Mount Santubong


Legend has it that Mount Santubong was formed out of the body of a Princess who was punished for fighting with her sister. Alfred Russell Wallace climbed it for his research in 1855. You can climb it too: its a steep hike that can be done in a day, with Kuching just 35km away.

810m (2,658 ft)
Climbing Height
800m (starting from Green Paradise Seafood Restaurant)
  • Outside of top #20 in Malaysia
  • Outside of top #50 in SE Asia

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Natural Form and History

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - History

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Geological history

Mount Santubong is presumed to have risen from the sea by a collision between the continental and oceanic crusts. It is composed mostly of sandstone which dates back to upper Cretaceous to early Eocene period, that is, 70 to 60 million years ago. Other layers of intrusive rock dating back to 35 million years ago are also to be found on the mountain. Sandstone being brittle in nature led to formation of cracks and large portions breaking off, explaining the presence of large and smooth rocks on the waterbeds of the rivers found on the mountain. Severe rains during the interglacial periods caused several avalanches which also account for the presence of large rocks on the mountain.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Modern climbing history

Mount Santubong is said to have mythical origins and a popular legend has it that the mountain was formed out of the body of a Princess who got into a fight with her sister over a Prince and was punished by their father for the misdemeanor. The mountain in popular imagination is said to resemble a woman lying down when looked at from some angles. In any case the mountain has seen human habitation from the 7th century but came into focus when the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace climbed it in 1855 as part of his research in Sarawak. It is now part of a notified National Park and extremely popular with visitors.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Current popularity as a climbing destination

Mount Santubong is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sarawak. Climbing the mountain is a daytime activity with a moderate level of difficulty. Lying just 35 kms from the capital of Sarawak, Kuching City, it is accessible and has additional attractions around it like the Damai Beach and the Sarawak Cultural Village.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Overview of the Trail

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Overall Assessment

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Summary of trail accessibility

The trail to the summit of Mount Santubong is a clearly laid out one with clear sign boards and rest stops. It is very popular among travelers looking to spend sometime in the tropical rainforests, but don't have 2 or more days to spare for the taller mountains in the region. And while it is not a technical climb, the trek will still test your stamina and any exposure to rock climbing will stand you in good stead.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Trail options

Number of options

There are 4 different entry points to start the trek to the summit of Mount Santubong but all merge at about 2/3rd of the trail at View Point 1, so essentially what you get are different views of the forest and little difference in the trek time or difficulty, whichever trail you choose.

The first of the possible entry points, this route offers a tree covered trail that is not too steep but on this route you miss the waterfall that is a highlight of the trek from the other starting points. However going both ways on this trail allows you to complete the trek in a shorter while as compared to the others.

This entry point would require you to pay a fee for the trek but you get to cross a suspension bridge and enjoy the waterfall on the route.

This point serves as the starting point to a circuitous route to a jungle trek that does not involve going up to the summit. But the trail joins the other trails at a later point so you can enjoy the jungle trail as you go up.

This entry point from the opposite side of the mountain is perhaps the longest route to the summit.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Most popular trail

As all the trails merge after a point, there is really no distinction between each and your choice of trail wholly depends on which parts of the jungle you wish to see and whether you want to make use of the small differences in time and distance. Most visitors opt to start at one point and descend through one of the others so that you get a greater experience of the forest with its many little surprises in the form of brooks and waterfalls.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Standard itinerary

Number of days

The mountain with its thick tree cover tends to get dark and damp by late afternoon and it is advised to be back at the base ideally by 4pm, no later than 5 pm. The trail is about 3.5 kms with a total elevation gain of 800m. For a reasonably fit person, the trek would take about 4 hours to the summit and 3 for the descend.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Day 1

09:00:  Reach your entry point and register for entry (at some points you may be required to pay a fee). Depenndingon which of the routs you decide to take for the first section, you’ll see different types of trees, e.g. a local tree rengas sudu which has a milky sap that turns black on contact with the air and is highly iritant, or a “bird durian” tree which has spiky soccer-ball sized fruit similar to its infamous cousin the smelly durian.

10:30:  Reach View Point 1 where the trails merge. The path ahead will become more difficult, and you will need to rely on ropes and exposed tree roots as foot and hand holds. As you get up higher, the vegetation will start becoming thinner, with smaller trees. Along the way, there will be a number of viewing points where you can rest while taking in views of the landscape below.

13:00:  Reach summit, where there is a flat space offering (if you’re lucky enough to not have any clouds) spectacular views of Kuching City, the South China Sea and the Sarawak Cultural village.

13:30:  Start to descend. Try and take a different trail down for the last section of the decent, and if you’re in the mood for a swim, opt for the option that brings you to the waterfall with a cool bathing pool nestled among magnificent trees all around.

17:00:  Arrive back at base, and start your journey back to Kuching.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Climbing Difficulty

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Terrain

Number of distinct sections

Upto the intersection of the trails, the terrain is not too steep and involves some scenic stretches with river crossings and a waterfall. From there onward there are several rock faces and tall boulders to deal with, which you will need to surmount with the help of ropes and ladders. These steeper and more difficult sections happen after the trails merge so unless you are planning to skip the summit and just make it a jungle trek, there is no avoiding those sections.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Base to Viewpoint 1
Most of this section is through lush rainforest with a few boardwalks and bridges to cross. At one point there is a descent to a creek with a slim waterfall.
Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Viewpoint 1 to Viewpoint 5
This is all uphill with several tall boulders and sheer rock faces with ropes and ladders to help you on your way. At some points, the exposed tree roots serve as a kind of staircase to help you up the path. There are some rest stops on the way which you will undoubtedly need to use as the strain of the climb can hugely affect your lungs as well as your legs. But the views are also breathtaking so it would be worthwhile to use the viewing points along the route as well.
Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Viewpoint 5 to summit
The final stretch is almost perpendicular rock face and it will take every ounce of energy to scramble your way to the top with the help of the many vertical rope ladders.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Weather

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Overview of climate

Malaysia’s equatorial climate offers warm days throughout the year with not much difference between the warmer and colder seasons. The real differentiator is the rain which falls heaviest between November and February. Day time temperatures hover in the range of 27 to 30 degrees for most of the year.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Best time to climb

The dry season between June and August is the best season to climb Mount Santubong. Try to start the climb as early as you can in the morning so that you reach back o the base before the afternoon thunder storms that can happen throughout the year.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Common weather challenges

Rain:  Rain is an ever present challenge in the rainforests and can make the trek difficult. Check local weather conditions before embarking on the trek and be sufficiently prepared with raincoats or ponchos as well as shoes with good grip for the slippery surfaces.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Safety tips

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Climbing safety

Slips and falls:  Though not a very tall mountain, Mount Santubong is not exactly a beginner’s climb with its sheer rock surfaces that require you to climb over rope ladders. There is always the danger of slipping and falling or sustaining minor injuries on this trail. Be sure to have some level of training before embarking on the climb and carry basic medical supplies.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Personal safety

Mount Santubong is considered a safe trail, and many visitors take this trek by themselves at all times of the year.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Safety for women travelers

Mount Santubong is a safe trail for women travelling solo or in groups. Even so, its best to follow basic safety precautions like keeping others informed of your proposed trek time and expected arrival back at lodgings.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Recommended equipment

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Footwear

Walking or climbing shoes with good grip

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Clothing

Loose clothing suited to a tropical climate

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Bags

Small lightweight backpack

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Weather protection
  • Rain coat / poncho
  • Waterproof cover for backpack
  • Waterproof cover for camera
Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Climbing support

Not required

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Navigation tools

Not required

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Medical equipment

Basic first-aid kid, for cuts and bruises

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Food
  • Drinking water
  • High-calorie dry food items – chocolates, energy bars, etc.
Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Hygene sanitation

Hand sanitizer

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Connectivity

Mobile phone(s)

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Documents

Passport (or other IDs):  for registration

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Support facilities

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Resting stops and facilities

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Rest stops

There are 15 rest stops on the trail and 5 designated viewing points. The rest stops are mostly basic with sign boards telling you where you are, but at the viewing points including the summit there are built up rest houses to shelter you in case of unexpected rain. There aren’t any other facilities available though like toilets or eateries.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Base camp

Being a day trip, there is no designated base camp for this trek but at each of the entry points there are basic rest room facilities available.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Guides and porters

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Do you need a guide?

It is not mandatory to have a guide on this trek and it is fairly simple if you decide to go DIY. But many visitors opt for a guide-included package so it will be easier to complete the trek without mishaps and on prearranged tours, food can be taken care of too.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - How to find a guide?

If you decide to have a guide, try to arrange for one beforehand through recommended tour operators or by looking for online recommendations.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Tips while working with guides
  • Be clear with your plans and needs and make sure you get someone who speaks your language and is well versed with the route.
  • To reduce costs, look to join groups and share their guide. Some tour operators may also provide discounts on guides during certain months for climbers.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Porters

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Do you need a porter?

Being a short trip, there is no requirement for porters on this trek.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - How to find a porter?


Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Tips while working with porters


Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Food & water

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - At the start of the hike

It is best to have breakfast at Kuching City or in the Sarawak Cultural Village before embarking on the trip as there are no other facilities available once you are on the trail.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - During the hike, along the trail

Once past the entry point, there are no food or water facilities along the way. If you are on a prearranged tour through a tour operator, the guide will generally carry your packed lunch as per the agreement. Otherwise, you would need to carry your own packaged lunch and other snacks as may be required for the duration of the trip. Be sure to carry at least two large bottles of water. While there are no restrictions on what you may bring on the trek, it is imperative to not leave any litter on the route so make sure to pack your food in a way that you don’t leave anything behind. For snacks, consider carrying fruit instead of packaged snacks so you don’t have to worry about litter.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - During the hike, at base camp


Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Network connectivity

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Phone and data (3G) connectivity

Although mobile signals are available on the mountain, don’t count on 3G speeds as the network tends to be slightly patchy.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Accessibility

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Getting there

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Nearest airport
Kuching International Airport is the entry point to the state of Sarawak in Malaysia and is about 11 kms from Kuching City center.
Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - From the airport to the starting point

From Kuching City, it is easy to get a cab or a minivan or bus to Santubong. Some hotels operate tour buses too. It is only 45 minutes to Santubong from Kuching City.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Climbing permits

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Is a permit needed?
You don’t need a permit for the trek but you need to register yourself in the visitor’s log at the entry points.
Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - How to get a permit?

You can register yourself at the entry points to the trail, upon which you may get a registration slip.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - Special Tips

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - For amateur climbers

Though the height of the mountain is not intimidating this is not exactly a beginner’s trek because of the steep boulders that require you to have at least a basic exposure to rock climbing. If you would rather not make the entire trek, opt for the jungle trek circuit that will give you a nice experience of the rainforest and waterfall in the area.

Climbing Mount Santubong Malaysia - For advanced climbers

  • Mount Santubong sits close to several nearby attractions like the Damai Beach and the Sarawak Cultural village. Try to make your trek as early as possible in the morning so you can take full advantage of all that Santubong has to offer.
  • You can also try to combine two or more of the trails so you get to experience as much of the mountain as possible.

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