The buds of the Rafflesia, one of the largest flower in the world, are as large as the dinner plate while the bloom could be the size of a car tyre. Dr Chua Ee Kiam and his friends brave the arduous trails of Sabah’s forest reserves in search of this magnificient bloom, first discovered by Singapore’s founder, Sir Stamford Raffles, hence its name.

The Rafflesia flower is unique because it is parasitic and therefore has no stem, leaves or roots. This is also why it appears to grow up from the forest floor. The Tetrastigma vine is its host and the parasitic flower derives its nourishment by sending thread-like filaments into it. The Rafflesia is found in Southeast Asia where 14 species are known to exist. But these specimens are found only in a few localised habitats. Three species are found in Sabah while two species have been seen in Peninsular Malaysia; they are the Rafflesia cantleyi and R. kerrii.

Rafflesia flowers are one of the largest in the world. One can imagine how surprised and delighted the first discoverers of this unique bloom must have been when they came across it, “sitting” on the forest floor like some gigantic red-spotted mushroom. It was the founder of Singapore , Sir Stamford Raffles, who first chanced on this fabulous flower. At the time Sir Stamford was the Governor of Sumatra. He was riding on horseback, crossing jungle-clad mountainous Sumatra, accompanied by one Dr Joseph Arnold, when the pair came across the bloom. A born naturalist Raffles immediately took note of the flower which came to be named Rafflesia arnoldi (after the two intrepid explorers). The size of Rafflesia flowers, more than anything else, distinguishes them. The largest, Rafflesia keithii, (named after its founder, H G Keith, former Conservator of Forests in Sabah), grows up to 80 cm (about 2 1/2 feet) in diameter and can weigh up to 9 kilos (20 lbs). Rafflesia pricei (named after William Price, an amateur botanist) grows up to a diameter of 30 cm (about 12 ins, a ruler’s length.) Despite its size, the Rafflesia flower appears fragile but its petal-like lobes are surprisingly fleshy and firm. However, it does deteriorate after three days, turning from red and cream to dark brown and black before collapsing into a black slimy mass. Some say it has a repulsive smell but when I sniffed it I could not detect any odour – perhaps it wa stoo early to tell. It seems easier to encounter the Rafflesia buds than the blooms. These buds are spherical and cabbage-like and can grow up to 10 cm (Rafflesia pricei) and 16 cm (Rafflesia keithii) before it finally blooms.

Just Like a Human Baby!

  • From seed to bud, it takes no less than about one and a half years while from bud to full bloom takes another nine months just like a human baby! The seeds germinate and spread fine threads inside the vine. But alas, there is a high rate of bud abortion; as high as 75 percent has been reported. This is due mainly to natural causes. Heavy rains cause the buds to rot while too little rain shrivels them up. Small mammals may also have a go at them and visitors, in moments of inquisitiveness or insanity, may sever the bud from the vine. As Sabah’s forests are home to three known Rafflesia, this was where 1 went in search of this giant bloom. The R. pricei 1 found at altitudes of between 1200 and 1400 metres. If you are lucky you may spot it at Tenompok Pass on the slopes of Mt. Kinabalu and also at the Rafflesia Sanctuary Forest Reserve at Tambunan. Rafflesia keithii, grows at a lower elevation, about 400 metres, and is found on the eastern part of the Kinabalu Park near the Poring Hot Springs. The third species, R tengku-adlinii (named after its discoverer, Tenku Adlin) is found only on the Trus Madi Range. I have seen the first two species but this one has still eluded me and, with logging at the Range, the chances of my seeing it is getting slimmer by the day

The Rafflesia Forest Reserve

  • To get a reasonably good chance of seeing the Rafflesia, the first time visitor should head for the Rafflesia Forest Reserve at Tambunan. The entrance to this Reserve lies on the Kota KinabaluTambunan main road at 58km, about two hours drive from the city Just adjacent to the Crocker Range National Park, the Reserve encompasses an area of 356 hectares of highland dipterocarp and oak/ chestnut forest. Gazetted since 1984, this Reserve is an important tourist attraction. It has an information centre and also exhibits replicas of this magnificent flower. One of the richest sites for the Rafflesia pricei in this Reserve occurs at an elevation of 1,400 metres. A number of plots have been identified and marked trails lead one to the massive blooms. It may be a few minutes walk or a few hours, it all depends on your luck. But be prepared for steep descents and an arduous return journey. Not forgetting the blood-sucking leeches, if it is wet. About one kilometre before the Poring Hot Spring is an important site for the R. keithii. Look out for a junction there. A pondok or small hut will be opened for business if blooms are discovered. The villagers charge M$5/- for each tourist. This area is outside the Park’s jurisdiction. But you may encounter this bloom within the park, at the lowland rainforest of Poring, while on the uphill trail to the Laganan waterfalls.

Medicinal Uses

  • The bud was once sought after as a traditional medicine. The buds were boiled in water and the decoction given to recuperating new mothers, to help them regain their strength. It is not known if some tribal elders still revere the bud for this purpose, but like many of the other plants in the rain forest, the Rafflesia’s true value may take a long time to be realised.

Habitats under threat

  • The conservation of this unique parasite is dependent on the presence of the Tetrastigma vine. And, with logging of forests going on unabated in Southeast Asia, much of the Tetrastigma and hence Rafflesia habitats are being lost. Fortunately the Sabah government has gazetted the forest reserve at Tambunan specially for the protection of this flower. However, there is a tragic twist to these protection efforts. When the villagers heard that the government would gazette and take over their land, should Rafflesia blooms be found on it, they deliberately removed the buds and destroyed the habitats.
  • So, like all other precious wild plants and wildlife, it will take increasing effort to search out this beautiful bloom. But right now the Rafflesia forest reserve at Tambunan is a good and popular place to see the blooms. But again this flower’s beauty is so transient that only a few will be fortunate enough to catch it in full glorious bloom.









There are many explanations and theories about the origins and meanings of the word ‘Kadazan’. In this short article, the writer shall try to explore the more popular meanings and origins put forward to explain the word ‘Kadazan’. Some of the more popular explanations put forward to explain the origins and meanings of the word ‘Kadazan’ are: Firstly, it is believed that the word came from ‘kakadazan’, which means ‘towns’. Secondly, it is believed that the word came from ‘kedaian’, derived from the word ‘kedai’ and supposedly to mean, people of the town. Thirdly, it is believed that the word came from ‘Kedayan’, the name of an ethnic group, residing mainly in Brunei and Labuan and not identified as part of the so-called ‘Dusunic’ peoples. Fourthly, it is believed that ‘Kadazan’ means ‘the people’. And fifthly, that the term was coined by politicians.

Let us examine the first explanation that ‘Kadazan’ came from ‘kakadazan’. ‘Kakadazan’ in the Tangaa’ dialect means ‘towns’. Did the Penampang and Papar Kadazan really name themselves after the word ‘town’? If so, why? Presumably, part of this view is the belief that the word ‘Kadazan’ was coined in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. To judge the merits of this explanation, we have to consider the historical background of urban development in the Penampang District. In the fifties, there were only two towns, namely Donggongon and Kasigui. Donggongon had about 20 shops arranged in two rows on each side of the road, and Kasigui had about 10 shops built on one side of the road. Except for one shop, all the other shops in both Donggongon and Kasigui were owned by Chinese. The Penampang Kadazans were scattered in numerous villages in the Penampang District and they still are. How come these people, who never stayed in a town, suddenly decided to call themselves after ‘town’? Those who proposed this view have not come up with answers as to why these people who did not live in a town had decided to call themselves ‘people of the town’.

The second explanation for the origin of the word ‘Kadazan’ was that it was derived from the word ‘kedaian’ from the Malay word ‘kedai’. The writer looked for the word ‘kedaian’ in the Kamus Dewan, a Malay dictionary but failed to find such a word. Why would a group of people look for a non-existent foreign word to call themselves? Again those who espouse this explanation have not come up with valid reasons why the people of Penampang and Papar called themselves after a shop.

The third explanation is that the word ‘Kadazan’ came from the word ‘Kedayan’, which is the name of an ethnic group living mainly in Brunei and Labuan. In this explanation, it is not clear as to when this so-called change was made. As the Kedayan people are not part of the so-called ‘Dusunic’ group, there was and is very little contact between the two groups. In pre-Chartered Company days, any contact between disparate groups usually means war, and the Kedayans were residing too far away from Penampang to have any significant relationships with them and to have influenced them to adopt their ethnic name. Those who put forward this explanation have not given any reasons why the Kadazans of Papar and Penampang had decided to call themselves after the Kedayans. Moreover, the word ‘Kedayan’ is pronounced as [kedayan], therefore the sound need to have undergone a big change to become in the word ‘Kadazan’, also the sound in ‘Kedayan’ is plosive (“hard d”) whereas the sound in ‘Kadazan’ is implosive (“soft d”). Linguistically, this phenomenon seldom happens, what more when the sound does not exist in the sound system of the Kadazan language.

The fourth explanation is that the word ‘Kadazan’ means ‘the people’. The Bobolian or Bobohizan (priestesses) say that the meaning of ‘Kadazan’ is ‘tulun’ or ‘tuhun’––people. This is not surprising as native peoples of the world seem to refer to themselves as ‘the people’ when calling themselves by name. For instance, the people living in Greenland and northern Canada are often referred to by outsiders as Eskimos. But these indigenous peoples, according to Priit J. Vesilind in his article, “Hunters Of The Lost Spirit” published in the National Geographic, vol. 163, No. 2, February 1983, pp.151-196––depending on where they lived and what ethnic group they belong to––call themselves ‘the people’. He wrote, “&ldots;The peoples of the Arctic, only 200,00 in the west, have stopped apologizing for themselves. They are not merely unfinished products of the civilisation process. They are the Yupiks and the Inupiat and the Athapaskans in Alaska, the Dene and the Inuit in Canada , the Inuit in Greenland, and the Saami in Scandinavia. These names mean roughly the same thing––‘the people’.”. Closer to home in Vietnam , we have a similar situation where outsiders call the indigenous people by different names but these people also refer to themselves as ‘the people’. Peter T. White in his article, “Mosaic Of Cultures” published in the National Geographic, vol. 139, No. 3, March 1971, when referring to the minority ethnic groups in Vietnam, wrote, “&ldots;These minorities often do not like what other people call them. When the South Vietnamese want to be polite they lump them together as ‘Montagnards’, French for ‘mountain men’, but more often they call them ‘moi’, Vietnamese for ‘savage’. Their own name for themselves may be ‘People of the Forest’ or simply ‘the people’. The Chinese people often refer to themselves also as ‘the people’ and call others ‘kui’ or devil. So when the indigenous people of Penampang and Papar call themselves ‘Kadazan’ meaning ‘the people’, then it is perfectly logical as other indigenous peoples of the world also call themselves ‘the people’. As to how long the word ‘Kadazan’ has existed, it is logical to assume that it existed simultaneously with the beginning of the indigenous people of Penampang and Papar.

There have also been claims that word ‘Kadazan’ had been coined by politicians in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. According to this view, the late Datuk Peter J. Mojuntin and the late Tun Fuad Stephens invented the word for political purposes.

Most of the explanations of the meanings and origins of the word ‘Kadazan’ assumed that the word was of recent origin––specifically in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s––as assumed in the explanations for its origin from ‘kakadazan’ (towns), ‘kedai’ (shops), and from the claim that Kadazan politicians such as the late Datuk Peter J. Mojuntin coined the term. Is it true that the word ‘Kadazan’ was of recent origin? In fact, the word ‘Kadazan’ is not of recent origin. Owen Rutter, in his book, “The Pagans Of North Borneo”, published in 1929, wrote: “The Dusun usually describes himself generically as a tulun tindal (landsman) or, on the West Coast, particularly at Papar, as a Kadazan.”. Owen Rutter worked in Sabah for five years as District Officer in all five residencies and left Sabah with the onset of the First World War. This means that he started working in Sabah from 1910 and left Sabah in 1914. We can therefore safely say that the word ‘Kadazan’ was already in existence before any towns or shops were built in the Penampang District and that Kadazan politicians did not invent the word in the late fifties and early sixties. Thus, the most likely explanation for the term ‘Kadazan’ is that it means ‘the people’.

With regard to the word ‘Dusun’ and how it came to be applied to these people, Owen Rutter in his book, “The Pagans Of North Borneo”, offers us the explanation as to how the word ‘Dusun’ came to be applied to the most largest ethnic group in Sabah. On the origins of the words ‘Dusun’ and ‘Murut’, he wrote: “The pagans are usually divided into two main tribes, to which are given the distinguishing names of Murut and Dusun. These names are, however, never used by the tribes themselves, but appear to have been applied to them by the Mohammedan invaders. The word ‘Murut’ is derived from the Bajau ‘belud’ ‘hill’ and ‘Dusun’ from the Malay ‘dusun’ ‘orchard’. So that ‘orang Murut’ and ‘Dusun’ [respectively] meant ‘men of the hills’ and ‘men of the orchards’ or ‘gardens’.”

The above account by Owen Rutter seems to suggest that the word ‘dusun’ was used by the Bajaus of the coastal areas of the West Coast in referring to the native people of Penampang and Papar. When the first white men came to the shores of Sabah, the first people to meet them were the Bajaus or Malays, and when the white men asked, “Who are the natives living in the Penampang and Papar areas?”, they would have replied, “Orang dusun”, meaning ‘villagers’ or ‘orchard people’. The white men not knowing the real meaning of the word ‘dusun’ believed that these people were called ‘Dusun’. This was how ‘Dusun’ came to be applied to the largest indigenous ethnic group of Sabah.

Credit to Mr Richard Francis T.

The Sandakan Death Marches are the most infamous incident in series of events which resulted in the deaths of more than 6,000 Indonesian civilian slave labourers and Allied prisoners of war, held by the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II, at prison camps in North Borneo. Of all the prisoners held at the camps at the time of the marches, only about 6 survived the war.

In 1942, Indonesian civilians, imported from Java, along with Australian and British POWs, who had been captured at the fall of Singapore, were shipped to North Borneo, to build a military airstrip at Sandakan. As on the Burma Railway, the prisoners were worked hard at gunpoint, were often beaten and received little food or medical treatment. They were held in the area once construction was completed. Most had died as a result of their treatment by early 1945. When Allied landings in the area appeared increasingly likely, the camp commandant, Captain Susumi Hoshijima decided to move the remaining prisoners inland to Ranau, a distance of approximately 250 kilometres (160 miles).

The First Marches

A first phase of marches – through swamps, jungle and mountainous areas – occurred between January and March, 1945. In several groups, 455 POWs, all of whom were malnourished and/or suffering serious illness, started the journey. Although the route took nine days, they were given and made to carry four days’ rations. As on the Bataan Death March, POWs who were not fit enough to complete the journey were either killed or left to die en route. The worst was yet to come for the roughly 140 men who completed the journey. In the words of one historian: “Those who survived to reach Ranau were herded into insanitary and crowded huts and many died from dysentery. By 26 June, only five Australians and one British soldier were still alive.”

The Second Marches

Meanwhile, at the Sandakan camp, some 885 POWs died of hunger and illness between February and May. A second wave of forced marches to Ranau began on May 29, when the camp was closed and destroyed by the Japanese. A group of 536 POWs were sent towards Ranau; almost 300 prisoners who were not well enough to move were either killed, or left to die in the ruins of the Sandakan camp. The marchers were even less fit than those in the first phase, were provided with fewer rations and were forced to forage for food along the way. Only 183 POWs remained when the group reached Ranau on 27 June.


By the end of July, when four prisoners escaped, the last to do so, there were only 40 POWs still alive at Ranau and none of these 40 survived the war. They were killed by the guards in August, possibly up to 12 days after the war ended on August 14.

Of the six Allied survivors, all of whom were Australian soldiers, only three survived the lingering effects of their ordeal to give evidence at war crimes trials in Tokyo and Rabaul. Hokijima was found guilty and hanged on April 6, 1946.

It is believed that almost 4,000 Indonesians, 1,381 Australians, and 641 British prisoners died at, or between, Sandakan and Ranau.

The Sandakan Death Marches have been dramatised in the 2004 play Sandakan Threnody – a threnody being a hymn of mourning, composed as a memorial to a dead person. The play was written by Australian composer Jonathan Mills, whose father survived a term of imprisonment at Sandakan, in 1942-43.

Nelson Short went on the second death march in June 1945. He recalled the camp at Ranau:

To think that a man was going to survive. You saw these men every day when you were getting treated for ulcers. The dead were lying there, naked skeletons. They were all ready to be buried. You thought to yourself, well, how could I possibly get out of a place like this? We’re in the middle of Borneo, we’re in the jungle. How possibly could we ever survive? Sydney was a long way from there.

Nelson Short did make it back to Sydney, one of six POWs– all Australians–who went through Sandakan, the death marches, and Ranau and lived. Four of them escaped towards the end at Ranau. As well as Short from the 2/18th Battalion, the others were:

  • Warrant Officer ‘Bill’ Sticpewich, Australian Army Service Corps;
  • Private Keith Botterill, 2/19th Battalion; and Lance Bombardier William Moxham, 2/15th Australian Field Regiment.

Two others escaped earlier from the second death march:

  • Gunner Owen Campbell, 2/10th Australian Field Regiment; and Bombardier Richard ‘Dick’ Braithwaite, 2/15th Australian Field Regiment.

Picture & Information credit to: Sabah Tourism Board | | Australian War Memorial









Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary is the only remains of 24 hectares of mangrove forest that once existed extensively along the coastal region of Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Previously know as Likas Swamp or Likas Mangrove, the sanctuary came foremost out of 20 wetlands selected by the Sabah Wetlands Inventory Committee in 1986.

This Bird Sanctuary is an important refuge and feeding ground for many species of resident birds, as well as several migratory bird species from Northern Asia. Besides, it is a breeding ground for the marine life which is protected by the Fishery Department of Sabah. Tiny fishes hide under the intertwined mangrove roots from feeding birds.

Apart from providing shelter and food for both resident and migratory species of wildlife, wetlands also prevent salt build-up in surrounding freshwater supplies, stabilize sedimentation, store nutrients and remove toxicants.

This park features a 1.5 km or a 45 mins. boardwalk which brings visitors deep into the mangrove jungle where the land meets the sea. This unique natural landscape give tourists a pleasant experience to enjoy fresh air.

How to get there

Coming from the city of Kota Kinabalu, travel along the Likas coastal highway until you reach the first roundabout at the Likas Bay. Keep right so that you can make a 3 o’ clock turning in to Jalan Istiadat. Travel straight until you reach a cross junction with traffic lights. Before reaching the junction, you will see Likas Square building and Sabah Trade Center building on your left hand side. Remember to keep your vehicle at right lane and turn right after the junction in to Jalan Bukit Bendera Upper which also leads you to Signal Hill. The Bird Sanctuary site is only the third left junctions after the traffic lights.

Visiting hours

  • Tuesday – Sunday: 8am – 6pm
  • Closed on Mondays except public holidays

Things to bring along

  • Binoculars and field guides
  • Flat shoes
  • Cap | Hat
  • Clothes in natural colours
  • Mineral water

Services available
  • Binoculars for rent, Souvenirs and books for sale
  • Drinks and snacks for sale








The Petagas War Memorial is a poignant reminder of all those who lost their lives defending Sabah against the Japanese Occupation during World War II, particularly those of the ill fated Kinabalu Guerillas. Led by Albert Kwok, the Kinabalu Guerillas stage a surprise attack on the invaders on the eve of 10 October (Double Tenth) 1943 in Tuaran and Menggatal and marched onto Jesselton before they were finally defeated.

Located across the highway from the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, the memorial park is sited on the very spot where 176 of the Guerillas were massacred on 21st January 1944. The remaining 131 were sent to labour camps in Labuan. It is believed that only nine survived. In 1948, the remains of the Kinabalu Guerillas who perished in Labuan were brought back in jars and buried next to their heroic comrades. Their return remained a well-kept secret until 1979 when the jars were discovered during the reconstruction of the memorial

Photos by Sabah Tourism Board






In the olden days people from Mindanao usually sailed in search of sea produce for trading purposes. In doing so they also look for new places as well as patrolling the areas which were known to them. One of the Investigating group reached Labuk. They were carried there by the current when the boat did not put up the sail. When they landed at Kuala Beluran they saw a big and strange looking banana tree. They called it “ Sabah”. The people later on returned home to Mindanao telling their chief that they found a new place with a strange “ Sabah” growing in it.

After the event, the prince of the Sultan of Sulu, Datu Badaruddin left batu-batu in the Philippines for the south because Sabah at that time was under the care of the Sultanate of Sulu. Upon his arrival at Labuk, Datu Badaruddin met the Chinese who had settled in the place. These Chinese people came to the place together with Ong Sum Peng.

The son of Badaruddin Datu Kamaruddin, married a Chinese princess in Kinabatangan. Their son Datu Nassaruddin moved over to Telaga, Bengkoka and married Mantaning (Menteleng). They had a son, Datu Harun, Who was the father of Datu Mustapha. This family made the name ‘ Sabah” to be well-known and when Datu Mustapha brought independence to this state through political struggle. North Borneo was officially renamed SABAH.

Until now, Kinabalu’s name is still a mystery. The most popular view derives it from the Kadazan words, Aki Nabalu, meaning ‘the revered place of the dead’. The local Kadazandusuns belief that their spirits dwell on the mountain top. Among the bare rocks of the summit grows a moss which early Kadazandusun guides said provided food for the spirits of their ancestor.

Many of the mountain’s early explorers reported that their Kadazandusun guides performed religious ceremonies upon reaching the summit. Sir Hugh Low wrote that his guide carried an assortment of charms, pieces of wood, human teeth, and other paraphernalia weighing three kilograms (seven pounds) up to the summit. Whitehead recorded the slaughter of one white chicken.

These ceremonies were performed to appease the spirit of the mountain as well as the ancestral spirits who lived there. Nowadays, a ceremony is conducted annually by the Kinabalu Park’s guides. Seven chicken and eggs, as well as cigars, betel nuts, sirih leaves, lime and rice are sacrificed, and later enjoyed by the guides.

Another theory about the mountain’s name comes from the derivation of Kina meaning “China” and Balu, meaning “widow”. A Kadazandusun legend tells the story of a Chinese prince ascending the mountain. He is seeking a huge pearl on the top which is guarded by a ferocious dragon. The prince succeeds in slaying the dragon and stealing the pearl. He then marries a Kadazan woman, but soon abandons her and returns to china. His wife, heartbroken, wanders to the mountain to mourn. There she was belief to turn into stone.









The Laban Rata Resthouse is where tourists who climb Mount Kinabalu will stop for an overnight stay. Nestled in Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site, the resthouse is equipped with common bathrooms, has heated showers, heated rooms and a restaurant. It is the final pit stop before heading towards the peak of Mount Kinabalu.

Staying at Laban Rata is meant to revitalize climbers. Located approximately 3,000 metres above sea level, it is set up in a way that ensures that climbers are able to recharge themselves before continuing on with another three hours of climb to make it to the summit.









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Borneo Climb & Dive Sdn. Bhd. specializes in nature based tours with packages. As a Mount Kinabalu Agency and Dive operator, we places a special focus on diving tours both the east and west coast of Sabah.

We offer both local and foreign tourists a wide range of things to do while in Sabah, (such a city tours, mount climbing & wildlife observation), to sea-based activities (diving and snorkeling).

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