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Discover Waterfalls in Sabah, Borneo

Borneo. A green paradise. An island with the oldest rainforest, inhabited by endemic wildlife and plants and a home to over 300 indigenous tribes. An island still yet to be discovered and understood fully. Borneo, is more magical than all it seem to be, once you know where to look. Uncover hidden treasures within the 130-million year old virgin tropical rainforest and its mythical waterfalls like no other. In this list I bring you waterfalls in Sabah to discover!

In this post we’ll venture into Sabah. Situated at the tip of the island of Borneo which is the Northern part of Borneo. This gorgeous part of the island is where you can find the resting place of the proud Gunung Kinabalu (Mount Kinabalu). The highest point within the Malay archipelago. Blessed with many clean rivers and vast undisturbed jungles, this means there are still many undiscovered waterfall in Sabah! I will be constantly updating this extensive list of accessible and non-accessible waterfalls within these parts of the island. Also, feel free to suggest new waterfall destination to add into this list. Enjoy! 

Going to Sarawak instead? Click here to find out more on waterfalls within Sarawak.

P.S

This post is also to kindle love for nature and all things that come along with it. It is important to know that although it is nice to enjoy what is naturally given to us, we should also possess a heart to take care of it. 

Fairy Waterfall, Danum Valley

Height: 27 meters (88 feet)
Distance: 2.6 Kilometres, 2 hour hike
Difficulty: Intermediate 
Equipment: Hiking shoes, leech socks
Entrance fee: –

Fairy Waterfall is a bashful waterfall that hides deep within a 130-million year old rainforest known as Danum Valley. A habitat of Borneo’s rarest and most precious plant and wildlife. There are over 50 kilometres of jungle trails for visitors to appreciate the pristine rainforest in Danum Valley. You can also spot an ancient burial site of the Kadazandusun tribe during the hike to the Fairy Waterfall. Aside from seeing the falls, among the other activities you can do are canopy walk, trekking and night drive. There is also another waterfall known as Serpent Waterfall and a Jacuzzi pool within the Danum Valley to discover. 

Imbak Canyon Waterfall, Tongod

Height: 8 meters (26 feet)
Distance: 10 Kilometres, 1 hour drive
Difficulty: Intermediate 
Equipment: Sleeping bag, Raincoat, Hiking shoes, Leech socks
Entrance fee: Travel guide

The most remote and least visited waterfall not for the ordinary tourist as it takes about 6 hours to reach the destination from the city of Kota Kinabalu (KK). Only Accesible with a 4-wheel-drive. You’ll venture deep into the jungles, driving on muddy and graveled road and crossing rivers (there is a bridge now). Visitors can overnight in Tampoi Base Camp, which provides basic accommodation and facilities but there is no phone coverage just local Wifi. The mighty Imbak Waterfall spans over 80 meters wide, and is a home to more than 30 species of amphibians and reptiles. Aside from just hunting waterfalls in Sabah, you may explore the virgin jungle while you’re at Imbak Canyon. There are a few forest trails in the canyon, ranging from 1 kilometres to 17 kilometres in distance. 

Muaya Waterfall, Tenom

Height: 810 meters, (2657 feet)
Distance: 1.4 kilometers, 1.5 hour hike
Difficulty: Beginner
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Leech socks, Raincoat
Entrance fee: –

Located far inside east-west of Sabah’s interior. Muaya waterfall stands proudly at 810 meters above sea level. There is a campsite available for those who would like to explore the jungle around the Muaya Waterfall. Another stunning giant waterfall in Sabah to discover.

Maga Waterfall, Long Pasia

Height: 17 meters (56 feet)
Distance: 13 kilometres, 6 – 8 hour hike
Difficulty: Expert
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Leech socks, Raincoat
Entrance fee: Travel guide

Maga waterfall is located in the inland of Long Pasia which is at the south of SipitangSabah. A lesser known waterfall shrouded in legends. The locals revere this place as a magical place. Maga Waterfall has three tiers and stream flow on the rock surface of Meligan Formation. A long six hours of boat ride from the Kampung (village) of Long Pasia and another 6 hour hike to reach the waterfalls. Among the other things you can do in the area is cave exploring and uphill jungle trekking. There are two sites near Long Pasia where you can see ancient reliefs carved into rocks. Batu Inarit is closest site and another site is located somewhere near the Sarawak/Sabah border.

Fefukan Waterfall, Long Pasia

Height: 3 meters (9 feet)
Distance: 10 Kilometres, 5 hour hike
Difficulty: Intermediate 
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Leech socks, Raincoat
Entrance fee: Travel guide

Fefukan Waterfall is one of the most unique and beautiful waterfall. The journey to the campsite in Fefukan would be a difficult one as the terrain is slippery and uphill. If you’re lucky you can find a blooming rafflesia. Stay close to your guide as there is no proper trail, and the chances of getting lost in the jungle is high. Unless that’s something you’re not scared of.

Mataga Waterfall, Long Pasia

Height:  15 meters (50 feet)
Distance: 6 hour
Difficulty: Intermediate 
Equipment: Hiking shoes, leech socks
Entrance fee: Travel guide

Mataga means beautiful in the native language of the Lundayeh people. Just a 30 minutes walk from the Fefukan waterfall. Although not as impressive as FefukanMataga is still a beautiful sight to experience. The fall stands at 15 meters tall.

Langanan Waterfall, Poring Hot Spring, Ranau

Height: 120 meters (393 feet)
Distance: 4 Kilometres, 2-hour hike
Difficulty: Intermediate 
Equipment: Hiking shoes, leech socks
Entrance fee: –

The tallest waterfall in Sabah, it takes about 2 hours or more to reach the waterfall. To get to your destination you would have to trek beneath the tall trees of the thick shady rainforest. Prepare yourselves some protective gear to protect against leeches and insects and the slippery slopes of the tropical forest, locals love to wear their trusty ‘Adidas Kampung’ a shoe made entirely of rubber purposely made to walk in slippery and muddy areas. You can buy an ‘Addidas Kampung’ as low as RM10 at any old market selling cheap footwear. On a side note,  be wary as a warning of flash flood during the rainy season may occur during your visit to the waterfall.

Kipungit Waterfall, Poring Hot Spring, Ranau

Height: 12 meters (39 feet)
Distance: 0.7 Kilometres, 20 minutes walk
Difficulty: Beginner
Equipment: –
Entrance fee: –

A short walk to the waterfall. Ideal for a city escape with friends or a picnic with the family and to enjoy a dip into the cold water.

Mahua Waterfall, Tambunan

Height: 17 meters (55 feet)
Distance: 500 meters. 15 minutes walk
Difficulty: Beginner
Equipment: –
Entrance fee: RM3 (Malaysian) RM10 (non-Malaysian)

Secluded from the city, it takes about an hour and a half drive from the city of Kota Kinabalu to reach to the Mahua Waterfall. There is a short half a kilometre walk to reach the waterfall, and aside from that Mahua Park is also rich in flora and fauna. Accommodation is provided for those who would like to explore the park a little more. 

Ulu Kionsom Waterfall, Inanam

Height: 6 meters (20 feet)
Distance: 10 – 30 minutes hike
Difficulty: Beginner
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Extra shirt
Entrance fee: RM1.50 (adults) RM0.50 (children)

Yet another place to hunt waterfalls in Sabah. There are 7 waterfalls to discover in Kionsom Park Sabah! It takes only a 30 – 40 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu to get to the park as it is just 20 km away. The first three waterfalls is within a 10-minute walk, this is usually the pit-stop for most visitors, here you can set up a picnic and enjoy the water. If you would like to see bigger waterfalls, you will need to venture deeper into the tropical jungle. It takes another 25 minutes to reach the tallest waterfall within the jungle, you will also find the other 3 waterfalls while on the way. The hiking trail is steep and the rocks and roots can be slippery, so be sure to wear proper shoes and beware of leeches and mosquitoes. There also is no lifeguard near the waterfall, so swim with caution.

Gelas Hill Waterfall, Tawau Hills National Park

Height: 40 meters (131 feet)
Distance: 2.4 kilometres, 1-hour hike
Difficulty: Intermediate
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Extra shirt, leech socks
Entrance fee: RM3

In the park, you can have recreational activities such as swimming, picnic, BBQ, jungle trekking, wildlife watching, mountain climbing. To get to Gelas Hill waterfall takes about half an hour drive from the town of Tawau along Jalan Kuhara. A Grab will cost about RM35. There are some huge and beautiful trees there, including the tallest known tropical tree in the world, standing at over 80 metres. At weekends, locals go to the park for picnics. A few actually venture far in, so you’ll likely have the trails all to yourself. There are jungle trails to the waterfall or the sulphurous spring which is a 3.2 kilometres walk. These trails are rather flat. For those who would like to stay overnight, a camping tent is provided in the area you’ll pay a fee of RM5 per night or you may stay in their jungle lodge (RM40 per night) or chalet (RM200 per night). On a side note, a flash flood could occur during rainy seasons, so visit at your own risk as you could get yourself stuck in the jungle when this happens. I mean I wouldn’t mind this, but I don’t know about you. 

Tawai Waterfall, Telupid

Height: 95 meters (311 feet)
Distance: 0.4 kilometres, 25 minute hike
Difficulty: Intermediate
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Extra shirt
Entrance fee: Permit required, RM3 (adults) RM2 (children)

The hike to the Tawai waterfall only takes about 25 minutes, but the journey to the location takes 5- 7 hours. Located deep in the heart of Sabah, the Tawai Forest Reserve is a Class I protected forest managed by Telupid Forestry Department. A permit from Sabah Forestry Department Headquarters before is required to enter the protected area. Accessible only via gravel and muddy road, it takes 4 hours to drive from the city of Kota Kinabalu to the town of Telupid and another 1 – 3 hours of mud road depending on your route to Tawai. It is advisable to get a car or you can take a bus from Inanam with a fare of RM35 to Telupid and a Grab car or taxi to get to Tawai. There is another smaller waterfall called the Meliau Waterfall which takes about 1 hour of trekking. You will also notice the rusty coloured soil and unusual vegetation, this is because the forest is known as an Ultramafic Forest. A chalet, camping sites and accommodations for visitors coming for a picnic is available in the area.

Murug Turug Waterfall, Tamparuli

Height: 30 meters (100 feet)
Distance: Package A 4km (30 min), Package B 5km (1 hour), Package C 12km (7-8 hours)
Difficulty: Beginner – Expert
Equipment: Hiking shoes, Poncho/Raincoat, Water supply, Extra shirt
Entrance fee: Depending on the package

About a 30 – 45 minute drive from Kota Kinabalu city to the town of Tamparuli. Hidden within Kampung Minangkob there are 7 waterfalls, which are Malas Kalas waterfall, Minansur 1 waterfall, Minansur 2 waterfall, Labuan waterfall, Murug Turug waterfall, Piolungan waterfall and last but not least Kionop waterfall. There are three trails prepared by Murug Turug Eco-Tourism that you could choose from, package A, B & C. Package A, straight downhill 30 minutes to the falls, relatively easy, challenging when going back up to the starting point. Package B, moderate, an hour to the main falls. Passing another trail that consists of two other sub-falls. Package C, extremely hard according to the locals, 7 – 8 hour hike to and fro while passing the seven waterfalls along the way, you might want to bring some food to replenish energy. For those of you who would like to experience mother nature, camping is allowed in the area but be cautious during raining season as flash floods are at high risk. Insects can be a nuisance, so you might want to bring some repellent with you as well. Tamparuli is definitely a place worth visiting if you would like to experience waterfalls in Sabah.

Madai Waterfall, Kunak

Height: 40 meters (131 feet)
Distance: 1-minute walk
Difficulty: Relax
Equipment: –
Entrance fee: Local: RM2 (adult), RM1 (children); Foreigner RM5 (adult) RM2 (children)

Another beautiful waterfall in Sabah known as the twin waterfall due to its water cascading down two separate sides. The fall would turn into a huge vertical waterfall during heavy rain, and although the water looks murky it is clean. However, swimming is not recommended over the shallow parts of the water as there is a huge hole underneath. Located within the Madai Baturong Virgin Forest Reserve Nature Center, a cave called Madai Cave is also part of this reserve. Madai Waterfall is 15 kilometres north of Kunak town and 71 kilometres southwest of Lahad Datu. You can take a bus that heads to Kunak or Tawau from Kota Kinabalu at a fare of RM50, but be sure to tell the driver to drop you off at the park entrance. Or a flight to LahaDatu and then an hour drive to the park. Accommodations such as restrooms (RM0.30 = USD0.10), canteen, Muslim prayer rooms and also camping sites with a fee of RM3 for locals and RM5 for foreigners is provided. 

Maliau Waterfall, Maliau Basin Conservation Area

Height: 95 meters (311 feet)
Distance: 2 – 3 days camp
Difficulty: Expert
Equipment: Backpack, Light sleeping bag, Torchlight, Toiletries, Lunchbox, Hiking shoes, Raincoat, Clothing, Hand gloves, First aid
Entrance fee: Permit required, Tour package RM2000 

Maliau meaning ‘Land of the Giant Staircase’ in the Murut language. Maliau waterfall is a 7-tiered waterfall located deep within the Maliau Basin Conservation Area or as the locals call it,’ The Lost World of Sabah’. Its circular outer rim gives Maliau Basin its huge volcanic caldera look which spans 25 kilometres in diameter, this gives it the name Sabah’s Lost World because its steep slopes and cliffs create a natural barrier that isolates the basin from the world. To date, about 20 waterfalls were discovered in Maliau, and there should be more waterfalls that are not found and named. According to the local folklore, Maliau Falls keeps a secret of a sleeping dragon under the waterfalls, and the movement of its big tail can cause a flood. It takes a hard 2 – 3 days to reach the Maliau waterfall, and another 2-3 days to get back. Avoid heavy items, and bring along foods. Truly the best place to visit as you uncover new waterfalls in Sabah!

Misumpak Waterfall, Sorinsim Nature Park

Height: 12 meters (6.5 feet)
Distance: 6.5 kilometres, 2 hours hike 
Difficulty: Intermediate
Equipment: Insect repellent, Hiking shoes
Entrance fee: Local: RM3 (adults), RM1 (children); Foreigner: RM15 (adult) RM10 (children)

A place in Sabah where you can find river, waterfall, forest, cave, mountain and historical site in one park. Serinsim is about 32 kilometres from Kota Marudu town and 130 kilometres away from Kota Kinabalu City. Most jungle trekking activities in the area requires a guide, which can be hired easily a day before. During the hike, sighting of Hornbill, civet, red leaf monkey, orangutan and other wildlife is common on the way to the waterfall. You will also encounter the Tomb of Gambaliu, known as the tallest man. According to local legend, there was a giant who lived at the island two to three thousand years ago named Gambaliu. He was 24 feet tall; taller than giraffe. Although he was said to be a gentle and helpful giant, he died in a sad way. There is also a deer farm, bat caves to visit and a campsite for those who wants to explore the jungle further.

Fun Fact

Did you know friendly Irrawaddy Dolphins, monster Largetooth Sawfish and child-eater Tapah Catfish were used to be common in Kinabatangan, the longest river of Sabah?

 

I hope this article is useful to anyone who would like to go on an adventure in Borneo, particularly to discover waterfalls in SabahSabah is without a doubt one of the most friendliest place to be at, with lots of undiscovered treasures to find. Feel free to leave a comment for questions or if you have suggestions! 

 
Reference and photo credits:

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