Sutera Sanctuary Lodges – the biggest rip-off merchants in Asia

No. I did not write those words. I quoted from a travelogue entry by staffyandlyddy in

They also gave a breakdown of what they had to pay those ripp-off merchants to climb the mountain (for non-Malaysian):

Dorm Room at Park Headquarters – 85RM each
Permit to Climb Mt Kinabalu – 100RM each
Insurance (even though we have our own) – 7RM each
Guide – 85RM short trek / 100RM Long Trek – shared
Taxi from Park HQ to Start Point – 85RM – shared
Room on Laban Rata (halfway point) – 208RM each (including really poor meals)
Total cost (if climbing individually on short trek) – 555RM (111 Euro) for the 2 nights.

You can read their entry here.

89 thoughts on “Sutera Sanctuary Lodges – the biggest rip-off merchants in Asia

  1. cs

    backpacker lodge?then hw i can get it?need to book??That’s means i can stay for one night that is around RM30??with backpack price?i think i will take it 🙂

  2. lala

    My cousin just just paid for this booking with W&W Adventure, for the two of us. When I first heard the price, I seriously was going to faint thinking that she was totally ripped off as a non-malaysian. (And we are..!)

    Anyway, can you guys who are more familiar with the area please read through the details of our package and tell me if I should just try to sell it to someone else? Has anyone stayed at Grace Hotel or Warus Hut before? Are these really crap places to stay?

    Total Pax: 2 pax
    Package Rate: RM1,200/pax
    Package inclusive of:
    – Private Car: Airport/Park/Airport transfer
    – 1 night at Grace Hostel + buffer dinner at Balsam Restaurant
    – 1 night at Warus Hut + buffet breakfast + packed lunch + buffet dinner + next day
    buffet breakfast + lunch
    – Permit/climbing insurance/entrance fee/guide
    – Service charge
    – Guiding in training & preparation
    Package exclusive of:
    1. Return air fare.
    2. Meals which are not stated in the itinerary
    3. Porter and baggage storage fee at Park HQ. (Baggage can be kept by our driver at
    RM3/bag. Park is charging RM10/bag)
    4. All personal bill

  3. Dwen

    Well since they have monopoly on the mountain-They’l keep raising the price higher and higher becos of a)Market forces(demand > supply) i.e. there are still tons of people coming to them to climb and are willing to fork out the latest crazy price they ask for.
    b) becos they can.

  4. cornelius

    wow…so many complaints:-)

    1. This is a business and they will treat it as a business. Cannot blame them 100% for this. I go there a few times in a year and their services are good, facilities are better, cleanliness has improved.They have also improved on the quality of the hostels and chalets. They’ve done extensive renovations since 2 years ago .

    2. If you want the prices to go down, lower down the demand and automatically the supply will be forced to go down..and at the same time..the pricing. However, it’s not happening. why? because our Kinabalu Mountain is just to ‘tempting’ ,so beautiful and an experience to savor.

    3.If you cannot afford it, don’t go! your money and go to sipadan island, manukan island, or even you can opt for the ‘home-stay’program where you can stay with the local families and experience the ethnic lifestyles.

    4. You pay for the wonderful and exciting experience.’s worth it. (btw, can you tell me how much they pay to climb mount everest?)

    5. You can also opt to climb other ‘mountains of sabah’

    a. climb the Mount TrusMadi.
    Mount Trus Madi or Trusmadi is Malaysia’s second highest mountain at 2,642 metres (8,668 ft). It lies in the state of Sabah, close to Mount Kinabalu. The mountain supports a wide range of unique flora and fauna, perhaps most notably Nepenthes macrophylla, a species of pitcher plant.
    -You can read more here.

    b.. Go to Mount Lumarku or Lumaku.
    It is a mountain in southwestern Sabah. The pitcher plant species Nepenthes fusca, Nepenthes hurrelliana, and Nepenthes tentaculata are native to this mountain.

    c. Mount Tambuyukon or Tamboyukon is Malaysia’s third highest mountain at 2,579 m (8,462 ft). It lies close to the famous Mount Kinabalu. The mountain supports a wide range of unique flora and fauna, including a number of pitcher plant species of the genus Nepenthes.

    d. lastly, you can also opt for Mount Danum. Mount Danum is the highest peak in Danum Valley, Sabah, Malaysia with the height of 1,093 m.

    P/S: I don’t get any commission for writing this up and I am NOT working with SSL. I am writing this as a response to all the comments above. This is my own personal opinion.If you can’t afford it, then don’t go climb the mountain.

  5. Eric

    Well, I think most of you have experience far tamer than me vis-a-vis dealing with SSL. Mine nearly ended up with my taking legal action against SSL for unethical business practice.

    Here’s the condensed version of my experience:-

    I had been requesting for beds since August 2007 for March 2008 climb; everytime the reply that came was “Not ready for booking” though the company’s website states that booking is open 6 months in advance. As recent as 3rd week of October 2007, that was the reply.

    I called its KL sales office on 29 Oct 2007 and was told that all accommodations for March 2008 were sold out. When questioned and subsequently provided with copies of email correspondences that “booking was not open”, they changed their tune – “accommodations are still available but you must buy our climbing packages”.

    They wanted RM1,000+ from each of us (6 pax) if we want to climb on a 4d/3n basis! If I use my own arrangement, I only fork out RM592.

    On 3 November 2007 I received a call from SSL’s rep concerning my complaints lodged with the relevant authorities re the unethical manner in which SSL is conducting its business.

    I didn’t blame the SSL’s rep; she’s just doing her job as instructed by SSL. According to the rep, SP gave the blessing for the revised cut throat pricings.

    Well, I supposed like that, I can’t say or do much. But why the heck piled us with all those craps about “booking not open” & then “all sold out”? Read more and see if you are as outraged as I am.

    According to the rep, it’s true that until end Sept 2007 no booking was accepted for year 2008. Booking was only opened on 1 Oct 2007. BUT not for Malaysians! It’s for group tourists from Japan and Korea!! The rep further said that it was only on 15 Oct 2007 that SSL opened the booking to other people. What a load of hogwash! I called the KL Regional Sales Office on 17 Oct 2007 and was told “booking not open”.

    That’s what pissed me off tremendously. Are we Malaysians second class tourists in our own country? So what if the rates for Malaysians are lower? We still have the rights to climb Mt Kinabalu. Mt Kinabalu DOESN’T BELONG to SSL or SP. It belongs to us, Malaysians! This is outright discrimination against Malaysians.

    I told the rep that my team and I can afford to pay 100% upfront. So what’s the point of telling me that those foreign tourists paid upfront? Does it make any difference?

    My complaints lodged with Sabah Parks and Sabah Tourism Board were ignored – the former washing its hands clean by instructing SSL to sort it out with me while STB was singing “Silence Is Golden”.

    At the end of the day, we did manage to secure the no-frills rate but the facilities at Waras Hut were appalling. The food taken at Blassam & Laban Rata was yuckky (we only bought what we wanted otherwise we took care of our own meals) – way worse than they were back in 2001/2004.

    My friends wanted me to take them up Mt Kinabalu again this year (2009) but I told them to forget it given the absolutely ridiculus manner in which SSL is conducting itself. I told my friends to spread the word that everyone should boycott SSL’s run places till the whole bloody business runs aground.

    I understand from The Star of 31 January 2009 that SSL pays nearly RM1 million a year to Sabah Parks for the rights to “manage” Kinabalu National Park. The way I see it is since SSL charges on an average RM400 per climber, if we can spread the word and have about 2,500 potential climbers boycotting the place that means SSL would have to cough out RM1 million out of its own pocket to pay Sabah Parks – let’s see how long can SSL tahan. So let’s work hard to get at least 2,500 boycotts though I have to sympathise with the local workers & guides since they will lose their income (but then again, from what I heard from the guides, they didn’t get the entire fee just a portion while the rest was pocketed by “you know who”).

  6. W Aid

    you sad badpackers…who cares if you’re on 20 euro a day for 2 years travelling the world. Almost half the world’s population lives on less than a dollar a day..get a job, get a life, and realise how lucky you all are…

  7. KK

    To those who have any grievences against SSL should direct their complaints to the Ministry of Tourism: Let them know the whole process is actually a MONOPOLY granted to SSL. The ministry should take over the running of all parks rather than contracted them to private firms, taking the turtle island for example, I was from Kulapis and wI remembered when we were small, we used to go there to play, now it is going to cost over RM500 for a night stay!!! how many of us working Malaysian can afford this? Why can’t Sabah Park be run like SSL, the Ministry can start up a trainning scheme (to international standards) we have the people willing to work local people, all SSL have was money to start, but if this is a government project it will not let it fail moreover, tourism is the key to Sabah’s future as it brings in invisible income to Sabah. ! Malaysia for all Malaysian and jobs for the locals too.

  8. SMA

    I just got back from climbing Low’s peak using the timpohon route. I was very well aware of this mess created by SSL from 2 years ago. We were forced to spend RM1000+ each payable to a tour agent at kundasang. Only he had available slots on the dates we wanted. We booked with him in October 2008 to climb in June 2009. That is 9 months in advance!

    I think it takes much more to teach SSL a hard lesson and to make them realise that greed does not pay! It is a sad fact that the politicians we have in Sabah are a bunch of running dogs who are strung up as puppets by their peninsular masters. They can be easily bought for a couple of RM. That was how the SSL greeds could take over the mountain which belongs to the people. Talk to any kampong folks in the interiors of Sabah and you will hear all kinds of stories abt the idiots we have in govt.

    Anyway, for the tons of RM we paid for this trip, my biggest complaint would be that the balsam cafe where we were suppose to have our lunch (after our descent) was riddled with FLIES!!!!!!…..there were flies all over the place….on the table, on the floor, ON THE FOOD!!!…etc.
    When we saw the situation, we decided to forgo that lunch, less we end up suffering from food poisoning or diarrhea for the rest of our trip in KK.

    I would really love to climb the mount again, but all of us really need to force SSL out from there.

  9. mountainboyz

    it’s true, sutera is a blood sucker……i start climb mount kinabalu since 16yo…. that time i remember only week will be my 11th time there it cost me around rm600-700…do you all think this is resonable?for sabahan also difficult to climb their own moutain……..but it is glad to see the respone from all mt kinabalu lover here…….Sutera Sanctuary is suck.then i will join a tour to trusmadi in oct……so for mountain lover do keep in touch

  10. mountainlove

    what to do?i already cancel the trip for twice becoz of the expensive amount..but i will go sabah kk again but not for kk mountain..i have no chance to say “nice to meet you” with mount kk 🙂




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  13. Kuna

    Hi all, I’m covering the SSL issue on my blog\adventuremadness and have linked this blog back to my site.Have also copied some comments , please feel free to comment on my site as well. hopefully someone will notice as we are intending to do a full crackdown on SSL and claim back mt.kinabalu.thanks!

  14. Jakjan

    I just got the new price for 2D1N package at Laban Ranta at RM542, if including other fees. Total costs will be around RM700. So expensive.

    Maybe I have to revise my plan of no Mt.Kinabalu climbing.

  15. KaKiaYam

    Jakjan, that’s where the dilemma comes….Kinabalu is too beautiful not to climb, but at the same time, we want to protest to the Sutera for charging the exorbitant cost….

    i heard recently they will be building a hotel right at the foot of the mountain….sigh….and so bloody near to the park some more…!!

    this is ridiculous!!!

  16. Kuna


    Does anyone know who is the Director/CEO/higher management of SSL? I am in the process of making a video documentary to exploit this rip-off, and I need some interviews done. Maybe when the vid is uploaded, some authorities will OPEN THEIR EYES. Can someone help? I can be contacted at Also for those of you who wants to tell about your bad experience with SSL, please also email me so I can compile it together. Please include your name, age, occupation.If you do not want to be quoted, then please leave it blank.

    Thanks all!

  17. strider

    hi all,

    i climbed mt kinabalu in june this year (2009) with my friends. it was certainly a great mountain with beautiful view n experience. the climb cost us around RM350-00 which included 1 night stay @ Laban Rata, the meals, certificate, climbing fee, insurance, entrance fee and mountain guide fee. this is still considered cheap since we only paid to SSL for the accomodation n meals, whereas the rest of the fees n charges we paid at the registration counter on the climbing day.

    so i decided to climb again next year with a bigger group and for that i sent an e-mail to SSL and requested for a quotation. to my shocking, this blood suckers (SSL) informed me that for next year (2010), we need to take a 3D2N package with them if we wanna climb mt kinabalu. and that will cost a minimum of around RM530 per person for just 2 nights accomodation (one at Laban Rata n another at Kinabalu Park) and all the poor meals excluding any fees and charges.

    who on earth leased the mountain to this blood suckers? this is really getting out of control and they are acting as if they own the mountain. we have to do something to stop them from continuing their greedy approach. now i’m contemplating of canceling the climb and climb other mountains like trusmadi (sabah) or mulu (sarawak) or other mountains in asian countries.

    what a greedy corporation they have become and this ain’t doing any good for sabah tourism.

  18. Kuna

    Hello strider,
    do you by any chance have an invoice etc stating this price by SSL? Usually when you request for a quote, they’ll email you an invoice and then after payment is made they’ll email you the confo.If you do and if you are willing to participate in the interview, please drop me a line at kunadgr8 at gmail dot com.I am compiling all the reports of the SSL rip off to be made into a video.Thanks.

  19. Jakjan

    Why the price quotation is so different?
    Mine is 2D1N @ RM542 (at Laban Rata) while #70 get 3D2N @ RM530.
    Is the latter the Group’s price? I don’t understand the standard of SSL’s pricing at all.

  20. tom

    such a shame, i was planning a trip to kinabalu, whilst im sure the mountain is beautifal i refuse to support such ridiculous price increases on principle. I’ll just wait until I get to nepal for a better climb. thanks for making this website though

  21. Pete K

    I have climbed this mountain 4 times some years ago and so has my family. The cost was manageable and the experience was unforgettable. It is sad that Malaysian families and other people like me will not be able to experience the beauty of Kinabalu because of the greed of a few people. This saga of greed and deception points to a higher failing at the political and government level. Unless you fix that, there will always be greedy Towkays taking advantage of beautiful Sabah. The same story is repeated again and again where the natural resources of the state are prostituted for money to a few bastards who will never stop until they destroy everything. Change the government.

  22. Dave J

    its not an isue of how much it costs, but of where that money goes.

    how much for track work?
    how much for fair and reasonable wages for the local staff?
    how much for insurance?

    we cant begrudge someone for making a profit.

    most of us want to work to earn, save and spend. not just to survive.

    i am not saying it is right to exploit something to make money, its not, i agree.

    we all need to weigh up whether we think that our hard earned cash spent going to these places is going to be used to ensure that these places will still be around for future generations to go to.

    the cost is not the issue.
    its a question of whether the curret managers are ensuring responsible usage of the area, leading to preservation of a finite resource.

    are they?
    you decide.


  23. MAHA

    my only regret, not finding this side before i started organising a small group to climb the mount…sigh. what a rip-off indeed,it cost me less than 300RM for the trip in 2007. every one should boycot them,now we have very cheap flight tickets to KK but no mountain to climb.hope someone will stop this nonsence…. TO HELL WITH SSL.

  24. afkus

    I look forward to climbing mt kinabalu on this october and start to get in touch with SSL as the only one operator for accomodation at laban rata.
    they offer me 3d/2n package. and it cost me 1500RM/couple (that means 750 for each) and 988RM for 1 person if you took solo hiking trip. the price exclude round transport fee KP HQ to mesilau (85RM) or timpohon (16.5RM) , guide fee (95RM), entrance fee (15RM), climbing permit (100RM non Malaysian) it means 318.5RM total.

    so, total price if I took 3D/2N couple package is 1068.5RM/each person

    wow… expensive!

    and I don’t think that there is a way to manage our own hiking arrangement without taking SSL package. since they become the one and only operator.

  25. 2swiss

    Dec 2010 price for staying the night on the mountain is: RM 385

    For this price you get a bed in a unheated dorm with cold shower. Same thing in pricey Switzerland costs RM 120.

    Amount has to be paid in advance and there is a “no refund” policy.

  26. leo

    The prices are totally ridiculous!!
    I was planning to go climb mt kinabalu soon.
    Thank god I found this blog.
    Now seeing this, I have no wish to go anymore.
    I’d rather go up swiss alps man!
    Such a disappointment..

  27. dimples

    Hi Leo,

    I too, was extremely disppointed with the Sabah Government giving away the park management to a private operator. I only spent about RM200++ in 2006 for the whole trip excluding food.
    All the Sabah ministers who approved the award to a private operator for the management of the Mt Kinabalu should bear full responsible for all these crap. OK, the operator is there to rip us, but with the approval of our BINATANG ministers, whose brains are located in their knees but having inflated pockets!
    I say, BOYCOTT SSL and Mt Kinabalu, go someway else.

  28. Pingback: Solitary Wanderer » Blog Archive » Is Climbing Mt. Kinabalu Still Possible?

  29. andy

    i wonder y give only 1 operator to operate on Mt KK to rip off people. i just acquire about climbing MT KK with ferrata & lookinfg forward to a trip in Nov … but all tour agents quoted me RM$1400 for 2 D1N. Wow i think i go australia better than climb Mt KK. these companies are spoiling Malaysia image. worse Mt Torq does not give any refund when it rains: they will NOT give refunds if you do NOT do their ferrata when it RAINS. basically a free lunch for them!!! when i feedback to their agents they are pissed & agressive!! i really hope a person will open another accommodation to compete against these scums!

  30. CHONG

    I wonder why if the lodge is so demanding, means the business is so good, why they still impose a “no refund” policy?.. really sharm for being Malaysian, good job than a robbery!

  31. kannan

    when men gets greedy, its ugly from beginning to end..there’s no more value for climbing or nature when ur rights to be equally and fairly treated has gone even from the beginning..i made 5 trips to Mount Kinabalu since 2000 to 2006, nt a single under the management of the ‘Snakes’ …no complains whatsoever, it was only against the nature that was the toughest but the fruits was sweetest. Now with we fighting agaist the ‘snakes’ the tough gets tougher, one down and another will creep..accept the fact ..move on…think abundance.

  32. Sparky Izac

    I wanted to climb this August 2012, after reading all this, my hopes are dashed, and I really feel Sabah Ministers and Political party are to blame for all this, by allowy SSL to monopolise and extort their way with things. me and my buddy not going is a form of boycott, but I guess our unheard voices may not do much. in this coming G.E. I will cast my vote and you know it will be against this corrupted piece of rubbish goverment.

  33. Nikhil

    The 2012 prices were MYR816/night and requires a minimum of 2 nights so basically i’m forced to pay MYR3264 for me an my wife for a dorm room !!! US$1000 for 2 nights for a DORM!!!… has gotta be the most expensive dorm room in the world… contrast a 4 day trek to Mount Mulu (Porter + Guide) costs MYR380/person (4 days 3 nights for US$122………RIP-OFF doesnt even come close to describing what this is….(they need to coin a new word for this sort of nonsense)

  34. Miss TJ

    I was really dissappointed with SSL.
    We make a booking on dd/mm/yy for a climbing trip. – Ok.
    We come again after collecting pymt. – was told the date was already full.
    That’s mean no such thing as booking without pymt…
    Please, do provide ur customer correct info next time.

  35. kit

    i wonder which minister owns SSL. a few of my overseas friends ask to me ask to arrange a trip to mt kinabalu, and after seeing the prices, i’m telling them to go elsewhere!

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