The lush forests of the Tawau Hills in the east coast of Sabah serves as an important water catchment area for Tawau and Semporna. The area was gazetted as a National Park to protect the natural environment with its unique flora and fauna and to ensure an uninterrupted water supply for the region. Rugged volcanic terrain cover the natural landscape, in sharp contrast to the neatly cultivated plantations of oil palm, cocoa and rubber on the flat coastal plains. It covers an area of 27,972 hectares.
Flora and fauna
Lush dipterocarp forest vegetation and lianas cover the lower regions giving way to thick damp mossy forests as the altitude gets higher and temperature get cooler. The variety of plant life found within the park include Agathis, Mountain ru, Tree ferns, different species of orchids and begonia. A particularly interesting species is the Mengaris tree whose smooth grey trunk makes it particularly difficult to climb. Wild bees protect their precious store of honey from the voracious honey bears, by making their honeycombs high up these trees. Macaques, creamy white leaf monkeys, giant tree squirrels, civet cats and leopard cats inhabit the park’s dense primary forests. Borneo’s largest wild cat-the clouded leopard, through rarely seen is not uncommon. It preys on smaller mammals such as rats and even bigger wild pigs. Other inhabitants of the harmless kind include hornbills and pheasants and the slow-moving forest tortoise.
Highest tropical rainforest tree in the world
In 2006, American scientist Dr Roman Dial and two friends climbed up a ‘Seraya Kuning Siput’ (Shorea faquetiana) in Taman Bukit Tawau near here. The trio risked life and limb in order to find out the accurate measurement of this tree, a tropical rainforest plant, located in the forest reserve of some 28,000 hectares. After placing the end of the measuring tape at the tip of the highest point on the tree, Dr Dial, a professor in Biologi and Mathematic of Alaska Pacific University, finally recorded the tree’s height at 88.32 meters. That measurement made the Seraya Kuning Siput in Tawau Hills Park the highest tropical rainforest tree in the world.After recording the tree’s height, Dr Dial and his team then moved on to look for trees of other species in the park. In two square km there, they found seven more that measured more than 80 meters in height. The discovery by Dr Dial and his team was recorded in the National Geographic magazine, July 2006 edition.
Planning an itinerary
Cool strams meandering through a lush tropical forest setting and waterfalls cascading excitingly into frothing rocky pools down below, make it an ideal location for picnics and refreshing dips-away from the stress and strains of everyday life. There are also hotsprings-Mother Nature’s very own spa, where you can ease your tired muscles and weary bones while luxuriant in the the therapeutic warmth of the ‘geotermal’ pool.