Overview

This trek to Mount Kinabalu is a five day adventure holiday to visit lush rainforest and stay overnight in local villages up in the highlands and then at a jungle camp, go rafting and then climb to the highest peak in Borneo.

Afterwards you can opt to fly to east Sabah for a 4D3N wildlife experience on the Kinabatangan river and Sepilok orangutan sanctuary, or stay in a beachside chalet at Kudat on the northern tip of Borneo.

This trip can be done at any time of the year and is suitable for couples and small groups.

Mount Kinabalu trekking adventure itinerary

Day 1 -  Half day rafting on a grade 1 or 2 river, followed by transfer and trek to a village in the forest foothills for traditional meal and local hospitality. Overnight in the village.
Day 2 -  Trek for 5 or 6 hours to a jungle camp enjoying the pristine environment under the forest canopy and stretching the legs. Accommodation at the camp is in either tents or hammocks.
Day 3 -  A day at the jungle camp learning jungle skills and identifying some of the endemic plant species, botanical walk and exploring the environment.
Day 4 –  Trek for 3 hours to Kiau village for lunch and then a transfer to Kinabalu National Park and overnight in one of the park chalets.  
Day 5 –  Early start trekking up the mountain. Meet the guide at the park entrance and walk for most of the day up to the accommodation at Laban Rata. Accommodation in rooms with 4 - 6 beds and a buffet dinner.
Day 6 -  Summit of Mt Kinabalu early in the morning, back to Laban Rata for breakfast and a descent back to the park gate. Transfer back to Kota Kinabalu.

On day 6 you can book a room in KK with us and then choose one of the different options for a few extra days in Sabah, for example a couple of extra days in KK at the hotel or a 4D3N visit to east Sabah or a visit to the tip of Borneo or a visit to one of the more remote wildlife reserves such as Deramokot or Danum Valley.

Kit list and advice for what to take for Mount Kinabalu

  • Large Rucksack with waterproof liner and various size stuff sacks
  • Day sack for summit day and day hikes in the jungle
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers, gaiters are optional but useful
  • Fleece sleep sheet (this is a mummy shaped fleece bag) - bedding is providing in Laban Rata
  • Trekking shorts, T-shirts, lightweight shirts and trousers (quick dry material)
  • Fleece top, hat and gloves for summit day
  • Hiking boots and sandals/ flip flops.
  • Two water bottles of 1 litre capacity
  • Personal washing kit, small towel
  • Sun cream and personal 1st aid kit
  • Sunglasses, sunhat, head torch and batteries, camera

In the jungle it is very 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 useful.

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 in case of insects. As it gets cooler you will want a lightweight warm top like a fleece or jumper, and do take a headlamp for walking around and visiting the toilet. 

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.

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. Trekking boots will be fine but take gaiters for when it pours. The rain can be quite torrential so do expect to get wet feet if it rains on summit day! You may want to take a pair of trainers for walking back down the mountain.

Sun injuries are common, so bring good skin cover, UV lip salves, good sunglasses and after sun.

 Check out our advice for clothing and equipment for your trip to Borneo and here for a more detailed mountain kit list.

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. 

Above the hut, at Laban Rata you initially work through some quite dense forest in the dark so a headlamp is essential. The ground becomes rocky and can be very slippery if there is rain. You will be starting at around 2 or 3am so it will be quite chilly, fleece and waterproofs with gaiters, warm hat and gloves are needed.

Passing the Sayat Sayat Hut the route moves onto the bare high plateaux of granite, completely open and exposed. Rainwater comes off in sheets and it can be quite cold and windy and difficult on the slippery rock. The gradient is not steep and there are sections with a rope to follow and hold onto. As the sun comes up you will see the huge expanse of granite on the plateaux and various features will show up as silhouettes in the dawn. The actual summit of Lows Peak is quite small with great views across Sabah to the sea if you get a clear morning. You can also gaze down into the 2000 metre abyss which is known as Low's Gully, which is basically the gap in the middle of the U-shaped mountain.

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.

At any time of the year, the trek through the rainforest will leave you drenched in sweat a lot of the time and it becomes very important to re-hydrate regularly and to take time to acclimatise to the heat and humidity without overstretching yourself. We will take regular breaks and the river crossings will provide some degree of refreshing cooling.

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 sheets of torrential rain. In addition to the rain its self we may spend some time literally in the clouds as they make their way across the mountain. In this situation, the Relative Humidity will, of course, approach 100% and we will see water condensing all over us. There is, however, a payback for the rainstorms; some of the most spectacular and memorable sunsets that you will see anywhere on earth.

Mount Kinabalu_view to peak across forest and clouds.jpg

A view of Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo, across the jungle.

Mount Kinabalu Weather Patterns

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.

At any time of the year, the trek through the rainforest will leave you drenched in sweat a lot of the time and it becomes very important to re-hydrate regularly and to take time to acclimatise to the heat and humidity without overstretching yourself. We will take regular breaks and the river crossings will provide some degree of refreshing cooling.

Mount Kinabalu_Kotal Route group dropping off plateau.jpg

Arriving on an airy bit of rock towards the summit of Mount Kinabalu.

On Mt Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo, 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 sheets of torrential rain. In addition to the rain its self we may spend some time literally in the clouds as they make their way across the mountain. In this situation, the Relative Humidity will, of course, approach 100% and we will see water condensing all over us. There is, however, a payback for the rainstorms; some of the most spectacular and memorable sunsets that you will see anywhere on earth.

Mount Kinabalu Books and Maps

Kinabalu Region Guides
Globetrotter Visitor's Guide Kinabalu Park, Globetrotter, ISBN-10: 1859744052, ISBN-13: 978-1859744055
Borneo: Regional Guide, Lonely Planet, ISBN-10: 1741792150, ISBN-13: 978-1741792157
Borneo, Footprint Handbooks, ISBN-10: 190609814X, ISBN-13: 978-1906098148
The Rough Guide to Southeast Asia On A Budget, Rough Guides, ISBN-10: 1848365225, ISBN-13: 978-1848365223
The Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Rough Guides, ISBN-10: 1843530945, ISBN-13: 978-1843530947

Kinabalu maps
Sabah & Kota Kinabalu Travel Map, 1:100,000/1:25,000, Periplus Editions, ISBN-10: 0794606229, ISBN-13: 978-0794606220

Sabah and Sarawak, 1:100,000, New Holland Publishers Ltd, ISBN-10: 1845379381, ISBN-13: 978-1845379384
Borneo, 1:1,200,000, Reise Know-How Verlag, ISBN-10: 3831772347, ISBN-13: 978-3831772346 
Borneo - Kalimantan, 1:1,130,000, ITMB - International Travel Maps, ISBN-10: 1553410653, ISBN-13: 978-1553410652

Interactive route map, description and photos


Kinabalu books
Descent into Chaos: Doomed Expedition to Low's Gully, Connaughton, Brassey's, ISBN-10: 1857531477, ISBN-13: 978-1857531473
Into the Heart of Borneo, O'Hanlon, Penguin, ISBN-10: 0140073973, ISBN-13: 978-0140073973

 

Bespoke Dates
Fixed Itineraries
Start Date
12/07/2017
End Date
14/07/2017
Days
2
Price
£1bn dollars
£1bn dollars
Start Date
06/03/2021
End Date
11/03/2021
Days
6
Price
£875.00

Mount Kinabalu trek and jungle trip cost £875.00

INCLUDES

  • Mount Kinabalu climbing permit and accommodation in Laban Rata
  • Local Mountain guide
  • All transfers
  • Overnight in the local village with meals
  • Activities at the jungle camp

EXCLUDES

  • Travel Insurance
  • Personal expenses

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. Full payment for the mountain section has to be given on booking, so therefore we would ask that a minimum £500.00 deposit is paid for this trip.

£875pp

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.

Tours from only 875pp Dates & Bookings

Borneo - a wonderful and unforgettable experience with so many fantastic memories. Did so much in 3 weeks. This trip wil…

Read More Sue
Key Information
  • Duration 6 Days
  • Numbers 2 - 10
  • Altitude 4095m
  • Challenge Moderate
  • Nearest airport Kota Kinabalu