This is the seventh in a series of more in-depth posts on our trip to Borneo.
Have you seen “The Secret Life of Plants” with David Attenborough? I remember him squatting next to a large maroon flower on the jungle floor – a Rafflesia – the largest flower in the world. I never dreamed that I would actually see one in bloom when I watched the episode on PBS. But we did!
Rafflesia – It grows in primarily in the eastern states of Malaysia; Sabah and Sarawak. We had hopes to see it but it was only going to be by luck. We knew our best chances would be either Poring or Gunung Gading in Sarawak. The plant is a parasite that grows on a vine called Tetrastigma which is related to grapes. The Rafflesia lacks leaves and roots and is totally dependent upon this vine. The bud looks like a cabbage and takes about 9 months to eventually bloom. The bloom will open and last about 7 days until it turns black. The flower consists of 5 petals and sits directly on the jungle floor. It can measure over a yard across in size. The center contains spikes which are the flowersand it is fertilized by flies. To attract the flies, it produces the smell of rooting meat. The scent attracts the flies which pollinate the plant.
We had heard from the couple we talked to at the Mt. Kinabalu botanical garden that there was a Rafflesia in bloom along the road to Poring Hot Springs. We asked them how many days it had been in bloom. It had only been open two days. Wow! That means if we drove up there the following day it would have been in bloom for only 4 days. It would be in prime condition. They told us to look for a sign “Rafflesia Bloom” just before the village of Poring.
Lily produced another great breakfast. We sadly said “Goodbye” and headed off to Poring. We descended to Kundasang and headed towards Ranau. Ranau is one of the bigger towns in the area but the road only skirted the edges of the town. We turned off and headed back towards Mt. Kinabalu and Poring. We were much lower in elevation and it was very warm and humid. The houses in the area were interesting – many of the balconies had railings made of dark colonial Queen Anne style. Many of the buildings were a mix of stucco, wood and brick. You could tell that sections were constructed at different times and with different material.
We kept an eye out for the Raffesia sign. We were almost to the village when we saw it. We drove forward for a while and saw no other signs. That must be it. So we turned around and went back.
Three villagers were sitting on the side under an umbrella with a small stand. We asked them how much. They wanted 20RM. We said to much and negotiated 15RM per person. That was probably still too much but this is the one opportunity for the family/village to make a little extra revenue. The older Malaysian women led us along the trail for just about 1/4 mile until we came to a bamboo enclosure. There it was – Rafflesia.
Snap… Snap… Snap… We took our photos and that was it. It was kinda a let down after all the build up and anticipation.
We drove up to Poring. Hot springs are the main attraction of Poring. We were going to return to KK so we already had decided not to visit the hot springs. We arrived just before 11am so we headed to the Orchid Conservation Center which was only open for an hour or so. The center houses the largest collection of orchids native to Sabah. Next to the Orchid center were the tropical gardens – a small zoo-like area. I found this area kinda depressing. There were several cages mostly empty – but a few – with birds. We did get a chance to see a herd of Sambar deer.
Orchid Conservation Center at Poring
The other areas of interest at Poring are the butterfly garden and the canopy walk. We thought about doing one or both of them but they were about a 30-50 minute walk from the parking area. It was already past noon and we had a 3 hour drive to return to KK. I didn’t want to do any more hiking so got a soda and relaxed for a bit before starting the drive back.
Most of the way back was sunny except for a sudden rainstorm just past Mt. Kinabalu. In 3 hours we returned to KK and called to have the car picked up. It was an early night for us since we had to be up at 4:30am for our 7:00am flight to Latah Datu.
Here are a few more pictures from our day.
Mangosteen and Snakeskin fruit