Maliau Basin: Trekking Adventures

About Maliau Basin

Maliau Basin is in the interior of Borneo and is commonly known as Sabah’s lost land because it was isolated and unexplored by outsiders until 1980. The geological bowl creates a big water catchment area with water sources leading to Maliau River, the only place the water can escape to. Maliau basin is an important structure when it comes to watering the rivers downstream. The water flows from Maliau River, to Kuamut and finally to Kinabatangan.

The highest point of the Maliau basin reaches to 1,675m above sea level making it one of Malaysia’s greatest sites. The basin supports a part of pristine forests that covers 390 square kilometers, part of which has not been explored up to date.

Due to the isolation of the fauna and flora of the basin, there are several species in the basin; with a variety of epidemic plant species occurring at the best part of the rim. Malaysian authorities recognize the areas as a significant place of ecological wealth. Yayasan Sabah declared it a conservation area of education, research, and training. The Maliau Basin Conservation Area, together with the buffer zone around it, sits on 58,840 hectares.

In 1997, it was given Class I Protection Forest Reserve status; the highest focus being the forests of Sabah. In the present day, tourists and researches are the main visitors of the place enjoying research and multi-day trekking.

Activities at Maliau Basin

There are multiple activities you can enjoy in the Maliau Basin; here are the top-most fun activities that you cannot afford to miss;


The major activity for tourists at Maliau Basin is trekking. You will need to be fit for the activity because they are terrains, which are steep and may take long days. From the time you embark your journey to when you return to Agathis Camp, you are surrounded by the virgin jungle around you. The beauty of Maliau Basin is that it is a great example of the primary Bornean rainforest.

Standing below the Agathis tree does not only make you feel small but also confirm that Sabah is home of the tallest trees. Here you take a break from civilization and enjoy what Mother Nature decided to offer you.


Contrary to the expectations, despite the fact that Maliau Basin is among the best example of primary rainforest in Sabah, it is not home for many wildlife animals. The area receives few visitors, so the animals are not habituated. It is, however, possible to spot a few North Borneo gibbons, deer, hornbills, leopard cat, and civets.

Trekking to Maliau Falls

Maliau falls is the main spot for all visitors and one of the most accessible parts of Maliau River. The waterfall has seven tiers and lies at the heart of Maliau Basin. Getting to the waterfall, you require to trek, which is an ultimate test of your knees.

waterfalls-maliau basin

The force of the water in the waterfall solely depends on the amount of rainfall that the area has received.

Threats to Maliau Basin

There are many factors that are endangering the beauty and future of the Maliau Basin. Luckily, the government has intervened to ensure the life of the conservation area stays that way. Some of the dangers include;

Coal Mining

The local government has proposed coal mining below Maliau’s Basin. The local Sabah people have opposed the idea, saying that it will adversely affect the ecosystem. To begin with, it is the source of many rivers. To limit water flows into the rivers would mean disrupting the lives of flora and fauna, not to forget the community.

Gaharu Poaching

Gaharu wood, also known as agarwood is one of the major threat the forest is facing. Gaharu wood is formed in the heart of aquilaria trees after the tree is affected by Phialophora parasitica. After its inoculation, the tree turns dark and aromatic. It is used in small carvings, incense, and perfumes.

ghararu wood, maliau basin

It is interesting to note that Gaharu wood is the most expensive natural wood globally. In 2010, one kilogram was worth $100000. There have been no signs of prices dropping.


Despite the protection by the government, there is a probability of not allowing logging in the future. At this juncture, the government has decided to protect the land for future generations; we only hope that they keep it that way.

In 2018, there was a report on illegal logging, but the government quickly dismissed the news stating that the area was restricted and no license can be issued for logging activities.

Getting to Maliau Basin

Once you decide to visit Maliau basin, you sign up to explore the interiors of Sabah. The nearest airports are Tawau or Kota Kinabalu. Driving from the two locations will take 6 and 4 hours respectively given the poor conditions of some road sections.

If you are leaving from Kinabalu, you first get to Keningau (a rural town) before proceeding to the Maliau Basin Study Centre. This is the only way to get to Maliau Basin by road. However, this will be one of the things you will have done for the first time as it makes you feel like you are off the grid.

Maliau Basin Accommodation

There are different places that you can stay during your visit depending on your preference and budget. The common accommodation facilities are as follows;

Maliau Basin Study Centre

The first night of every tourist involves a night at Maliau Basin Study Centre. Here you have a chance of staying at a chalet, rest house or dormitory. There are very few people venturing this area, so the chances of finding yourself alone are very high. There are park rangers and researchers who stay here on a full-time basis.

The dorms are great and are equipped with a shower block, toilets, and bunk beds. There are two dormitories with two wings coming from each dorm, making it a very favorable place to stay while at the Maliau basin resort.

Agathis Camp

The Agathi Camp was the first place that marked the beginning of the trail to the Maliau Basin. However, it’s now a dilapidated place that is used as a minute-adjustment area before going to the Maliau Basin. It is said that elephants destroyed the camp, and it was never rebuilt.

Ginseng Camp

If you are going for a 4D3N itinerary, this will be your best choice for your time in Maliau Basin and is a 9km walk from Agathis camp. The camp is next to the tranquil Ginseng Falls; it is a perfect sleepover point in the forest. Their facilities are not classy, but they are comfortable; the beds and pillows are equipped with rubber mattresses and there is a common area for meals.

If you get to the camp early after your trekking day, you stand a chance to swim in the Ginseng Falls.

Nepenthes Camp

Nepenthes Camp was previously known as Trophy Camp. It is the first stop for the 5D4N itinerary, and it is 7.5 km from Agathis camp. It gives you an opportunity to explore Giluk Falls and Takob Akob Falls. Nepenthes camp has an observation area which allows you to see the forest view perfectly.


It is no doubt that trekking in Maliau Basin can be very tough. You are required to be fit to conquer the terrains, see that you prepare physically for two months. It is important to practice carrying a bag if you plan to carry gear during your time at the Maliau Basin.

Also, remember to carry the right equipment as it draws a line between a comfortable journey and a miserable trip in Borneo.

If you are planning to visit many destinations, you may consider booking your trip to see you get the opportunity to visit the areas you desire.

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