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.
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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.
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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
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.
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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Yeah, you are right the flower is not typically beautiful but it’s interesting and unique. Nice post!
Renuka recently posted..26 Reasons You Should Travel To India…
Anytime you see they largest anything, it is quite a thrill.
What an incredible hike!
It was great!
We had a giant flower on display in our natural history museum in Gainesville Florida. It had a visible shaft in the middle though, and it was pale in color.
Alfredo Begazo recently posted..Genovesa Island
I was just through Gainesville a couple of weeks ago returning home from paddling with manatees in Crystal River.
Good for you Ted. I have not been to Crystal River in while. Nice place though to swim with gentle giants.
Alfredo Begazo recently posted..The Galapagos Islands
Neat descriptions of your botanical adventure hunt..cool..
Charles Higgins recently posted..2014 Las Vegas Super Bowl parties and top ten sports book suggestions
Not usually into botanical adventures, but when it is the world’s biggest of anything, it is kind of cool.
Very cool that the flower can weigh so much. It must be mostly water. Maybe if you were lost you could tap it for water. Or not.
Sounds like an interesting part of the world to explore but the heat and humidity sound brutal.
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When in tropical countries, I expect to suffer. I am a Swede at hear that loves to cross-country ski, so it is usually not my cup of tea. Cold beer and a swimming pool or a dip in a river goes a long way to help alleviate that issue.
Since the rafflesia flower smells like a corpse to attract flies, I am thinking any water extracted would be about as refreshing as bong water. I think I would pass on that.
Amazing flower 🙂
Muza-chan recently posted..A living prayer for Peace: the A-bombed Nagasaki camphor trees
It sure is. Thanks.
Seems like you had a great time on your hike. And what an interesting flower!
@mrsoaroundworld recently posted..Portugal, you let me down
Thank you Mrs. O. It is quite a unique flower and the hike was great. Next time I want to stay longer though.
I actually kind of like the look of this flower, as it’s a bit unique, but the fact that it smells like a corpse completely freaks me out! So does that millipede.
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This one did not smell that bad. The millipede is completely harmless and will roll into a ball if threatened. They do have a longer red one in the park that is poisonous although not deadly.
Yeah, that millipede would have me screaming and running in the other direction. It would be neat to see one of those flowers, though, despite the smell.
Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..About turning 40…
That would be funny to see the millipede roll into a ball and see Work Mom Travels run in the other direction. The smell on the flower was not that bad. The flower that I saw was in the late stages of its bloom. I wonder if younger flowers smell more potent.
the flower is so cool. really, this whole trip looks amazing.
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It was a great trip. I hope to get back soon.
Now I know what I am decorating my next Halloween party with. haha. Such an interesting plant with an even more bizarre way of growing.
What’s that, durian? 🙂
THAT MILLIPEDE MAKES ME WANT TO DIE.
the lazy travelers recently posted..a food tour of rome: or, that time i ate my weight in carbs.
Until they invent smelloInternet… I have to say the flower looks really cool!
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