Kundasang & Mesilau
On the southern boundary of the Park, a few kilometers beyond the Park HQ, lies the Pinosok Plateau with an average elevation between 1,500-2,000 meters (5,000 – 6,500 feet). The golf course lies the Mesilau Resort at 1,951 meters (6,380 feet), nestled at the very base of the mountain, under its towering pinnacles, on the banks of the swift-flowing East Mesilau river in almost untouched oak-chestnut forest and only just over two hours drive from Kota Kinabalu.


To reach the resort, follow the highway past the Park HQ, 6 kilometers down to Kundasang, Just beyond the vegetable stalls that are such a feature of Kundasang, the road turns left for another 11 kilometers descending steeply to cross the small Liwagu River. Kundasang is the centre of the highland vegetable industry in Sabah and rows of cabbages, tomatoes and onions terrace the hillsides.

Across the Liwagu River it is a steep haul up the other side, with one short rough unsealed patch for which a four wheel drive vehicle is sometimes needed. The black-netted low-roofed structures are mushroom houses where fresh Shitake mushrooms are produced can be seen over the crest of the hill. Another few minutes down, and over the West Mesilau River, takes you to a junction where the sealed road to the resort turns sharply left to reach the golf course. Follow the signboards to the Mesilau Resort through the golf course to the Park boundary and into the montane forest, then along the frothing torrent of the East Mesilau River with superb views of the pinnacles above on a clear day.

The resort can sleep 220 persons a night in secluded chalets or semi-detached lodges, as well as in more basic hostels. The chalets are set \individually amongst the trees on the banks of the East Mesilau River and sleep from 4 to 6 people each. The walks connecting the chalets have been built around the trees and the luxuriant ground cover is largely undisturbed. Heaters are provided in the chalets and lodges and electricity. The restaurant serves good western and local food though choices are somewhat limited. Self-catering facilities are available only in the individual chalets.

Wild rhododendrons, orchids and pitcher plants have been used in the landscaping to good effect. The resort is excellent for bird watching, with a range of species very similar to that at Park HQ. Animal life at Mesilau is also similar to that at park HQ. If you are lucky you may even see a group of lovely Maroon Langurs with thick russet fur, almost like teddy-bears, which visits the resort for a few days.


Guided Walk Trail
Guided trail walks lasting about half an hour are led every day – on weekdays at 9.30, 11.00 and 14.00; at weekends and on Public Holidays at 07.30, 10.30 and 14.00. There is no charge. As at Park HQ, school programs and other special on written request to the Park HQ.

The Guided Walk Trail starts near the Bishop’s Head hostel, leading into the oak-chestnut forest, and takes about half an hour. The forest here is in a sheltered valley as compared to the ridge on which the Park HQ is situated and the trees arte taller and more mossy. Acorns and chestnuts of several species usually lie along the path, often chewed by small animals.

The ground cover is thick with wild gingers, though their flowers are often inconspicuous and close to the ground, and mosses and epiphytes are abundant. The long-leaved Bird’s Nest Fern is particularly large Dacrydium conifers can be seen with tall thick trunks and feathery foliage against the sky. Down the other side the path crosses the same little stream that flows under the restaurant and down to meet the Mesilau River.

Many of the ginger flowers in the montane forest are pollinated by small bees and the recently discovered Mountain Honey-bee (Apis nuluensis) appears to be especially common at Mesilau. Major initiatives on tropical honey-bee research, including Apis nuluensis, are now being undertaken by the government agricultural research station at Lagud Sebrang, Tenom in Sabah.

Soon the forest becomes more open ad the delicate climbing bamboo (Bambusa gibbsiae) drapes the trees in its turn. Glimpses of the restaurant can be caught across the valley here, before the path re-enters the taller oak-chestnut forest to come out just outside the restaurant complex.

Nepenthes rajah Trail
The Mesilau area is well-known as one of the few accessible localities in the Kinabalu Park in which the spectacular pitcher plant Nepenthes rajah grows. Insects visit the pitchers to collect nectar and some of these inevitably fall into the liquid-filled cup and drown, dissolving into its enzyme-rich fluid. The nutrients are then absorbed by the plant through the walls of the pitcher.

Nepenthes rajah, another of Low’s discoveries, grows only ultramafic soils within the Kinabalu Park and has the distinction of being the largest pitcher plant in the world. Its large magenta cups reclining on the ground around the base of the plant can hold up to two liters. While the usual diet of pitcher plant is insects, other creatures such as frogs, rats and centipedes have been found occasionally. A pitcher may produce enzymes for as much as six months or more before it starts to wither and turn brown. Though no longer an active trap at this stage, the rainwater filled pitchers on the ground provide a welcome water source for other creatures.

Because Nepenthes rajah is so rare and restricted in habitat and because there have been problems with illegal collecting in the past, the site is strictly out of bounds to visitors unless accompanied by a Park guide, and visitors are charged a small fee.

The trail starts near the Crocker Range lodge leading down past the historic Mesilau Cave. The trail continues down past the cave, and for about ten minutes along a low ridge of large mossy rocks and boulders covered in ferns, liverworts and orchids. After about ten minutes, the frothing Mesilau River is reached. The river is crossed by a short suspension bridge before the trail goes steeply up the old landslide on the right on the opposite bank, covered in scrubby shrubs, grasses, orchids and rhododendrons. Another ten minutes or so brings you up to the more overgrown top of the landslide, with small trees, where the vegetation is thicker and where the best pitchers are found.

When coming back down the trail, superb views can be had of the montane forest canopy along the river; the almost vertical rock slopes beyond the resort covered with sparse vegetation, and the spectacular stark rock ring of the Mesilau Pinnacles above, with cascading waterfalls in wet weather, which bar the direct route to the eastern plateau.

 

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