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The Final Day
7:30 am We had a quick breakfast at the Kinabalu Rose
Cabin (RM 27). Service was again quick and efficient.
Looking for a Rafflesia ...
The Search for a Rafflesia
8:00 am Set off to find a Rafflesia in bloom. We
had planned to drive to the Rafflesia Centre in Tambunan, but staff at the
hotel told us that the direct route (Ranau to Tambunan) that looked so
straightforward on our map, was only passable with a four-wheel
drive. To go to Tambunan, we would have to go via Kota Kinabalu,
which would take about 3-1/2 hours. We didn't have time for that, so
I had called Poring Hot Springs, where Rafflesia also sometimes
bloom. They said that there was a Rafflesia in bloom just 500m before
you reached their entrance.
The drive to Poring involved going down to Ranau again,
continuing about 6 km beyond Ranau and then turning left for a further 13
km to Poring. It took us 45 minutes in a fairly fast vehicle and
quite light traffic [Tip: Whatever the guides say, it won't take less than
this and could easily take an hour].
A sign at last!
A lucky farmer!
As we approached Poring Hot Springs, we spotted a sign
at the side of the road, which said "RAFLESIA BLOOMING." We
parked and investigated.
The farmer whose land it was on had us register and pay
RM 10 each for the privilege of seeing it (I persuaded him to accept RM 5
each for Peter, Michael & Rebecca). This was obviously his
opportunity to reap a big extra bonus beyond his regular farming. In
fact, I later discovered, the government actively encourages farmers to do
this: to save flowers when they find them growing on their property and to
charge a small entrance fee. It is one way to make conservation worth
it for the farmer!
We walked about 150m to where the Rafflesia was to be
found. It was probably about half a meter in diameter and hardly
smelt at all (it is supposed to smell foul!). What a
disappointment! Anyway, it was not exactly beautiful, but it was
The Genus Rafflesia
Rafflesia is a genus of flowering plants that is made up
of 16 known species.
The genus Rafflesia gets its name from Sir Stamford
Raffles, the founder of the British colony of Singapore. Sir Raffles
first discovered it in Sumatra with his friend Dr. Joseph Arnold, after
whom the largest of the species, R. Arnoldii, is named.
Rafflesia arnoldii has the distinction of being the
world’s largest flower, reaching a diameter of about one metre and weighing
up to 10kg (there are some plants with larger flowering organs,
Amorphophallus for example, but these are technically clusters of many
Rafflesia can only be found at altitudes of between 500
and 700 meters in the forests of Southeast Asia. The Rafflesia
arnoldii is only found in Borneo.
It's Just a Big Parasitic Flower
The Rafflesia is a very strange plant. It produces
no leaves, stems or roots but lives as a parasite on the Tetrastigma vine,
which grows only in primary (undisturbed) rainforest. Only the flower
or bud can be seen; the rest of the plant exists only as filaments within
its unfortunate host. The blossom is pollinated by flies attracted by
its scent, which resembles that of rotting flesh.
After we had thoroughly photographed and videoed it, we
trooped back to the car and drove back up to the Kinabalu Rose
Garden. There we packed and checked out.
Back to Kota Kinabalu
We drove down to Kota Kinabalu with some stunning views
of Kinabalu Mountain on our Right. There was little traffic on the
road until we hit KK, where the traffic was thick and slow. We tried
to go to Centrepoint Mall, but couldn't see any parking, so continued to
Wisma Xxxx where I loitered outside a KFC while the others got food.
Fortunately, someone released a parking place and we were able to eat
After a few more minutes in the mall (including finding
toilets and watching dragon-dancers), we drove on to the Sabah Museum.
Both the Rough Guide and the Lonely Planet said that
this was free, but times have changed and someone spotted a moneymaking
opportunity, so it now cost RM 5 for foreigners over 12 (its still free for
We spent an interesting hour there looking at the
exhibits. There was quite a variety: culture, history, dress, natural
history, and photos of endless important people.
Lost: One Airport Terminal -- last seen a few miles
south of Kota Kinabalu
We then drove to the airport. This was more
complicated that we expected. The airport was not consistently
signed, so we missed that on the first attempt. But having found the
main terminal, we could not find our humble little Terminal 2. After
a couple of circuits of the main terminal and asking directions, we
eventually found it on the far side and far end of the airstrip.
It was still only 2:45 pm. The man from Kinabalu
Rent-A-Car was waiting and the car was quickly handed over (he did not seem
to mind the fact that it was very dirty from travel). We had done
about 760 km at a cost of RM 90.60 for petrol and RM 1,008 for a week's
rental (RM 160 per day + 5% tax; 1 week for the price of 6 days).
Home with AirAsia
We checked in for the AirAsia flight but couldn't
proceed through security to the departure lounge until 3:30 pm. When
we did, there was also a brief immigration check in which they stamped our departure
cards (but not our passports) for leaving Sabah (we were only flying to
West Malaysia, so we weren't really leaving the country).
The incoming AirAsia flight was early. Turnaround
was fast and we were all seated on the flight by 4:15 pm (25 minutes before
our scheduled departure time of 4:40 pm). In the event, we had to
wait for a few late passengers and other things, but the AirAsia flight
still left at 4:30 pm -- 10 minutes early!