I was having my breakfast in the Tanjung Ria Kitchen of Hyatt Regency Kinabalu when I received a call from Bacho, the driver for our Tagal Tinopikon Park tour that morning. It was my third day in Kota Kinabalu, and this was my last scheduled tour for the entire trip. I finished my plate and proceeded to the exit of the hotel, where Bacho and my fellow tourist John were waiting then we were off to Tagal Tinopikon Park.
Located in Kampung Notoruss, Penampang, Tagal Tinopikon Park is a 45-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu city center. It is part of the Moyog River and is a protect area due to overfishing in the past. ‘Tagal’ means “prohibition” in the Kadazandusun language, and the local community manages the conservation of the river. The Moyog River is divided into three zones – green (fishing is allowed), orange (fishing is allowed only once a year), and red (fishing is totally prohibited).
A few meters from the main road, we were welcomed by this suspension bridge over the river. This is where the park starts.
As we were the only guests for the morning session on that day, we were immediately accompanied by Florence, the park guide, to a short trek to the waterfalls. Along the way, we saw various plants, including a small pitcher plant. Florence said we were quite unlucky not to see any animals. On some days, there are alligators in the forest. Yes, alligators.
We also stopped by a rubber tree, where Florence demonstrated the art of rubber tapping. According to her, this is the only way to extract the rubber used in making tires and other products. No need to panic with the stripping of the tree’s bark – it will grow back and in a few years, be ready for extraction again.
Of course, we had a change to try it out, too. I had to be extra careful in holding the tapping tool as the blade is very sharp.
A few more minutes of walking along an established trail and we found ourselves approaching the waterfall. As it was summer, the water coming from the falls was not as immense as we expected. The cool water in the pond made up for the what the waterfall lacked, as it was the perfect way to cool down from all the walking. Legend has it that if you wash your face with the water from the pond, you will be three days younger.
When we returned to the river, we were led to the area where we can feed the fishes and even get a fish spa. I’ve tried fish spa during a trip to Siquijor, Philippines, so I thought this one was just like it. So imagine my surprise (more of shock, actually) when I saw the size of the fishes that are about to feast on my toes.
Florence reassured me that these fishes, known as kelah or pelican fish, are not carnivores and are, in fact, toothless. They thrive in clean river, and have become really big in this part of the Moyog River because of overfeeding. Plus they are not being caught here, so they have become friendly towards humans.
We then had lunch, and had the chance to try one of the village’s traditional games, blowpipe. Florence says she’s really good at it, and she really is. Me, on the other hand, still need a lot of practice.
As this is an actual Kadazandusun community, there are kampung houses in the park. They are built high above the ground to avoid flood and prevent animals from entering.
At around 1:00 p.m., it was time to say goodbye to this beautiful and well-preserved area. Another group would be coming in for the afternoon session, which is from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
The tour was a great way to understand the ‘tagal’ system and why it was implemented in the first place. It was good to know that no one has dared to fish in the red zone since it began some years ago. It also exposed visitors to the daily life of a Kadazandusun villager and be introduced to their culture.
If you want to experience being a kampung folk and contribute to the conservation of the Moyog River, book a tour to Tagal Tinopikon Park through AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd. The 3.5-hour tour package includes roundtrip transfers, entrance fee, and all the activities mentioned above. You may contact Nelson Lai directly at +60 17 862 3833 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The tour was sponsored by AJ Best Travel Sdn Bhd, but the opinions in this article are my own.