Traveling Ted is a blog that takes readers along on my adventures hiking, canoeing, skiing, and international backpacking. Many blogs focus on one aspect of backpacking, but I tackle both the outdoor adventure side and international exploration as well.

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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.

Gunung Gading National Park

The hunt for the Rafflesia flower adventure began at the gates to Gunung Gading National Park

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.

Rafflesia flower

The Rafflesia flower in all its glory

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.

The Munsters

I think Lily Munster would dig a Rafflesia in a vase, but picking is illegal – Wikimedia Commons Public Doman

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.

Malaysia bloggers

Meeting with Mei from CC Food and Travel and David Hogan Jr. from MalaysiaAsia in Kuala Lumpur

Gunang Gading National Park

A great place to see the giant flower in Borneo is at Gunang Gading National Park in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The park is about a two hour drive from Kuching, the capital of Sarawak.

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.

Rafflesia Flower

A future Rafflesia flower bloom in Gunung Gading

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.

Gunung Gading National Park

My guide hiking up the trail towards the Rafflesia flower

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.

Rafflesia flower

On the hunt for the Rafflesia flower

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.

Rafflesia flower

You can bring me dead flowers to my wedding (Rolling Stones reference) – A dead Rafflesia bloom

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.

Millipede Gunung Gading

There is more to see in Gunung Gading besides the Rafflesia like this millipede

Gunung Gading waterfall

Waterfall at Gunung Gading National Park

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.

Adventure on!

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