The Splendor of Crocker Range National Park in Kota Kinabalu Sabah

At 139,919 hectares, the Crocker Range Park was the largest national park in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, stretching from Kundasang to Tenom.  Separating the East and West Coast of Sabah, Borneo, the Crocker Range was the highest mountain range at an average height of 1,800 metres, which included the famous Mount Kinabalu.  Besides its huge size, the Crocker Range National Park received heavy rainfall and was the water source for 12 major rivers.  The park was therefore an important water catchment area for the people, supplying clean drinking water to the interiors and West Coast of Sabah.  It was also rich in flora and fauna, whereby 265 species of birds, 107 species of mammals, 42 species of fresh-water fish and close to 500 species of plants could be found within the densely forested terrain.

I decided to check out this immense national park, designated as a forest reserve in 1968, that had serenely played a significant role as provider for the people and nurturer of the state’s biodiversity.  Located 105 kilometres from the city of Kota Kinabalu, it took around 2 hours to drive and reach the main station, the Headquarter of Crocker Range National Park.  Since I went on a weekday, it was relatively quiet at the park.  The entrance fee was nominal: Malaysians at RM3 for adult and RM1 for child below 18, and non-Malaysians at RM10 for adult and RM6 for child below 18.  After registering at the administration building and getting my room key, I checked into the 16-bunkbed dormitory room.  At RM20 per night, I thought it was very reasonably priced.  There was a cafeteria nearby serving local food and beverages.  If you are staying for a few days, it would be advisable to bring along some basic food items such as chocolate bars, instant noodle cups, biscuits and 3-in-1 Nescafe or Milo.

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Settling in was pretty fast and simple.  It was now time to start exploring the Crocker Range National Park on this beautiful morning.  First stop was the Crocker Nature Centre (CNC), situated 500 metres from my accommodation.  There was an exhibition centre at the CNC displaying information, photos and specimens of the wide variety of flora and fauna found in the park, including some traditional farming and fishing tools.  Next up was a visit to the Insectarium right behind the CNC, which was like a live insect zoo.

The locale of the Insectarium used to be farm land.  Now, there were paved walkways traversing shelters and ponds.  The walking tour took about half an hour and although I did not see much insects (mosquitoes were not counted), I saw quite a number of birds, from magpie robin to buff-rumped woodpecker, yellow-vented bulbul, sunbirds, cuckoo doves, emerald doves, green pigeon, white-breasted woodswallow, orange-bellied flowerpecker, pacific swallow, barn swallow, pied fantail, chestnut munia, white-breasted waterhen and a hornbill.  Maybe it should be renamed the Bird Zoo instead.  But I was told that the bugs would usually come out at night, so perhaps a night tour would be better to insect-watch.

After the Insectarium, I came upon the Fern Garden.  There were 55 species of ferns to be found at the park, and I could see hundreds of fern plants, in varying shapes and sizes.  The giant elephant fern could also be seen here.  From lots of green foliages in the Fern Garden, I headed over to the Rafflesia Plot, to check out the plant that had the largest blooms in the world, which could measure 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds.  The Rafflesia was a parasitic plant.  To obtain water and nutrients, it would attach itself to a host plant.  A blooming Rafflesia would emit a repulsive odor, which would attract insects to it and this would assist to pollinate the plant.  At the plot, I saw 3 young buds of the biggest rafflesia species in Sabah, the rafflesia keithii.

In the afternoon, I decided to try the 2.036-kilometre Crocker Trail, a leisurely jungle trek, which according to the staff at the Administration Office (starting point) would take less than 3 hours.  The end of the trail would conveniently stop about 500 metres from the accommodation area.  It was similar to a loop, so I could start from the end of the trail and trek to the starting point if I wanted to.  There was a waterfall and small stream at the beginning of the Crocker Trail.  With a signage every 100 metres or so, and an easy terrain with a few steep paths, it was a lovely trek amidst the natural splendor of the park.

Walking along the trail, I could see banana trees, rubber trees and bamboo plants.  There were not much wildlife to see in the daytime but I caught glimpses of squirrels, tree shrews and some birds.  I also came across the moult of a cicada on the twig of a shrub.  I was told that at night, the larger wildlife such as the sambar deer, barking deer, mouse deer, wild boar, civet and sun bear would make an appearance.  Halfway on the trail was a shelter, where I took the chance to rest, drink some water and eat a chocolate bar.  At the end of the trail was a gravel road and following it for 10 minutes brought me to my accommodation.   It had been a pleasant trek indeed.

For nature enthusiasts, a visit to Crocker Range National Park would be a thrill.  I enjoyed the serene quietness and bountiful treasures of flora and fauna in the park.  It was a back-to-nature experience and the Crocker Range National Park was like a breath of fresh air.

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