.30 p.m.
Day 3: 2am light breakfast and then breakfast number two after sunrise return at Laban Rata restaurant. Upon return to park HQ a light lunch/high tea is served at Balsam café.
- Travel Insurance
- Personal expenses
- Cash payments to be made in Malaysian ringgit at the park gate, all figures include local tax.
Entry fee = RM15 ( ~£3.00)
Insurance = RM7 excluding tax (~ £1.35)
Transport to/from lodge to start of trek = RM33 (~ £6.50)
Mountain permit = RM200 (~ £38)
Guide fee = RM230 (~£45, shared between group)
Please note that ample advance notice must be given for this trip because accommodation on the mountain is difficult to secure, and we need to book beds in the huts on the mountain well in advance.
Mount Kinabalu and Jungle Trek kit list
For the mountain section:
- 35 - 40 litre rucksack with waterproof liner and various size stuff sacks
- Trekking shorts and a few T-shirts/tops for the walk up and down (preferably not cotton)
- Boots with a good sole, ankle support and waterproof (gore tex) for the summit
- Shoes or sturdy sandals for the walk up through the jungle
- Waterproof jacket and trousers, plus gaiters are also useful
- Warm lightweight jumper or fleece/windstop fleece
- Warm lightweight trousers
- Socks and underwear with spares
- Beanie/woollen hat and a sun hat
- Waterproof gloves
- Sleep sheet (bedding is provided in Laban Rata but they prefer if you have your own sleep sheet
- Snacks - dried fruits, chocolate, nuts, sweets etc)
- Water bottles - hard plastic or metal - 1 or 2 litres. There are water stops on the path every kilometre or so.
- Sunscreen cream, preferably waterproof, and UV lip salve
- Small towel for wiping your face
- Whistle in case of emergency in bad weather of visibility
- Headtorch and spare batteries
- Camera - keep in a waterproof pouch
- Power pack for electronics
- First aid - headache tablets, bandaids, antiseptic cream, small crepe bandage, triangular bandage, safety pins, rehydration tablets, compeed for blisters.
For the jungle section:
- Sleep sheet (mummy shaped bag made from cotton or light fleece)
- 2 sets of trekking shorts (cycling shorts, see below), T-shirts, lightweight shirts and trousers (quick dry material)
- Good quality sandals and lightweight trekking shoes or boots
- Two water bottles (hard plastic or metal, no disposable bottles please)
- Wash kit, lightweight towel, sun cream and personal 1st aid (as above)
- Sunglasses, sunhat, bandana head torch and batteries, camera
Notes on kit for the trip:
In the jungle it is hot and humid so lightweight clothing which dries quickly is best. You might prefer to avoid cotton and wear a sunhat and take a bandana. During the day you will want to wear light hiking boots or good quality hiking sandals (there will be streams to cross) with socks. To avoid chafing don't walk in cotton underwear, cycling shorts are a better option instead of underwear, you can wear some light shorts on top if you want.
Keep one set of dry long sleeved clothes in a dry bag to change into in the evening and air your feet and then wear socks with sandals to avoid insect bites. As it gets cooler you will want a lightweight warm top like a fleece or jumper, and take a headlamp for walking around and visiting the toilet at night.
At night you can sleep in a mummy shaped sleeping bag made out of fleece or cotton. The villagers will supply a mattress and a mosquito net and everyone normally sleeps communally in a large open room. It's warm at night so you normally sleep in under shorts and a loose T-shirt and then in the sleep sheet under a mosquito net.
On the mountain you need to have your lightweight clothing for the walk up in the heat in the forest and warm clothes plus waterproofs for the high camps and the summit. For the walk up through the forest it is hot and humid and strenuous, some people prefer shorts and a Tshirt (adding a jumper as they get higher), others prefer lightweight long trousers and a long sleeved shirt. It's important to have spares in a dry bag to change into straight away when you get to camp. For the walk up there is a good path and many steps and it's possible to hike in good quality hiking sandals or lightweight boots or trainers, but the summit morning must be in a proper boots. Gaiters are very useful for when it pours. The rain can be quite torrential so do expect to get wet feet if it rains on summit day! You should take spare socks and underwear and keep a set of clothes dry for the summit morning.
Sun injuries are common, so bring good skin cover, UV lip salves, good sunglasses and aftersun.
Choose a scheduled date or contact us to set up private dates or a bespoke itinerary. The minimum deposit is £100.00 and the balance is due six weeks before travel.