For all of you nature/jungle trek fans, you will love it here at Maliau Basin in Sabah! We did a total of 4 days jungle trek and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly! Thankfully, no leeches as it was the dry season. Beware though, Maliau Basin is famous for their leeches especially during the wet season! 4 days of just being out there in nature, what a great way to heal our soul.
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” – John Burroughs
Day 1: Kota Kinabalu – Maliau Basin Studies Centre
We spent the most of day 1 in a car driving actually, about 5-6 hours in total. Cos it’s a long long way from the city to Maliau Basin! There’s a reason why this place is also known as the “lost world of Sabah”. But at least the ride was very comfortable and we were pretty much used to long car rides after our Footprints Across Asia journey 🙂
Our first stop was at Keningau Town where we had our breakfast. We then continued on our journey to the Shell Maliau Reception where we had our lunch and briefing about the Maliau Basin.
Here was also where we changed from our van to a 4 wheel drive as the route to the Maliau Basin Studies Camp (MBSC) was really bumpy and uneven!
Upon reaching MBSC where we will be staying for our first night, we were immediately greeted by wildlife! We were at the lobby of the MBSC when suddenly we heard a loud flapping noise and a big bang! Poor thing, apparently this hornbill lost its way and flew right smack into the door of the souvenir shop! Must have been such a fright for this bird.
Tip: If you ever encounter any raging wild boar, run as fast as you can in a zig-zag line! Apparently they can’t turn their necks and can only run straight. heh.
Here’s our cozy room for the night, not too bad at all. Definitely exceeded our expectations. There’s even hot water here! But of course, no wifi.
We were supposed to go for the Sky Bridge (treetop canopy walk) but it was closed for maintenance. So we decided to chill and took a short walk to admire the view of the beautiful Maliau river instead. You can’t really see from the photo, but the water was actually reddish brown in colour! As our guide put it, it looked like “teh-o” (tea without milk). It’s not dirty actually, the colour’s due to the minerals from the decomposing plants that seeped into the river.
Oh and while we were admiring the river, we spotted a baby wild boar and its mother crossing the river! It was too far to take a photo of them though.
Sumptuous dinner! We really weren’t expecting anything like that, but wow, the chefs at MBSC were really awesome! Oh and while we were enjoying our dinner, there was a fruit bat flying around the dining hall right above our heads in circles. Part and parcel of nature I guess.
We were surprised that the MBSC had a auditorium within their premises! Not bad at all, fully equipped with a projector and air conditioning. We had to watch a 15 minutes video about the Maliau Basin, it felt like the video was done many many years ago though, time for an updated version!
Woohoo, highlight of day 1! The night drive into the forest to spot some nocturnal wildlife! Exciting!
And look what we spotted! A very cute Buffy fish owl! We also spotted quite a few flying squirrels, civets, Samba deers. But it was too dark and they were moving too fast for us to capture a clear shot of them. The owl was the only one that stood so still for our photo 🙂
Fun Fact: Do you know that an owl has extremely sharp claws? Our guide shared with us that one of his colleague used his bare hands to rescue an injured owl that was lying on the ground and ended up getting scratched very badly by the owl! It was so deep that you could almost see the bone and he ended up having a very infected wound as the claws were full of germs and had to be admitted to the hospital.
That sums up the end of our first day in Maliau Basin. Kinda a relaxing day to prepare us for the long trek the next day!
Day 2: Maliau Basin Studies Centre – Agathis Camp – Ginseng Camp (9km/6 hours)
From the MBSC to Agathis Camp, we took the 4 wheel drive and because of the vastly improved road conditions, we took only 30 minutes compared to 1.5 hours in the past.
Sadly, the Agathis Camp is no longer in use as it was destroyed by the elephants about 2 months ago.
I know our outfit looks damn cool. Haha but no choice, because we didn’t want to get infested with leeches!
Tip: To avoid leeches, use leech socks! (The white fabric that we’re wearing below our knees) You wear it over your normal socks before wearing your shoes. Also, tuck in your shirts to prevent any sneaky leeches from crawling in!
Apparently Maliau Basin is infamous for their leeches, especially during the wet season! Thankfully we were there during the dry season (Mar to Oct) and it has not been raining for the past few days when we were there. Hence we only spotted maybe less than 10 leeches in total during the entire trek?
We really enjoyed learning about the different types of trees while trekking. The tree in the right photo below was a huge Agathis tree which is very commonly found in the Maliau Basin forest. That’s why one of the camp was named after this tree. There were aplenty of spiraling lianas (left photo below) along the trail too!
We also spotted some gibbons swinging wildly from tree to tree and even caught a glimpse of the huge helmeted hornbill! Ryan taught us how to identify different types of animal/bird calls and it was very fun practising whatever we’ve learnt along the way. It really does feel like Geography coming alive! 🙂
“Let nature be your teacher.” – William Wordsworth
Everyday we will have pre-packed lunch which our porters prepared for us.
Reminder: Leave no trash behind! We brought back our plastic containers and utensils and reused them again for the next day’s lunch.
Finally, after around 6 hours of trek, we reached the Ginseng Camp which will be our crib for our second night!
We did a short 20 minutes trek to the nearby Ginseng Falls but sadly, due to the recent dry spell, the falls has been reduced to a tiny fall.
Tip: Be careful on your way down to the Ginseng Falls! Lots of slippery rocks with moss on it.
Again, never have we enjoyed such a feast in the middle of a forest before. 4 different dishes complete with a fruits dish! Very very delicious! Shiok!
Day 3 & 4: Ginseng Camp – Maliau Falls – Ginseng Camp – Agathis Camp (19km/9.5 hours)
According to Ryan, the third day was the most challenging out of our entire 4 days Maliau Basin trek. The first 500m ascend was really steep, but subsequently it was quite flat. The toughest parts were at the start and the last 2km when trekking down to the falls.
We really enjoyed the wildlife in Maliau Basin. As we were trekking, we heard some branches cracking and falling. We though it was a deadfall, but when we turned around, we realised that it was a bunch of playful Red Leaf Monkeys swinging around the canopy! Too far to capture a clear shot of them though.
Do you know, the giant millipede above might not be poisonous but it’s able to shoot out a liquid that can blind you?
Fun fact: Any idea how to tell if a wild mushroom is poisonous or edible? Well, if it’s still looking so pretty and untouched, it means it’s most likely to be poisonous since none of the forest animals/insects have eaten it!
Some parts of the trek were slightly more challenging as you have to climb up/down via the wooden ladder. But definitely nothing compared to the crazy terrain at Mt Trusmadi!
Tip: During the last 2km of descend to the Maliau Falls, be very careful as it’s really slippery! We were there during dry weather and it was still very slippery, can’t imagine how it’d be like during the wet season!
And here it is, the majestic 7 tiered Maliau Falls! You have to be there to experience it for yourself. It’s even more beautiful during the wet season when the falls is much larger than this! Imagine finding this amazing falls hidden deep inside a forest!.
“Nature itself is the best physician.” – Hippocrates
So that sums up our 4 days trek in the Maliau Basin! We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly and this nature break was definitely much needed for our souls. 4 days of just us and nature, no distractions from the world outside.
How to book this tour
We booked our 4D3N Maliau Trek with Amazing Borneo. Note that the standard package is usually 5D4N but due to time constraint, we did the 4D3N trek instead. Usually we prefer travelling independently but for certain activities, you will definitely need to book a tour. For the Maliau Basin trek, it’s not very accessible and just to get to the starting point, you need at least 4-6 hours of drive. Even if you decide to rent your own vehicle, it’s going to be quite costly. For us, we had a fuss free experience with Amazing Borneo because they settled everything from the transport, hiring of porters (to carry our food/water, to cook for us), guide, permits, accommodation, food and logistics.