Kinabalu Forum – Where we could do something with SSL

At last…

After 2 years of struggling online with website and 1 year with this blog, it is about time for me to open Mount Kinabalu more to the online community.

Frankly speaking, I hate the booking system by Sutera Sanctuary Lodges (SSL). It was bearable 2 years ago, but it was getting horrible. Initially, booking with them was really easy, even a walk-in travelers/climbers could get a place to climb. You could even tailor made your trip so that you could save some money by DIY-ing (do-it-yourself) the package, and don’t have to pay hefty amount of money to tour and travel operator which sometimes unbearable for budget travelers.

However, since they started a new booking system, it is getting harder and harder to book a place to climb.

They even “upgrade” their services by packaging the climbing trip, and sell it to clients as a package. Clients don’t have a choice but to take the packages to climb, otherwise they would not sell it. But if you see the price – you might choke to death.

Tour & travel operators also feels the heat. As third party service provider, they have to sell the pre-packaged climbing trip which has been prepared by SSL to their clients, and even mark-up the price some more.

Some “BIG” travel & tour operators also plays dirty with SSL. They pre-booked the beds in Laban Rata in bulk.

Imagine this situation: There are 130+ beds in Laban Rata. Most of those BIG operators pre-book the beds, at least one operator will book 20-30 beds one shot. If 7 out of 100+ tour operators here in Kota Kinabalu take the booking, there would be no more places for climbers to book. Small / sole operators like ME don’t even have a chance. You need to be really, really BIG FISH with BIG CABLE to tie up with SSL’s “BOSSES” to get the privilege.

You know how ridiculous is their problem? Once, I got a feedback from their reservation saying that all the beds are fully booked, but the booking just opened for 2 hours! Who the hell in this world could buy all 130+ beds in Laban Rata in just 2 hours?

Hmm… Now you were asking… Why not complaint this to the authority? Well, I must say that – THE STATE GOVERNMENT KNEW ABOUT IT. But they could not do anything, as SSL has a VERY BIG cable with the Boleh Land government. I am getting sicker when I knew that also.

So, who are the losing party here?

  1. You & me – as we are only a small matter to them.
  2. Our beloved Kinabalu – as more and more commercialize climbing (that means PROFIT taking) by only ONE sole provider, without the intention to CONSERVE the mountain. Hell… If they say they are actively involve in CONSERVATION of the mountain, they are LYING. Sabah Parks is one of the government body who is responsible for the mountain’s CONSERVATION project, but NOT SSL.

I am sorry Sabahan, but the Sabah state government sucks big time on this issues. I am hoping that Masidi Manjun read this, and if he thinks that he is the better MP for Sabah, he should be doing something. It is his portfolio – tourism. (Still, I love my wife!)

Stop this “the only sole provider thingy” for climbers of Kinabalu. It’s hurting everybody from all over the world knowing that this issues are making them disappointed when asking me for a help on their climbing trip.

This is just a beginning. I am planning to get voices from climbers from all over the world who thinks that Mount Kinabalu is “raped”.

But at this moment, I have set up a forum portal for all Kinabalu climbers from around the world to share their opinion. And you are invited to join.

*As on 13 August 2013, the forum page no longer exist. Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you.*

This entry was posted in General on by .

About drizad

A self employed General Practitioner who lives with his lovely family in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. He dedicates his spare time serving people with precious information on climbing the Majestic Mountain of the Borneo, Mt Kinabalu. Reachable at drizad(at)

52 thoughts on “Kinabalu Forum – Where we could do something with SSL

  1. mchwen

    Yup. I was planning to bring a group of students up the mountain and I get a reply that it’s fully booked for 6 months already. And SSL won’t let me book a date beyond the 6 months that they are selling.

    Also, the price is almost a 200% jump from the old price. And I only went there in December 2007.

    They just changed the system at the beginning of 2008, and already it’s full–even at the exorbitant prices. It’s hard to believe.

  2. Murphy

    I had a similar experience but it was not with SSL.

    In year 2006, I did a jungle trekking on Gaya Island. I only needed to pay the ferry ticket, and a RM3 conservation levy ticket for Sabah Parks, nothing else.

    Later I heard a company (PKM if I am not mistaken), which has many contracts with government, took over the management of the Gayana Resort.

    Ok, last month I wanted to do the same thing again. They forced me to buy a RM50 lunch package otherwise they wouldn’t allow me. If include the RM20 ferry ticket, I have to pay RM70++ just to walk in the jungle! And the Gaya villagers, who contribute garbage to our sea, can roam freely on the island!

    It is such a rip off, not only to me, but to the locals as well. I was so angry that I even thought of removing my “promotion” blog for Gayana. Well, how many more I should remove? Many good tourism spots are controlled by private companies who only care about making $.

    Without doubt, if SSL can make Mount Kinabalu their private mountain, like how PKM makes Gayana their private island, they will not hesitate to do so. Sad huh..

  3. drizad

    @Meng Chwen: Yes, it was really ridiculous… How can they fill all 130+ beds in Laban Rata everyday for the next 6 months when the booking date just opened?

    Hint: There are a lot of “BIG FISHES” around here who have a very “BIG CABLES” with SSL. They have a very intimate relationship that none can stop it.

    @Murphy: It’s getting more sad. Agree with you that as Sabah is more known to the world, part by part of Sabah is handled by “private” operators…

    I wonder what will happened to Mount Trusmadi when it become more commercialize…

  4. May

    I too had similiar experience. I’ve called SSL last year in Dec and they told me that 2008 is not open for booking yet, told me to call again in Jan 08′, which I did below is the tele-con I had with SSL

    Me: Any available dates in Apr/May/Jun/Jul?
    SSL: fully booked till July.
    Me: What about August?
    SSL: Booking not open yet.
    Me: When will it be open then, could I be on the waiting list and as soon as it’s open you put my name in.
    SSL: Cannot. Don’t know when it will open. You can call us everyday to check.
    Me: What? you want me to call KK everyday? Isn’t there any other way. Do you have a KL office that I can go to?
    SSL: I don’t understand. No KL office. Only this one.
    Me: thanks but no thanks. (hung up)

    This is happening to me a, fellow malaysian speaking their language! What kind of front are they projecting to foreign tourist, I’m already frustrated. Imagine the long distance calls!!

    If the government wants to promote local tourism, this should be stopped. Give fair chance for everyone to book and not monopolised by SSL and the tour operators!

    And, yes the price hike is ridiculous! Last year was RM46 a bed, this year RM546 for 2person incl. all meals and a bed. That’s a hike of 6x per/person. This is CRAZY!

  5. nimrodjo

    From what I read here, I truly disappointed with our local government esp. the minister responsible…They know what is going on and do nothing…I feel very sorry for May after she is being treated like that…who the heck they think they are to ask people to call EVERYDAY? I think their worker is somehow becoming a lunatic…If things like this persist, only tourist handled by BIG corporation can climbed Mt. Kinabalu…I feel ashamed to be called citizen of the Land Below the Wind if this happen…

  6. Horng Yih

    Oh I totally agree with the article.

    I have been steadily going to climb Mt Kinabalu steadily since 2004; this year’s trip will be my fifth. All my previous trips were arranged on my own; in fact most of the trips were done in the comfort of my home via emails.

    However while preparing for a trip this March 2008,I have been having the most unpleasant experience booking for Laban Rata.

    First of all, last August, wanting to get ahead in booking as my group is quite large this year, I decided to book ahead of time just in case. I was told the marketing department has instructed reservations to be made for next year. I promptly left off requesting them to let me know when reservations is open for next year( 2008 ). And then in October, I get a call out of the blue that if I do not pay for the reservation I would lose my booking; I had not been informed my booking was processed. In a panic, I asked for the reservation details to arrange payment. To my surprise they had seperated my group, 6 in Laban Rata and another 6 in Waras Hut. Laban Rata guests are charges RM 188 per pax, under their new packages… and Waras Hut guests RM 30 per pax. On top of that I was given a 2 Twin Share room for RM 150; as I had a friend who could not secure availability, I gave them the twin share. Payment was arranged and that was the end of the story; reservation totales RM 1400++. I rested in peace… for a while.

    Last week, Feb 2008, I receive another call asking me to complete my payment of RM 1200++ to confirm my reservation. In another fit of panic, I asked for the reservation details to be faxed to me. To my unpleasant surprise, the charges have now gone up. Waras Hut and Laban Rata guests are charged RM 188 per pax and the Twin share went from RM 150 to RM 498. These charges were increased without my knowledge and without prior notification. After fuming over this sudden shock, I decided to pay to secure the reservation knowing how scarce availability is; and the trip being a month away. I have since made payment arrangements, and as of yesterday was unable to get through to reservations office to get confirmation that my payment is received.

    The prices is a real shock, Laban Rata stay has shot up from RM 50 to RM 188. True that the new rates now include meals, but it used to be optional. Meals have always been served at elevated prices at Laban Rata. I understand that food and supplies are manually brought up to Laban Rata and this should be factored into the cost. However, at least we used to have a choice. Sometimes to cut cost we would bring our food up. But we still do end up having meals for the need of warm food.

    Cost has gone up so much, I am seriously reconsidering this annual homage of mine up the mountain. At these elevated prices, I might as well spend them elsewhere.

    I just might make one more trip next year just to try out the Via Ferrata, and perhaps no more after that =( Sad to say.

    Over the years there has been a slow steady decline in the reservation service.=(

  7. Horng Yih

    Also like to comment on the “Rape” of Mount Kinabalu.

    I have noticed since 2004 that a portion of land by the side of the trail, where Mersilau trail meets Timpohon trail, was cleared to build a ‘restaurant’ at the midway point for climbers.

    Over the years, I have seen this construction progress slowly and poorly; as large plot of land unprotected from the weather erodes away.

    Last year, I was told they have abandoned the project with the reason that the cost were too high? Then why was the project started in the first place? Was there no feasibility study done both on the environmental impact and the financial resources required to complete such a project? As far as I know since my last trip, the plot of land now lies naked to the elements.=(

    So much for ‘conservation’… and isn’t this a World Heritage site? Would we not lose the World Heritage status if this sort of projects continue?

  8. ganesh


    I suggest you write to malaysian governent in KL and also Unesco. Unesco is very strict. They can remove the title mount kinabalu has now. Well, also ask TV3 and NTV7 and also Thestar and Malay mail to look into it. FUrthermore, the malaysian locals can’t afford to experience our local beauties.

    Give all above comments to them and let them read your website

  9. TF


    I had a bad experience for booking a dome to climb mount KK, even 7 months before the trip. i really wonder ??????

  10. dorene

    I just got to know that MAS golden holidays’ package fare to Mount Kinabalu has also increased ‘thanks’ in part to SSL’s ridiculous price hike in their travel package.

    Little do SSL know that this type of unreasonable move (just because they are the sole travel operator in KK)to increase their cost in travel package is going to put a lot of people off. This ought to draw a lot of criticism from the locals and foreigners alike.

    Let’s go to the papers!

  11. Wong Wai Yong

    After read all the blogs before me, I noticed there is a mistake of the new price mentioned by our friends. Many of them say booking Laban Rata is RM188, haha, it is wrong, actually booking Laban Rata (heater room) is RM 208, while booking non-heater like Gunting Lagadan Hut, Panar Laban and Waras Hut is RM188…

    To all working adults, you all complaining that now climbing Mt. Kinabalu is very expensive compare last time… haha, I just wanna say that now the UMS ( Universiti Malaysia Sabah ) students if they want to climb Mt. Kinabalu, they need to wait at least in their final year only can climb Mt. Kinabalu. HAHA, it is because they need to save their PTPTN money since their first year to plan to climb Mt. Kinabalu…pity u all, my dearest juniors at UMS !

  12. rock

    wah lao~ send email to SSL asking for laban rata night on 27/07/2008 and the reply was FULLY BOOKED. What to do? must book from agent?

  13. etkh

    I m trying to book a place to climb mount KK since 2006. I was informed that fully book and ask to call back every time before hang-up.

    Please try this no.:088243629. It was given to me by friend in KK. It is Kinabalu National Park contact no. But seem like no one is answering now.

    Don’t know when is my trip to Mount KK. Hope that not just a dream for the rest of my life.

  14. rock999

    I tried to book thru and their reply is also fully booked, in their email also indicated that they are having difficult times in booking also. Their best help is provide me that number also +6088243629

    I also call that number, its a ghost line with no answer. So what number should I call now?

  15. 1eart

    Ok, so everybody knows how to moan – I haven’t seen anyone offer solutions yet. What exactly are you lobbying to change? How would you handle the thousands of climbers while still giving the local tour operators what they demand?

    If you have the money to take over the operations of all the SSL accommodations, and staff, and marketing AND you can maintain or better the standards, then why don’t you submit a proposal?

    Complaining is easy. Sometimes it’s needed, but don’t just moan for the sake of moaning. Tell me how it can better and find a solution – unless you actually make a living off moaning of course…

  16. drizad Post author

    Thanks for the feedback 1eart. I surely will look into other possibility and solution that would benefit climbers from all over the world up the mountain.

    If ever SSL could handle their local clients better, they would have not moan here. I guess…

  17. rock999

    I got the accomodation oredi, book thru the online reservation. Email reply is no more accomodation availiable. I’ve been on their waiting list for 2 weeks and I finally had a confirmed reservation at Laban Rata after paying a deposit of 20% of the total price, the remaining to be paid 30days before my trip. Just need to let the person in-charge know that I wanted to be quoted for Malaysian rate, website listed is international rate.

    Quite useful thu the online reservation, only thing is need to wait a few days for each reply. So far so good, I rest my case. Thanks.

    My suggestion is that SSL should have their own online availiability chart on their website so it would be easier for internet users who wanted to book directly, and a secure page for direct online booking system with instant confirmation using credit card reservation.

    My Phuket trip last year, everything (including car rental, accomodation, tours etc.) is all done just infront of my PC, no calls no emails. Lets hope that local tourism industry to continue improve their online services.

  18. rock999

    hi tom,

    I book directly with SSL. Just fill in the online reservation form, Additional Comments: is let them know that you wanted to be in the waiting list. Just need to wait for few days before you’ll get a reply, then email back and ask for the tel number of person in-charge handling your case.

    Best wishes to you.

  19. KakiAyam

    drizad, we should come together and frame a letter to malaysiakini….

    don’t bother about tv3 and ntv7. Go to alternative media. If somehow, anyone could provide any details on the board of directors for SSL, that will help a lot.

    To me, to say Mount Kinabalu is raped by opportunist and politician is very much an understatement. The fact is, the whole of sabah is raped by UMNO politician and the federal government. Sooner or later, Sabah will be very much like Peninsular Malaysia, where there will be much segregation, tension and suspicion among races. Sabahan will be divided. Harmony and peace among the various races will be a thing of the past.

    Islam (the UMNO version) and Ketuanan Melayu will take centerstage.

    Drizad, sorry to sound political. Delete where necessary, just too sad with the development in this country.

  20. drizad Post author

    @ KakiAyam:

    Go malaysiakini? Karam Singh Walia ok what?

    I am not sure how to go about pinning down SSL when what we have were just feedbacks from the climbers. Getting more “intimate” with the board of directors of SSL is really not in my jurisdiction. Unless, I am in legal profession (I think?)…

    Yes, agree with you on Sabah situation right now. I really hope that this state will not become like what happened there. They never appreciate Sabahan.

    But anyway, somehow, someone, somewhere will surely get to know this issue from this blog posts. Lets just hope that it will happen soon & let me fight this with my writings. I am letting others to do the noble job.

    Anybody volunteer?

  21. Charmaine

    Hello, guess we are the lucky one who managed to book through SSL, but indeed the prices have gone up tremendously as compared to previous years! It’s as if someone just realised how much $$ they could earn from Mt Kinabalu! It’s so weird because overseas, they don’t charge people for climbing mountains!!!!

    Anyway, I’ll be going to climb November 2008, must go before the price increase further!

    Need advice on the transportation though. Is it possible to charter a taxi to Kinabalu Park (we’re staying in one of the lodges there) directly from the airport? The quotation given for pre-book van is VERY EXPENSIVE! RM550 for 8-seater….. One way!!!!

    Any advice appreciated, thanks!

  22. tom

    I just came back not too long ago. It was great experience. But I think, one just need to persevere through the booking process to climb the mountain.

    My cousin booked on the same period and she got it through phone. She called more than 20 times to SSL.

    @ Charmaine: Please try this contact. 0128282250 (Nancy). She is from Real Holidays which is an agent I used when I am at KK. Her charge is not too expensive. I got my cousin about RM 250 per way…

  23. Chan

    Hi Guys,

    I’m planning to climb mount KK in between 8-May-09 till 13-May-09 ( already brought flight ticket), i browse some tour agency website which having 2D1N package to Mt KK but it’s did not state the price.

    Recently a lot ppl complaining the price hike for Mt.KK trip and i’m not sure what to do.

    Shall i take the package tour or DYI is cheaper? i’m a budget traveller and it’s another 5 mth before the trip, i’m getting worry after seeing so many negative comment.. Really need some guidance here as i’m eager to climb Mt KK

  24. Chang HP

    @ chan : there is no more DIY tour to Mt Kinabalu, only the package tour.
    You may try to contact the tour agency to seek more details as most of them do not advertise the rate as SSL has been increasing the rates yearly and the travel agency may not want to state on the prices.

  25. Cynthia

    Hmm… I’m thinking of going in March 2010, any good package to recommend? I understand it’s difficult to DIY, as accommodation is the problem.. I emailed to SSL to ask for the accommodation at Laban Rata, but they replied it was not opened yet… we can only book 6 months in advanced.. but i found that eventhough 6 months from now, also no room.. i’m wondering if i book the room 6 months in advanced from March 2010, am i still able to get one… so, any recommendation?

  26. Sai MUn

    Hi ppl out there,

    Currently i have 1 extra place to climb mount KK on 28-30 July 09.
    The price is rm600, include lodgings and meals and 2 nites stay. one nite at Mesilau and the other nite is at laban rata. Park fees, entrance fees and guide fees are EXCLUDED, will only collect when reach there. Airfare and transportation are also excluded.

    There are five of us going, thus we would need 2 find 1 more to make the group even..

    Anyone who are interested kindly drop me an email – or sms me at 0162370700..


  27. Tot Pham

    Hi everyone,
    I’m planning to climb Mt.Kinabalu in middle of March, 2010 in 2 days. I realise that accommodation is a problem. It’s hard to book , even in 4-6 in advanced. I travel alone from Viet Nam. What should I do? Any good package to recommend? Or there’re any group available that I can join?
    Thanks all,
    p/s: here’s my email address: or

  28. seinchan

    seems like cefesorce is advertising here.

    Tot Pham, at first, I thought as what u thought of. But finally I found out that, if u follow up nicely, u will manage to get the accommodation up the hill. I started to look for the accommodation in May 2009. SSL told me it was not opened yet for registration, and they don’t know when. So I wait until 7 months before the climbing date, they told me it would be opened on 1st October. So I called up and booked on that day and we managed to book 5 beds. We didn’t engage any agent to do so, and it saved us a lot of money, almost half of it. You may try to log in their website or call to them, I believe they still have some beds.

  29. tham

    i agree with seinchan…………
    even im climbing mount kk end of this month……..
    i had no problem at all to do the bookings…….

    even SSL front line staff was very friendly and helpful…

  30. SL

    Due to the difficulty of booking room through SSL, we have made our booking through a freelance agent. The payment was made in 2009, a year before the climb.

    The original itinerary was to climb on 18 April 2010. However, on the eve of the climb, the agent informed us that there was a misunderstanding on the booking between herself and her ‘agent’, She has made various promise to meet up with us and refund the money but eventually she didnt show up.

    We have no other option, but to report this to local police. We were shocked when being told that this is quite a common case.

    Just to sum it up, we have been conned. We really appreciate SSL can look into this to avoid the next case happen. Anyone who planned to climb, pls carefully select your agent

  31. seinchan


    Why is it so difficult to book the room? it’s actually very easy. You just need to communicate well with SSL staff, as what tham said, they are friendly and helpful. U must confirm with them the open registration date. It’s normally about half year before your date.

    We went last month. Everything was good. Never engaged any agent. As we all are Malaysian, no language problem, so why need agent?

  32. HY


    While that is true, the staff is mostly friendly. Problem is emails don’t often get replied very promptly and often times the friendly staff doesn’t answer phones.

    It is also very often the case that the beds in Laban Rata are sold to Travel Agents in bulk so if you try to book yourself – chances are you won’t be able to secure a bed.


  33. seinchan

    Really? then luckily mine got no problem. But it really save a lot if u book yourself.. I only pay a fees of RM5xx for 3 days 2 nights including climbing etc.

  34. HY


    As of 2008, Laban Rata 6 bed dorm room are RM 2,400 – RM 400 per bed + climbing fees and the rest… yeah should come to about RM 500++

    But for people that have been climbing since 2004, even that price is exorbitant. =P I started in 2004, Laban Rata was RM 35 per night plus food stuff and all maybe about RM 80++… climbing fees + insurance and guide fee RM 200++….. so just the climb is only RM 300++ all things covered. =P


  35. seinchan

    huh?!! so big difference!! I heard that SSL monopoly already. What to do? As long as we enjoy in the end. It’s a good experience to climb up especially for those who were like me, lack of exercise 😛

  36. mowdownemassholeswhoripyouoff

    I intend to climb Mt K in the 2nd half of this year. What will be the best method to go about this? Should I book with SSL or some agent, or should I try booking the accommodation and other stuff by myself?

    I love Malaysia, but the way some companies treat places like Mt K is such a dreadful shame!

  37. seinchan

    You can try to call the agents, ask for the quotation. Meanwhile, get the price list and details from SSL. Whichever gives you what you want, then go for it…

  38. Penelope

    Dear All,

    We book the laban Rata accomodation to climb Mt Kinabalu on 25 and 26 April 2011, now we have 1 space place available in last minute, if anyone would like to take over this space place, do drop me a line
    My email :

    We have 5 people in the team and will fly in from HK


  39. mustoffa

    Can you help me booking 24 bed at Laban Rata for just any one night from 9 to 12 Jun 2013 ? Thank You.

  40. Joshua

    Dear All,

    Just 300 metres away from the entrance of Kinabalu Park Headquarters, J Residence is the nearest lodge outside Mount Kinabalu National Park, and with rooms price three times lower than those chalets and lodges inside Kinabalu Park.

    If you are one of those travellers who need budget, simply basic and close to nature accommodation around Kinabalu Park Headquarters, then J Residence will be a perfect place for you.


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