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Mt Tambuyukon - A Well-Kept Secret


Sabah Parks has plans to allow public access to Mt Tambuyukon in the near future. Presently, interested trekkers can either go through a licensed tour operator or apply for the permits from Sabah Parks and hire registered guides for their expedition.  

“But we only approve permits based on a case-to-case basis,” said Eric Wong, head of enforcement and operations. “We try to gauge the intentions of these trekkers, and (if applicable) the reputation of the adventure tour companies who are taking the group up.” 

Even TYK Adventure Tours, a licensed tour operator, is cautious about accepting just anyone, managing director Tham Yau Kong said.  

“If we think they are insincere, we will turn down the request to guide them,” said Tham.

Though relatively unknown, the mountain is not spared from pillaging and vandalism by irresponsible visitors or illegal traders. 

In 1999, several Thai nationals were prosecuted in the Ranau district court for stealing the highly-priced gaharu from Tambuyukon’s forest, Wong said.  

The gaharu tree produces a fragrant wood known as sandalwood in the West. Great at retaining scents, the oil extracted from the wood is used for making perfume, soap and incense. The leading supplier of gaharu, Malaysia has exported more than RM50 million worth of gaharu in the last five years (based on statistics from the Malaysian Timber Council). In August this year, five Sarawakians were sentenced to 16 months jail for stealing gaharu near Poring, Wong added.  

To protect and conserve the mountain’s endemic species and biodiversity, Sabah Parks also has to ensure minimal human traffic by allowing only a maximum of nine people per group, per visit. In one year, less than 100 visitors set foot on Tambuyukon, Wong said. Most of the trekkers are environmentalists, researchers, and nature society or mountaineering club members.  

On our trek, we came across a group of Kinabalu Park rangers, led by chief park ranger Martin Moguring, on a recce trip. The rangers were checking out the trail conditions and looking at the possibility of setting up ranger stations at campsites, Moguring said.  

Although Moguring, 40, has worked under Kinabalu Park management for 21 years, it’s his first time coming to Tambuyukon. “It’s very unique compared to the other parts of Kinabalu Park,” Moguring attested. “Especially the impressive ultramafic rocks and variety of pitcher plants.”  

“But I’m not satisfied because I can’t see the view of Mt Kinabalu from the summit due to the fog,” he quipped, smiling. (Moguring is one of the two Malaysians who were members of the Malaysian-British Expedition who successfully abseiled Low’s Gully in 1998.)   

Patrols aside, the rangers also work with residents from nearby villages who will report any illegal activities within the park boundary, Moguring added.  

Wong said future plans to build a ranger station at Kg Manggis and several sub-stations along the trail will allow stricter enforcement and proper maintenance of the mountain.  

“Aside from vandalism, we want to prevent accidents because the trail is difficult and dangerous,” Wong explained. “We don’t want people to get injured because of the lack of experience and physical fitness.”  

But any plans for the mountain will include the nearby community’s involvement, Wong concluded. Sabah Parks also trains Kg Manggis locals like our guide Awang, and registers them as official guides for Tambuyukon. But the long-term plan is to increase awareness among the locals on the benefits of conserving the mountain’s treasures to encourage visitors, thus bringing in jobs and providing a source of income.

Source: The Star

Related Article: Mt. Tambuyukon - Paradise Unscathed

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