Maliau Basin, the almost untouched ‘Lost World Of Sabah’


KOTA KINABALU – Not many people may have heard of the “Lost World of Sabah”.

For those who have, this Maliau Basin in central Sabah encompasses 58,840 hectares or 588 sq km of pristine forests described by the pertinent website as “one of the few remaining relatively untouched wilderness areas in the world”.

The Sabah Foundation, recognising the uniqueness of the area, designated the largely unexplored basin as a first-class conservation area in 1981 for the purposes of research, education and training.


The Maliau Basin Conservation Area, among the least explored regions on Earth, is regarded as a must-visit destination for not only scientists and researchers but also tourists, particularly hikers.

It is located about 300 km from this capital of Sabah and the recommended four-wheel-drive road journey winds along for eight hours through Penampang, Tambunan, Keningau, Sook, Nabawan and Sapulut.

I had the opportunity to make the trip to the lost world of a variety of flora and fauna during a recent working visit to Sabah by Datuk Seri Mohd Sallehhuddin Hassan, senior deputy secretary-general of the Prime Minister’s Department.

One of the destinations on the itinerary was the Maliau Basin Conservation Area, home to more than 2,000 species of animals and plants, many of which are found only in Borneo, such as the pygmy elephant, the ox-like Banteng and Sambar deer.

Due to the COVID-19 red zones, we had limited pit stops along the way. Upon arrival at the main entrance to the basin, we registered ourselves and were subjected to the necessary standard operating procedures (SOP).


After registration, we proceeded on the 27-km journey to the Maliau Basin Studies Centre which also has a resthouse complex housing accommodation, kitchen and dining facilities.

During the journey to the centre, one cannot miss savouring the beauty of the basin’s hidden world of untouched natural treasures that are estimated to be millions of years old.

What I saw and experienced was, however, the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, as the Maliau Basin is a wealth of flora and fauna as well as natural landscapes and formations.

The website says that field investigation has shown that the Maliau Basin may house the highest number of spectacular waterfalls per unit area in Malaysia and perhaps in the world.

One of Maliau Basin’s well-known waterfalls is the magnificent 18-metre-high seven-tier Maliau Falls. Other waterfalls, not less spectacular, are the Takob-Akob Waterfall, Giluk Waterfall and Ginseng Waterfall.

Exploring these waterfalls is not an easy task as it is truly for the brave-hearted who have to traverse the forest for up to four days and three nights.


It was a pity that, owing to time constraint and the unsuitable weather, I did not get the chance to explore the forest to see for myself the beauty of nature at its best.

Nevertheless, I had the opportunity though to talk to a hiker, Alexion Mairin, who has explored all the five waterfalls of the Maliau Basin.

“The journey was quite difficult and challenging because we had to go through thick jungle and hills. The unpredictable weather conditions did not make it any easier. I am satisfied as I managed to complete the expedition of four days and three nights, from March 30 to April 3,” he said.

Alexion said he had harboured the desire to “conquer” these falls for a long time and he made the booking last year with a payment of RM650 to go on that expedition.

He had travelled alone from Kota Kinabalu to the Maliau Basin where he met up with the other hikers of the expedition. All 20 of them were divided into two groups with each assigned a guide and a forest ranger.

“On the first day, we covered nine kilometres, from the Agathis Camp to the Ginseng Camp. We went through hilly terrain and had to confront plenty of leeches,” he said.


Alexion said the hikers spent two nights at the Ginseng Camp. They trekked to the Ginseng Waterfall, some 500 metres from the camp, on the second day.

On the third day, they left the Ginseng Camp and trekked 11 kilometres for the whole day, putting up with the unpredictable weather and tiredness, to reach the Maliau Waterfall that is least visited by hikers because of the distance.

“On the fourth day, we trekked seven kilometres to the Nepenthes Camp and, along the way, stopped by three waters – the Giluk, Takob Akob and Fowzi,” he said.

Alexion said the experience of trekking through the jungle of the Maliau Basin for four days and three nights was a very valuable and enjoyable journey although it was very challenging and tiring.

“What I am relating to you is just 30 per cent of my experience … because I cannot express in words the beauty of the environment and the many types of flora and fauna that we got to see along the way,” he said.

When you have the desire, time and patience, the Maliau Basin is a must-visit destination. Then, you can proudly say: “I have been to the Lost World of Sabah!”