A tarred climb to the top of Mount Serapi
By Patricia Hului
What if I told you that you could climb up a mountain in this tropical climate without getting your shoes muddy?
Sounds unfeasible…but at Mount Serapi in Kubah National Park (NP) it is possible!
With an area of 2,230 hectares, the park was gazetted in 1989 thanks to its abundant plant diversity but its doors only opened to the public in 1998.
It is perhaps the most accessible national park in Kuching situated 22 kilometres from the city.
Plus, it is easy to spot Mount Serapi from Kuching; you can identify it by the telecommunications tower located on top of it.
There are seven trails available to be explored in Kubah NP: the main waterfall, Rayu, Selang, summit, Palmetum and Belian trails.
The most famous trail takes visitors way up to the summit of Mount Serapi; a journey taking three to three and half hours of walking.
Although the trek takes you up a tarred road, it does not mean it is not difficult for those who are physically unfit.
There are sections of the road that slant at 45 degrees, making the climb tiring and hard on the knees. If you do get tired, though, you can take a rest at one of the many shelters located along the road.
Each shelter is uniquely named and comes with a signboard telling visitors how far it is to the next shelter plus how long it should take to get there.
Take it from me, though, when you are tired and getting restless; you wouldn’t care about timing your walk, just as long you get to the top.
Once you reach the viewing platform at the summit, take in the spectacular view of Kuching provided if you have clear weather.
From there I could see the ocean, several nearby islands, Mount Santubong and not forgetting Kuching city itself in the distance.
In addition to the summit’s stunning views, personally I found the national park’s strongest appeal is the rich sound of nature.
The beautiful sounds of insects and rustling of leaves, however, are sometimes laced with noise from vehicles going up and down to the communication tower.
Tips and tricks
If you are planning to climb Mount Serapi, have an early start around 8 in the morning.
That was what the park guide told me when I registered at 10am. He warned me the weather could get hot if you start too late in the morning and advised us to drink plenty of water.
Be careful of the cars coming up and down to the telecommunications tower when you are using the summit trail; they can be extremely fast especially when driving down from the summit.
If you have time, stop by at the Frog Pond on your way up to the mountain and try to catch as many sounds as you can, you will be fascinated by Mother Nature’s orchestra.
Yes, the climb up to the top does not get your shoes into the dirt at all but it does not mean you can wear your sandals or flip flops.
Wear comfortable and durable shoes because I have seen a couple of footwear ‘carcasses’ along the road.
Fun Facts about Kubah National Park
1. Do you know that Mount Serapi was the main film location for Farewell to the King? The movie by John Milius was shot in 1987 starring Nick Nolte, Nigel Havers, Frank McRae and Gerry Lopez.
2. Jessica Alba spent her time in the nearby forest foothills at the park’s border to film The Sleeping Dictionary. She had come straight from her Dark Angel series.
3. Costatolide is a type of chemical extracted from Bintangor tree sap. Initial tests showed that it could halt the spread of HIV. If you walk along the Rayu Trail, you can see some of the Bintangor trees have been tapped for more research on this.
4. Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari, also a friend of James Brooke, spent his time from 1865 to 1868 in Sarawak. He described many of palms found in Kubah area in his book called ‘Wanderings in the Great Forests of Borneo’.
5. Nature recordist Marc Anderson won the Most Beautiful Sound in the World Competition sponsored by The Sound Agency and Beautiful Now in 2014 with a recording he recorded on site near the frog pond of Kubah NP. The winning recording was rich with the sounds of cicadas, frogs, birds and insects.