Borneo is home to some interesting flora and fauna. The proboscis monkey, bearded pigs, and wild orangutans are just a few of the amazing species that make this island rainforest special. When it comes to flora, nothing is as fascinating as the giant Rafflesia flower.
Related: Getting to Bako National Park
The story behind the name
The Rafflesia flower was named after Sir Thomas Stafford Raffles, the British Statesman best known for founding the city of Singapore. The flower was “discovered” on an expedition in an Indonesian rainforest in 1818. There are 28 subspecies of the flower and they are all found in the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia.
About the Rafflesia flower
The plant lacks a stem, roots, and leaves. The flower originates in a vine form and then produces the flower. The flower is the biggest in the world growing up to 100 centimeters in diameter and weighing up to 22 pounds.
Related: Let’s ghoh to Semenghoh
It is not the most beautiful flower in the world. Even if it was plentiful and not a crime, I would not pick one and give it to a girlfriend, unless her name was Lily Munster, Morticia Addams, or Wednesday Addams. The flower smells like a corpse in order to attract flies for pollination. Although the Rafflesia is beautiful in its own special way, it does not have the same esthetic appeal as a more traditional flower.
Meeting bloggers in Kuala Lumpur
After seeing a post by Malaysian travel blogger Malaysia Asia, it was one of the items I had to see while in Borneo. This desire to see the flower grew stronger when I had drinks with Mr. Malaysia Asia and Agent Cikay from CC Food and Travel blog while in Kuala Lumpur a couple of days prior to departing for Borneo.
Gunang Gading National Park
The park rangers in Gunang Gading make finding the flower a cinch, if one is in bloom. There is no guarantee that you will find one, but if there is one in bloom, and the park rangers find it, they will make sure visitors can find it too. Once a Rafflesia flower blooms, the clock is ticking as the bloom lasts from 4-6 days.
Getting lucky in Gunang Gading
I was lucky, when we arrived at Gunung Gading, the rangers had found two flowers. One was a newer one and one an older one. The older one was only a half mile up the trail from the ranger station. The rangers gave my guide a map and actually plotted on the map the locations of the two known flower blooms.
We hiked up a trail in intense heat nearly tripping over a giant millipede to find a bunch of dead Rafflesias and a couple of pods that would bloom in a couple of months. After searching through the jungle for about 15 minutes, we finally found it.
Success finding the Rafflesia flower
This flower was six days old. Usually the bloom dies after five days. The ranger said the reason this one lasted longer was it had rained a lot in the last week, which kept the bloom intact for longer. The other flower was a couple of miles away, so it was convenient that this guy had lasted longer.
Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of time to explore the park as this tour doubled up with the Semenggoh Wildlife Center earlier in the day and it was a two hour drive back and forth to Kuching. We did hike up to one of the several waterfalls in the park before departing.
More to do in Gunang Gading
Gunung Gading has chalets and camping available, so it is definitely a place that deserves at least one night’s stay perhaps two. I would have loved to have hiked more and seen more waterfalls, but I was content to have spotted the world’s biggest flower.
Gunung Gading tips
- Stay overnight in a campground or chalet to maximize your time in the beautiful jungle environment
- Get a guide to help you find the flower. Even with a map and the Ranger plotting out where the flower is, it is helpful to have an expert eye to help you find the flower
- Bring your swimming suit as you can swim in the river and it is hot, hot, hot in jungle
During my stay in Kuching, I was a guest of Planet Borneo who also provided this tour. My thoughts on this tour were not swayed by their hospitality. The thoughts, pictures, and decision to use the Munsters in this post were purely my own. I do highly recommend them for tours and for your stay in Kuching.
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