Kinabalu National Park And How I Got Attacked

/, Destinations, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, UNESCO Heritage Sites/Kinabalu National Park And How I Got Attacked

Mount Kinabalu is a popular tourist attraction. It looms way above the island appears to keep a watchful eye on the city. In fact our friend Tham explained that Kota means city. So Kota Kinabalu is quite literally Mount Kinabalu’s city. While you may not be able to see Mount Kinabalu from the heart of Kota Kinabalu, the mountain is easily visible from the ferries that cross to the islands provided it is a clear an bright day.

At 4095 meters, Mount Kinabalu poses a challenge for trekkers from all parts of the world. Getting up the mountain however can get really expensive. So we decided to visit the Kinabalu National park instead. We weren’t disappointed!


Kinabalu national park

Finding our way around.

Kinabalu National Park is about a 2 hour drive from Kota Kinabalu. Tham collected us at 7 am from our hotel and we started out on our drive. We were a bit apprehensive. While the weather forecast in the city was sun, the National park was due to experience thunderstorms somewhere mid day. It was good that we did not let the weather discourage us because the rain did not affect us too badly and we had an amazing day.

The drive towards the National park took us through some very beautiful landscape. It wasn’t long before we left flat land behind us and saw nothing but winding roads up ahead. We caught some awesome views on the way. From time to time Mount Kinabalu poked its head out from behin the clouds to greet us.


Kinabalu national park

Kinabalu National Park is a World Heritage site.

The entry fee into Kinabalu National Park is RM 15 for non Malaysians. Keep the tickets with you because you may be required to produce it if you don’t find parking inside and want to park outside the park. We hopped between different parking spots before we found a trail that we wanted trek through.

Let me rewind a bit. Tham parked his car and we hopped out. Looking around we started up the first trail that we found. It was quite steep and we weren’t sure how difficult the trail was so we googled the trail. That’s when we realized that it was a rather strenuous one and there were better alternatives. Thank God for Google right?

The trail that we finally decided to trek on was called the Kiau View trail. The description of the trail said that it had a number of view points along the way. It also said that the trail was relatively easy. That encouraged us quite a bit and we started off excited.

The Kiau trail was easy enough but the rains from the previous days had made the trail a bit slushy. Some parts of it were more slippery than the rest so it slowed us down a bit. Walking slowly through the Kiau trail however gave us time to look around and appreciate the rainforest.

I don’t really remember how far we walked or how long we were on the trail. What I do remember is the noises of the forest. When people say that the forest is alive they aren’t kidding. If you stand still you can quite literally hear the forest talk to you.


Kinabalu national park

Even fallen trees are gorgeous.

I’m an eternal klutz. That being said I have learned my lesson. Let me give you an example. My 15 year old self would have walked on a narrow edge to avoid walking through slush just like everyone else. Unlike everyone else I probably would have landed up with my butt in the slush because well… I’m a klutz.

You learn to accept that some parts of you just can’t be changed. So now I just walk through the slush because it’s just a bit of dirt that can be washed away! Right? I don’t know how many of you’ll will agree with me there. Anyway back to my story.

We were walking along the path and I started walking through the slush. It’s funny how even though you are in the tropics the water always feels ice cold! Another problem that I usually tackle is my fear of heights. I’m fine as long as I don’t see the drop down but I will spend the entire journey up agonizing that I would have to walk down. It’s a phobia. One that I tackle on almost every trek!

Kinabalu national park

Acting a bit crazy before terror struck.

Somewhere along the Kiau trail we stopped. We had yet to discover one of those many viewpoints that Google claimed that the Kiau trail had to offer. The debate was now on. Do we continue or do we stop? While Tham and Shawn were discussing, my mind was doing a rally off its own. If I discussed any longer I would definitely turn back so I sucked in a breath and started climbing upwards rapidly. By the time the other two realized that I had started walking I was already a couple of meters out. I think our ascent from that point was really fast. I’m still really proud of myself for that.

We walked and walked and yet there were no views ahead. Finally Shawn decided to run up ahead and see if there was anything up ahead. Nothing! Finally and rather reluctantly we decided to turn back hope. A thunderstorm had been predicted for the afternoon and we did not want to be on the trail when we hit.

Kinabalu national park sign

One of the trail signs.

Our walk down was leisurely and slow. We hoped across a fallen tree, looked at the different fungi and flowers. I even stopped to look at a queer worm with a red streak on it before Shawn told me to hurry up because I was lagging behind. A minute or two later I felt something in my shoe. Odd… It felt ticklish. Our interaction went somewhat like this.

“There is something in my crocs.”

“Don’t remove your crocs here.”

“But it’s moving!”

I’m stubborn. So I removed my croc and saw a black worm on it.

“LEECH!” shouted Shawn.

The shouted was followed by some hilarious antics as I struggled to get it off. Luckily it hadn’t bitten on to me. I can’t remember who noticed all the leeches around us. It was either Tham or Shawn. I know for a fact it wasn’t me. Everything was a blurry of activity. Sometimes the fear of one thing can overpower the fear of another. It’s ironic because I quite literally ran down the entire trail. Every time I stopped, Shawn would tell me to head on because leeches sense warmth. It was only later that I realized that I was the one walking through the slush and gathering them in my crocs. No wonder they loved me!


Kinabalu national park is a world heritage site

The view from the start of the Kinabalu National Park.

All the trails in the Kota Kinabalu National park lead to a road. We quite literally sighed in relief as soon as we set foot on tarred land. That was a first for me. Clear cold water was flowing at the side of road and I decided to wash the grime off my feet. That’s when I found one (albeit tiny) leech nestled between my toes. I had never even felt the guy bite into me. That was definitely a new learning.

The next time I head into a tropical forest. I am definitely going to wear rubber boots. That being said I don’t know why leeches freaked me out so much. I think it’s just a combination of their looks and their blood sucking nature. The ones in Indonesia were definitely smaller than the ones that we’ve seen in our science labs in India. If it wasn’t for Shawn I wouldn’t have even know that it was a leech.

QUICK TIP: I freaked out so I didn’t follow it but you aren’t supposed to yank a leech off your skin. Use salt. The wound tends to bleed more than usual so don’t panic. Keep it clean and dry. Just make sure it doesn’t get infected. That’s what I did.

Borneo gives you the chance to live and work in the city while simultaneously escaping from the city life. That’s what I loved about the island. I don’t know whether this is just restricted to Kota Kinabalu though since I haven’t traveled to other parts of the island. Despite the leeches, I had a great time in Kota Kinabalu National park. It was an adventure and I can see why people love it.
2018-06-13T14:25:00+00:00 July 14th, 2017|Asia, Destinations, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, UNESCO Heritage Sites|20 Comments


  1. Nuraini July 15, 2017 at 12:10 am - Reply

    Rubber boots won’t cut it. You need tight socks or socks secured with rubber bands, pulled out *over* your pants if you want to keep the leeches out. And yes, you won’t at all feel them bite, because they secrete a numbing chemical.

    But they’re not so bad..! Just flick them off, or if you’re generously inclined and they’re getting fat already, let it finish and drop off on its own. 🙂 You won’t feel that either, and this way has the least chance of scarring and itching afterwards. The little buggers are considerate that way. Think of it as a forest blood tax haha.

    • Penny July 15, 2017 at 12:24 am - Reply

      Forest blood tax!!! ROFL! That is so funny! Yup I guess you have to pay the toll whenever you pass. Was my first experience so I doubt I’m going to get so freaked out the next time. I think…. You never know. Shawn kept screaming leech leech leech. I’m almost immune now!

  2. Kelly July 15, 2017 at 1:05 am - Reply

    This seems like such a beautiful hike. And then you found the leech in your shoe. I have actually been bitten by a leech and had to rip it off.
    So gross but this still sounds like an amazing palce. Thanks for giving me a good laugh!!

    • Penny July 15, 2017 at 3:50 am - Reply

      The leeches wouldn’t deter me from going again though this time I would be better prepared. Like Nuraini says… You have to pay the forest blood tax! Hahahaha

  3. Eva July 15, 2017 at 3:17 am - Reply

    Oh my, the moment you discovered what was there in your shoe must have been terrifyingly disgusting! Anyway, I would have never ventured out in a forest in open shoes, so kudos to your bravery 😀 I am actually quite afraid of stuff potentially harming my feet, so I like closed shoes. But I never experienced the heat you must have been in there,so I might give in to sandals myself in such a climate, I guess. Anyway, glad to read that it was no enormous beast that attacked you, for a moment as I read on I was afraid it might have been something more dangerous.

    • Penny July 15, 2017 at 6:08 am - Reply

      It was quite an icky situation. Finding something crawling in your shoe is one thing but finding out that it is a leech is definitely another whole story. That being said the Kinabalu National Park is a beautiful place to visit. 🙂

  4. Jamie July 15, 2017 at 6:28 am - Reply

    Jungles freak me out for this very reason! There’s so many little creatures out there’s that I REALLY do not want to encounter… that being said, I totally commend your effort to overcome your fears! Woohoo!!!

    • Penny July 15, 2017 at 10:44 am - Reply

      Thanks Jamie. It did take effort but I am so glad that I always have the support of my hubby. No matter how afraid I am he always holds on to my hand and says don’t worry. You can do this! Helps immensely!

  5. Kate July 15, 2017 at 7:26 am - Reply

    This sounds like an amazing hike! Minus the leech episode. I would have reacted the exact same way and to find one between your toes later makes my skin crawl. Not fun. Good info to know for considering footwear though!

    • Penny July 15, 2017 at 10:43 am - Reply

      I learned a lesson of a life time. No matter how much you love your crocs wear protective shoes. Then again judging from the comments that I got, I’m not entirely sure if that is foolproof either!

  6. Castaway with Crystal July 16, 2017 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Ha ha ahhh leeches… We have a lot of those in Australia. Once i jumped in a swimming hole filled with leeches. that was one of the scariest things to happen ever. I jumped straight back out and had to roll all over the ground to get them all off!

    • Penny July 16, 2017 at 7:06 am - Reply

      That my friend is scary personified. My skin just crawled at the thought. I can’t even imagine what you must have gone through. Talk about trauma!

  7. Life of a travelBug July 16, 2017 at 11:36 am - Reply

    Sounds like a lot of fun! Haha you are braver than me! The best part of travelling is the crazy stories you get out of adventures!

    • Penny July 17, 2017 at 1:54 am - Reply

      I seem to attract a hell lot of crazy. I recently met a travel blogger who told me I need to start writing about the crazy stories I tell. I took her advice. Time to let the crazy side of me loose.

  8. Cherene Saradar July 16, 2017 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    OMG that creeps me out. I’m currently searching my body. LOL. What an experience. I hope you at least enjoyed the beautiful scenery. I’m dying laughing about Nuraini’s comment above!!!

    • Penny July 17, 2017 at 1:55 am - Reply

      Nuraini certainly has a way with words. I wish I had thought about that myself. It would have made one hell of a title!

  9. LC July 16, 2017 at 11:12 pm - Reply

    I think I may have been permanently scarred by a bushwalk I did in Australia as a child, which resulted in my legs being covered in blood sucking leeches. I feel your pain! At least it was a beautiful walk.

    • Penny July 17, 2017 at 1:56 am - Reply

      Despite the leeches and the scare, the walk was really beautiful. So beautiful that I would probably do it again but I definitely would wear different shoes!

  10. Jacky July 18, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

    Aaah noooo! I would hate even just seeing a leech! I get so scared of critters, it’s stupid.. but still. D:
    Glad you still enjoyed yourselves 🙂

    • Penny July 18, 2017 at 11:35 am - Reply

      I’m just glad that this happened at the end of the trek. That helped to keep the memory of the fun intact if you know what I mean.

Leave A Comment

Privacy & Cookies: This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this website, you agree to their use. To find out more, including how to control cookies, see here: more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.