Camping is a great way to appreciate nature. While some people prefer to camp in an established park, complete with wi fi, running water and television, others prefer to disconnect from civilisation and experience “true” jungle life, camping among the trees and animals in a place such as Lupa Masa Jungle Camp in Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, where they can lose their sense of time, free from the distractions of the modern world (indeed the camp’s name means “forget time” in Malay).
The camp is located in the transition between rainforest and lower montane forest in the foothills of Mount Kinabalu. The presence of flora and fauna from both habitats attracts naturalists to the camp from all over the world, and it’s not uncommon to share it with scientists conducting research on the forest’s inhabitants.
When I arrive at the camp I meet Michael, its Scottish manager, who’s always bursting with enthusiasm for jungle trekking. My accommodation is pretty basic – just a wooden hut with a canvas roof and camp bed enveloped in a mosquito net. But because the hut is open to the lush forest, it feels as though I’m enveloped in its vibrant life. Each morning, I’m awoken by the chirping of sunbirds, flowerpeckers and bulbuls; in the afternoon, I’m serenaded by a rainforest choir of cicadas; and at night, frogs and crickets provide a lullaby, singing me to sleep.
Wildlife is everywhere: I bump into a blue-banded pitta on the way to the bathroom, spot a slow loris next to the kitchen and find Wallace’s flying frogs under the roof. The plant life is equally impressive. My visit coincides with the blooming of beautiful long lace orchids and some ginger flowers, one of which looked like a birthday cake. Lupa Masa is also one of the few places where you can find three different kinds of rare corpse flowers: the Rafflesia, Rhizanthes and titan arum.
When the sun goes down, the forest really comes to life, as all of the nocturnal animals come out to party. Each night, Michael and I walk slowly through the forest, using our torches to search high and low for creatures that spend their days hiding deep in thickets and burrows, or under fallen logs, bark or river rocks. Many are superbly camouflaged, and only reveal themselves through the reflection of the torchlight from their eyes.
Michael is a particularly good spotter. Thanks to his sharp eyes, we discover numerous bizarre creatures, including sticks that walk, frogs with horns and crabs dwelling in tree holes. Not to mention a small-toothed palm civet, a green pit viper, arboreal dragon lizards, sleeping kingfishers, lantern bug, geckos, long-horned beetles, fireflies and dozens of frogs. Turning off our lights, we’re transfixed by some amazing luminous mushrooms and other fungi that glow like neon lights in the dark.
Unsurprisingly, the days can get quite hot in the camp, so soaking in the icy river beneath Lupa Masa Waterfall is a favourite activity for guests. As the camp is located close to the boundary of Kinabalu Park, Malaysia’s first World Heritage site, the water that flows through it from Mount Kinabalu is pristine. The river is also fairly shallow, so it’s safe to swim in; or you can simply sit and enjoy a free massage from the current. The more adventurous can hike an hour uphill to explore a hidden waterfall that’s five times larger than Lupa Masa Waterfall.
Lupa Masa Jungle Camp is located just 30 minutes walk from Poring Hot Springs. For booking and enquiries, the camp can be contacted by calling +60 19 581 3863 or +60 19 802 0549 or emailing Lupamasaborneo@gmail.com. For further information, visit http://lupamasa.wixsite.com/lupamasaborneo