In 1947, a British pilot nearly crash into a steep cliff rising over 915 meters above the jungle floor when he was flying from the west coast of Sabah to Tawau. This close-to-accident coincidence leads to the discovery of the land of Maliau Basin which has since dubbed as Sabah’s Lost World. The land of Maliau Basin has never been permanently inhabited by human kind. No record or prove of human settlement in the forbidding basin except the regular visit by the Murut tribe in the olden days who would arrange yearly hunting trips into the area.
|Maliau Basin Studies Centre|
With land size of over 390km2, Maliau Basin is slightly bigger than Singapore. The whole basin represents a single water catchment and drains through a canyon in the south by one river, the Maliau River, which flows out into the Kuamut River and eventually joining the Sabah’s largest and most important waterways – the Kinabatangan River. There are 30 waterfalls discovered in Maliau so far making it the most waterfall-rich area in Malaysia. The most famous of them all is the spectacular 7-tiered fall of magnificent 28m called the majestic ‘Maliau Falls’.
Maliau Basin is tremendously rich of valuable botanical resources of 12 distinct forest types including floodplain, montane heath, riparian, agathis tree, and upland sandy clay. There is an estimated 1800 tree species in Maliau Basin where 54 species are currently listed as endangered or close to extinction. To date, over 82 mammal species has been recorded. Many of them are endangered such as the Sumatran Rhino, Asian Elephant, Clouded Leopard, Malayan Sun Bear, Orang Utan, Sambar, and Barking Deer, Bearded Pigs, Banteng, Civet as well as the Wild Ox that has been extinct in Peninsular for over a half century.
|Camel Trophy Camp|
Exploring the land of Maliau Basin promises one of the best trekking adventures in a lifetime. Starting from Batu Punggul, visitors will be completely disconnected. The only communication tool here is making calls through satellite phone. Going from one base camp to another will get visitors through lush primary rainforest aged hundreds of years. There are three base camps with basic facilities here. The Agathis Camp serves as the first camp. Some 7.5km away from the Agathis Camp is the Camel Trophy Camp. This camp is 3km away from the Takob – Akob Fall. At 38m height, Takob – Akob Fall by far is the highest waterfall ever discovered in Maliau.
From Camel Trophy Camp, the expedition will take another walk of 6.7km to reach Ginseng Camp. A visit to Maliau Basin would be incomplete without a visit to the Majestic Maliau Falls which is 4.8km away from Ginseng Camp. A magnificent view that will make every one stands in awe of how magical the nature can be if remains intact. Longest trail awaits visitors the next day as it is time to return to the first camp (Agathis Camp). Though the 9.5km trail is friendlier than the rest, physical exhaustion makes it somehow a hard nut to crack.
All in all, trekking in Maliau Basin is fun and fulfilling if adventurous stuff is your cup of tea. Maliau Basin can be reached in 5-6 hours through land journey from Kota Kinabalu via the Keningau route. Other way to reach there is through 45-minute flight to Tawau followed by approximately 4-5 hours of driving. The trekking expedition is best summed up in a 6-day itinerary. Check out Maliau basin tour.
Text & photos: Joebonaventure Matius