Day 8
January 18

The Final Flower:
A Rafflesia

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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 certainly impressive.


 Looking at
a rafflesia

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

Rafflesia arnoldii


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 flowers).


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 inside.


Sabah Museum


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 locals).


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! 




Web Address

E-mail Address

Kinabalu Rose Cabin

Tambunan Rafflesia Centre



Poring Hot Springs



Guide to Rafflesia
(S. Illinois Univ.)

Good pictures of the different kinds

The Genus Rafflesia

Good information, but many of the pictures don't show 

Book on Rafflesia
(added June 2009)


I think that this is the only book around that is only about Rafflesia.


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© Ian Prescott    Feedback: "ian" at this domain   Last modified: 12-Jun-09