We left KK city at 12.00 noon. Right after I decided the traffic jam is not worth it, although we were on our way to one of the shopping mall to buy something, which later I decided as not important. In some way, traffic jam allows you to think through of what’s on your mind. It was school holiday after all, and Christmas was around the corner. Everyone’s flooding the shopping mall.
I have set Mandalipau, Papar as destination in Google Maps. It would take us about an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu city centre to there, through old Papar – Kota Kinabalu route. Some parts of the road on this route are under construction, so I have to be cautious and aware to avoid any unwanted incident. At some point, some reckless driver appear to overtake at sharp corner, or going head on with incoming traffic only to swerve back into the lane at the last minute and almost send a car off the road – fortunately the driver was fast to recover. I really have nothing good to say whenever I see this kind of idiot.
About one hour drive, we’ve reached the corner and the sign board are small. Apparently it would take another lengthy drive to reach Mandalipau and this time it would be on a small road, but enough for two lane road. I would like to advise anyone reading this to drive carefully and with proper speed because the houses are near to the road. Let’s try to avoid any bad experience. Driving through this road reminds me of driving to Kundasang, minus the steep ascent, winding road and fogs.
We were driving up to a hill when the tar stops and gravel road appears. I asked my wife if she can call her friend that suggested this place to confirm if we’re on the right path. While she’s on that, I checked on my Google Maps and realised there’s no phone signal here. Did Google Map just send me somewhere because it failed to track my GPS signal? And she couldn’t make a call. We decided to turn back and look for any signboard for direction.
We found the signboard, it’s fairly big, under the signboard that shows way to PLKN Wawasan, Kampung Ovai Papar. We followed the route, and from there, we kept looking for signboard for direction. About 10 minutes later, we reached a school right at the end of the road. There’s a small canopy just outside the school gate and one old man sitting behind the desk filled with price list of items he’s provide for renting. I asked him if we’re lost. The uncle, whom seem to run a same business of Mandalipau, but in a much smaller scale, directed me to take the next road.
“Where?” I asked
“There”, he pointed, to a dirt road behind us.
I looked at him again, confused.
He nodded. “Just drive about 5 minutes to reach that place”
I said thank you, and tried to maneuver carefully to not damage my sedan undercarriage. We still need to drive another 90km to Menumbok to take the last ferry trip to Labuan, and I really don’t want to have any problem right now. We saw another car in front of us, also driving carefully and slowly, going where the rocks on the floor not protruding, where the puddle not deep. At this point, I wonder if all these worth it. Does anyone coming to this place decided that this is an option for not driving up to Ranau or Kota Belud for its infamous river?
We finally reached the main entrance. Visitors needs to pay entrance fee here. RM 3 for adult, RM 2 for children. And there’s a “I *heart* Mandalipau” sign for everyone to take picture. The staffs are very friendly. From the entrance, we walked about 100m to the river / picnic site. The hanging bridge greet visitors coming to Mandalipau. There are actually more parking spots inside – I was wrong to parked outside thinking the picnic site closer to the main entrance – hence the 100m walk.
Visitors need to pay to use the canopy / picnic table at the price of RM 15.00. There were about 20 canopy as far as I can see. I guess, if you’re going to this place during school holiday or weekend, you better book in advance. Here’s their Facebook. Then there’s a vending machine selling canned drinks and mineral water. Locker are also available, but there only 10 of it(?). Maybe there’s more at some other area. A stage, equipped with PA and Karaoke for anyone to sing and entertain visitors, located at the end. The toilet located at the middle. I hope they will upgrade the toilet to accommodate more people.
The water looks green. There’s a pier made of bamboo for children area. It was deeper in the middle. The current are not strong, but it is recommended to rent a life jacket provided at the canopy area. RM 5.00 per jacket – and it comes in adult and children size. At the canopy area, there’s at least one barbecue place for 2 canopies. Bring your own grill for bbq.
I have to say this – with a proper management, this place would be a great spot for nature lover and sustainable for many years to come. In my opinion, the canopies are very near to the river – to the point some people eat and drink on the rocks. I saw some paper plate were placed between the rocks with some food leftover still on it. It attracted some dogs. A friend whom happened to be here as well pointed to a group drinking at the upstream and spill their beer, while casually wash / dip their beer can into the water when they’re done. This is the problem when the canopy placed closer to the river. It contaminate the river, and particularly in this case, disrespecting to others who actually paid to enjoy their time here. I really hope the management of this place will consider to move their canopy a bit farther to the land. This might help to avoid visitors contaminating the river. Besides, it would ease the staffs here to perform cleaning duties.
We spent about an hour here before we decided to leave as I need to rest before another long drive to Menumbok. In my opinion, maybe you will find peace and enjoy more here when it’s not during peak season. We were there during school holidays, and the place was really packed with people. Just don’t forget to pick up your food leftover, clean the area you used for other visitors convenience and enjoy the cold and refreshing river of Mandalipau. This place need to be preserved and kept natural.
We were leaving when the rain starts to pour. The scenery looks more beautiful and dramatic now. I asked my wife if we will come back to this place again.
“Maybe, yes. You?”, she said.
“Sure, when they fix the toilet.”