Charms of Kiulu and Tamparuli
Published on: Sunday, March 19, 2023
By: R Gonzales and Anna Vivienne
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An aerial view of Bukit Perahu with Mount Kinabalu as the backdrop.
BUKIT Ruhiang, also known as Bukit Perahu and located in Kg Ruhiang, Tamparuli, is now more cheerful and is once again a popular place for locals to spend their leisure time.

The site, which is around 45km from Kota Kinabalu, is also known among Christians in the area as Bukit St Veronica.

The Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the Standard Operating Procedures put in place during the pandemic, has caused this popular hiking site to be quiet for a while.

However, as soon as the endemic transition period began, more residents, including those from outside the district, began flocking to the location to rest and enjoy the sunrise or sunset view, which was accompanied by the construction of concrete stairs and solar lights at the hill’s peak.

This writer, who seized the opportunity to climb the hill, saw that many visitors come not only for recreational purposes, but also to relieve stress after a long day at work.

Some visitors arrive as early as 5.30 am to catch a view of Mount Kinabalu at sunrise, as well as to experience the hill’s natural flora and fauna.

Traders sell food and beverages at the peak, notably on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as during school holidays.

Veronny Vale Richard, 31, a visitor from Tuaran, has been visiting Bukit Perahu on a regular basis since February in preparation for her Mount Kinabalu climb in August.

Climbers atop the hill.

The trek is complete with concrete steps and solar lights. 

“The trail has a rough surface that can be rocky and steep, but visitors need not fear because there are stairs that have been completed since March to make the climb easier.

“It is not difficult if you use this track (Bukit Perahu) frequently. I use this track for my preparation for my Mount Kinabalu excursion because it can enhance physical endurance owing to the steep climb to the peak,” Veronny said.

“The track is safer and suitable for all ages, especially families, to use for recreational activities, thanks to the construction of the concrete stairs and solar lights,” Veronny added.

Mohd Hashim Abdullah, 33, a visitor from Tamparuli, said the fasting month of Ramadan hasn’t stopped him from conducting his weekly leisure activities here.

“While trekking on a typical day is not difficult, hiking while fasting will necessitate more planning and endurance,” he said.

“Normally, I go hiking at sunrise,” he said, “but during Ramadan, I go once or twice a week before breaking fast.”

Meanwhile, Rural Development Minister and Tamparuli Assemblyman Datuk Jahid Jahim recently inaugurated the completion of the concrete stairs.

Jahid believes the site would thrive as a community-based tourism centre in Tamparuli. 

“Aside from improving basic facilities in the area, efforts to promote this place should be stepped up so that people from other districts are aware of this place and the natural beauty it has to offer visitors from within and outside the country.”

“I am sure that this site will attract a large number of people and will introduce them to other great sites in Tamparuli, such as neighbouring villages like Kiulu and its surroundings,” he said.

Tamparuli is a stopover on the way to Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran, Ranau, and Kiulu, and it’s also known for tales about Solungkoi women who sacrificed in order to build a sturdy concrete low-level crossing to connect the road across the river.

The Tamparuli suspension bridge, which is located close to the low-level crossing, is also the subject of a popular Justin Lusah song. Murals depicting ethnic pattern concepts from the district have been painted on the suspension bridge.

Meanwhile, Kiulu Tourism Association (KTA) President of Mejin Maginggau hoped the people in Kiulu would prosper through the homestay programme and eco-tourism. 

“The homestay programmes are promoted by the Government and, as such, we want to go with the flow, to ensure that the rural populace are not left behind in this income-making venture, even though it’s on a small scale.

“Kiulu is well-known for our rivers that meander through the villages and waterfalls.  

“We have vegetation along these rivers, fringed by forests. We have mountains for trekkers, birds and wildlife as well as flowering plants and wild fruits.

“We have one homestay where the guests can interact with the host family. There are also basic lodges available in the village, where guests can stay in bamboo houses near waterfalls, walk in a ‘back to nature’ lifestyle for a while, before they go home.”

Clear stream water at the park.

Some of the lodges at Kiharo Homestay. 

Shallow pools for children.

KTA members were made aware on the importance of the environment in sustaining their homestay and lodges, and ensure that they adhere to the norms of eco-tourism.

“Eco-tourism is when we protect habitats and the environment. That includes preserving our natural resources with us being the keepers of our natural and cultural resources. 

“We are the keepers, meaning that we ensure our natural environment is kept intact. All structures for tourism purposes should incorporate nature instead of usurping it.”

On folklore and legends, he said Bukit Sangod, for instance, has a very colourful background.

“During tribal wars in the past, Bukit Sangod was a battleground for two groups of contending factions; one of them was from a neighbouring district.

“They would come together and fight it out in the area. They would fight until one group surrendered, leaving their fallen comrades. The winning faction would take the heads of their enemy, and for each head, they carved a mark on the stone. After a long time, they decided to discontinue the fighting.”

“So they broke jars as symbols of them breaking their enmity, and to live in peace. I didn’t think much of this before, until I saw the huge stone with marks all over it. I often wondered how they managed to carry the stone up the steep hill,” Mejin said, adding that the story could be included in the story-telling package.

“These are very important as they are part of our heritage and identity in the district. We have many stories and folklore that can be utilised by members of the association as part of their tourism package. 

“I am sure these will be of tremendous interest, especially for our overseas guests. It will give them a better understanding on our way of life while adding to our tourism package or programme.”

On the tourism sites in Kiulu, he said Kiulu is well known for its white-water rafting, due to the fast-flowing river that flows through the district. White water-rafting is when a group of people on an inflated vessel rush down and trundle along on the river towards a certain point. An adrenaline-pumping ride that is well sought after by adventure buffs, and in Kiulu, mostly frequented by China tourists.  

“We are also going to promote agro-tourism as well as showcase our traditional costume, food, handicrafts and dances, among others. We have an outdoor centre, where we promote activities such as zip-lining and team-building.” 

Tourists are also given an experience on the people’s basic lifestyle such as farming, paddy planting and tending to pineapple plantation, among others. A village has been picked for this activity, namely Kg Ratau. Trekking is also popular in Kiulu, with many trails being promoted along the roadside into the villages of Kiulu. One of them is Dapako and another that will be opened to trekkers soon is the Bukit Sangod in Kg Lokub. 

The tourism industry in Kiulu is not new: it started some 30 years ago, Meijin said adding that it became more active in 2015 with the establishment of the association. 

“Kiulu was a pilot project for rural tourism development with Kadamaian Tourism,” he said.


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